Going back in history, there was the day that someone returned to the home base with the wheel. And while a few of the elders were skeptical, the rest of the group said – wheeeee – and immediately embraced the new possibilities of this invention. Others were envious of this attention. Why didn’t we think of that, they wondered. Where did such creativity come from? Then one day after the wheel rolled down the hill, accidentally causing much destruction, some folks recalled – I told you so. But someone else invented the brake and – well, you know the drill.
Ever since the first psychologist, there has been the quest to figure out what drives creativity. Are people born creative? Do they achieve creativity? Or can they just have creativity thrust upon them? One school of thought says those who move to another country tend to be more creative than those who stay grounded in the land of their birth. Some, citing, Paul Gauguin, even made the giant leap of logic to say that living abroad is what drives creativity.
And you can’t short circuit the process by simply traveling. Living abroad requires that you adapt while traveling just gets you into nice hotels and tourist traps – which is not necessarily a bad thing. Creative people are risk-taking, flexible, open-to-new-ideas types who have intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation. Several civilizations experienced higher levels of creativity after opening up to outside influences.
There is no empirical, cause and effect evidence linking creativity to living abroad but studies indicate that first generation and second generation immigrants are more creative than subsequent generations. It is thought that living abroad gives access to new ways of looking at things and different problem solving techniques. It is also thought that necessity is the mother of invention – though we had no idea the iPhone was necessary before it was invented. Ditto for apps. As it turns out Steve Jobs was born and raised in California – never lived abroad. His biological dad immigrated from Syria but there is no evidence of a relationship. So don’t go moving just yet.
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