The word ‘culture’ tends to get thrown around rather loosely. Given that it pertains to “the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society”, it comes as no surprise that it influences creative thinking.
An experiment mentioned in an article on The New York Times pitted ‘individualist’ culture (common in Canada) against ‘collectivist’ culture (common in Taiwan). The former embraces free thinking and expression; the latter humility and group harmony.
The experiment set out to see how culture affects thinking outside of the box. Those in the ‘individualist culture’ group generated more ideas, were more confident in their ideas and more negative about other’s ideas, while the ‘collectivist culture’ group had fewer ideas, were reluctant to criticize others, and focused on creating harmony within the group. All this aside, the collectivists were also seen to have ideas that were more original than the individualists.
Interesting findings. The take-home nugget for me was that there are different ways of nurturing creativity and recognizing cultural diversity in the workplace. That’s not to say that different cultures can’t work together – creativity itself can be enhanced by experiencing other cultures.
A Forbes article on a similar topic identified the challenge for leaders, to recognize and ‘yoke’ together such differences successfully. Just like recognizing the diversity of roles and professions among those who are increasingly drawn together to collaborate and who often have different ideas about getting creative.
There are methods to the madness of creativity. Embrace them.