People who have worked abroad are more creative. Thus spake The Economist this afternoon.
They’re also more creative negotiators.
The researchers from INSEAD and Kellogg School of Management, who came to this conclusion, hadn’t been able to work out why this should be so.
So perhaps I can give them some empirical ideas based on working in Botswana, Uganda and Oman.
You can’t survive in your job overseas without thinking your way around problems. ‘No’ is never an option. If something can’t be done the obvious way, you find another way around the obstacle.
As an expatriate, you are expected to be an expert. There’s no room for people who have to look up the chain for technical advice and expertise.
It actually helps that there aren’t the regulations and procedures that exist in big organisations at home. The minutiae of rules get in the way of doing things. Although you have to be sensitive to local norms.
There aren’t a lot of people doing the same job as you. As the ‘expert’, you’re expected to guide and manage your local staff into reaching objectives.
In my time as an information professional, I’ve done information research and written briefings, managed contributions to projects as well as doing my own field work, organised libraries, planned and managed library removals, helped to create computerised cataloguing systems, prepared and edited reports and other documents for publication, liaised with other departments over publication issues, dealt with printers, drawn maps, written and typed up copy at 3 in the morning, created job descriptions and training plans, planned video selections and created voiceovers, spoken voiceovers, interviewed people for radio, designed and written websites, etc etc
Thus you are the practitioner, the trainer and the manager all rolled into one, a ‘jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none.’
My regret is that that hard-earned experience doesn’t seem to be appreciated back home. If they haven’t lived through it themselves, people have no idea of the versatility and creativity that you have acquired. Instead, job specifications ask for specific long-term experience in specific roles. As if versatility was a virtue to be shunned.
You’re just another Joe who skived off overseas to avoid the ‘real work’ of the 9-5 day.
In fact, the two awareness jobs that I did in the UK in the 1980s for SMEs on a shoestring budget required a broadly similar approach. No-one else would take the job on.
Don’t mind me. I’m just ranting!