Research Summary

How a Multicultural Social Environment Influences Creativity and Innovation



My second stream of research draws on my first stream of work to examine how a multicultural social environment influences individuals’ creative thinking and performance at a global workplace. In an on-going project, I found that individuals high in cultural metacognition– mindfulness in anticipating, planning, and monitoring intercultural exchange– are better able to build affect-based trust in different culture partners, resulting in more effective intercultural creative collaborations. A key contribution of this paper is the identification of a capability that allows individuals to bridge the affect-based trust gap when working across cultures so as to enhance intercultural creative work. In another project, I examine how cultivating a multicultural social network can increase individuals’ creative performance. I found that the positive effect of a culturally diverse network on creativity is domain-specific. The creativity benefits are realized only when the task at hand require drawing on knowledge sources from multiple cultures. These two studies contribute to research that examines how cultural diversity enhances creativity. Managers who wish to harness the power of cultural diversity for greater creativity need to understand key levers, boundary conditions, and underlying mechanisms. Even more, managers need to understand that cultural diversity at the workplace, if not carefully, manage can backfire. In a third project, I introduce the concept of ambient cultural disharmony—intercultural conflicts in individuals’ social environment in which they themselves are not involved—and demonstrates how it undermines creative thinking. This investigation departs from conventional approaches of studying how people deal with intercultural conflicts by investigating how people are impacted by intercultural conflicts in which they themselves are not involved. This form of ambient cultural disharmony has been understudied in our field but has important consequences. The emphasis on the ambient aspect of intercultural disharmony opens up new lines of inquiries in research on intercultural relations and creativity.