Blowing-up Borders for Increased Self-Awareness, Creativity, Social Skills, and Leadership.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs said it for a reason. Changing the world requires a lot of passion because this passion will help you stand up when something in life puts you down. One of the ways to thrive, create solutions, and change the world is to build networks by blowing up imaginary societal borders.

This problem starts with how we’ve been raised at home and how we evolve as a society. When we are young, we try to find what we want to do in life. Then, when we’re about seventeen to twenty years old, we realize there’s so much social expectation, and we start to go with the flow of the proverbial river, just like everyone else.

To create new connections in a network, you first need to know that these relationships can be made. A strong network starts with self-awareness, passion, and curiosity to connect with others.

Blowing up borders to reduce confirmation bias and boost self-awareness 

 

 I am extremelly self-aware. I know what I want, don’t want; know my strenghts and weaknesses. Where did this self-awareness come from? 

 

I am fortunate to have traveled to thirty-eight countries while still in my twenties, including eight countries in Africa. Through my trips I met thousands of people from different cultures, ethnicities, and mindsets. You cannot imagine how much these experiences opened my eyes and mind.

 

Moving outside your silos and – BLOWING UP BORDERS – helps you to understand yourself and others. I realized that people’s behavior depended on where they came from and how they were raised. Trying different things help us discover what we are genuinely passionate about, our strengths, and what we love. It’s the path to self-discovery, which is the foundation of our careers! Not only that, but it also helps us to remove our confirmation bias and increase our creativity.

Blowing up borders to enhance creativity

In a study led by William Maddux, the aim was to test if there was a link between living abroad and creativity (Maddux, 2009). In five studies employing a multimethod approach using American and European students, the results were as follows:

·      Studies 1 and 2 provided initial demonstrations that time spent living abroad (but not time spent traveling abroad) showed a positive relationship with creativity.

·      Study 3 demonstrated that priming foreign living experiences temporarily enhanced creative tendencies for participants who had previously lived abroad.

·      Study 4 showed the degree to which individuals had adapted to different cultures while living abroad and how it boosted creativity.

·      Study 5 found that priming the experience of adapting to a foreign culture temporarily enhanced creativity for participants who had previously lived abroad.​

Blowing up borders to improve social skills

In a world where resilience is everything, crossing and blowing up borders can boost our self-confidence and make us better leaders and human beings. Especially now that social skills is among the most demanded skill for future CEOs; which will we driving companies in the mult-stakeholder economy; stakeholder capitalism.

That era is over. As companies move away from shareholder primacy and focus more broadly on stakeholder capitalism, CEOs and other senior leaders are expected to be public figures. They’re obliged not only to interact with an increasingly broad range of internal and external constituencies but to do so personally and transparently and accountably. No longer can they rely on support functions—the corporate communications team, the government relations department, and so forth—to take care of all those relationships.”

 

 
 

Blowing up borders for better empathetic leadership, and an improved decision making process

In the end; what I refer with Blowing up borders is not only about living abroad. Blowing up borders is also blowing imaginary borders inside a corporation; and getting multidisciplinary exposure.

As the CEO of Novartis said: 

“Don’t underestimate the importance of getting multidisciplinary exposure. Most people get worried when they have to make those jumps. I’ve had a career at Novartis where I’ve worked in commercial areas and marketing areas—so most of my time in R&D worked across four different areas of the business—and so with that diversity of experiences it enables you to make the right decisions” (Narasimhan et al., 2021).

Changing roles to see the big picture can help us discover where we perform best. Doing so is not just a “nice to have” but will soon be a “must-have.” Many of us will be forced to—in the next decade, over one hundred million workers may need to switch occupations (Meakin, 2021).

Hence, blowing up borders is essential to buil an extensive, diverse network of experiences and people. We need to blow them up—the border of your country (getting experience abroad), the imaginary boundary of the team inside your organization, or the border of your field of expertise to find what we love and unleash curiosity, creativity, and empathy.

 

Overall in society, we need to help more people to discover their strengths and passion, to have a better engaged workforced and vibrant startup ecosystems. Once the passion is ignited, curiosity follows. A diverse network will help you at testing assumptions in product building.

TAKE ACTION:

Take online classes and learn a new field on platforms such as Coursera, Udemy, or LinkedIn Learning. This is a great way to expand your horizons. Speak to someone who inspires you to get guidance on what skills you need to learn.


Travel, study, or work abroad to expand your awareness and find your passion. It is also a way to understand new cultures. An excellent way to do this is through an exchange program or to volunteer with a service like workaway.info. There is no age limit, and it transforms people’s lives.


If you’re an employee, ask your manager if you could try a different position. If the answer is no, ask why and how you could potentially make it happen. If you’re convinced you want to try, explore outside your organization.

If you want to change the company and move into a new role, apply for internships. A friend of mine applied for an internship and switched from lab work to business in a matter of months. Internships are way easier to get. Alternatively, use your network to get hired by someone you know who is willing to teach you.

Join diverse teams or, if you can employ people with various skills, hire people with diverse skills. It is incredible to learn from colleagues who are different from you.


Ask questions all the time. Why? How? What is the background of this choice? Be extremely curious. Consider how your confirmation bias is evolving.

Source:

Maddux, William and A. D. Galinsky. “Cultural Borders and Mental Barriers: The Relationship Between Living Abroad and Creativity.,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 96, no.5 (2009): 1047-61. https://doi.apa.org/doi/10.1037/a0014861.

Narasimhan, Vas, Jorge Conde, Vijay Pande, and Sonal Chokshi. “a16z Podcast: The Science and Business of Innovative Medicines.” January 13, 2019. Podcast, MP3 audio, 59:02.

Meakin, Lucy. “100 Million Workers May Need to Switch Occupation by 2030.” Bloomberg, February 18, 2021.

Raffaella Sadun, Joseph Fuller, Stephen Hansen, and PJ Neal. “The C-Suite Skills That Matter Most”. HBR, July–August, 2022