Language diversity in teams is an overlooked asset that can drive innovation, creativity, and success in the global tech industry. Leveraging different languages can lead to game-changing solutions, improved cross-cultural communication, and a competitive edge in today’s business landscape, says Dan Berges, managing director of Berges Institute LLC.
In the last few years, we’ve witnessed how we work and communicate across borders transform. In 2022, a recordOpens a new window surge in tech jobs offered remote options, driven in part by the pandemic and facilitated by cloud services, making it easier for companies to tap into global talent.Â
Although the physical location has become increasingly irrelevant, language diversity in the workplace needs to be addressed. With over 7,000 languages today, it’s more than a straightforward factor differentiating people. It affects far more than just our choice of words: It changes how we think.
From the biblical story of the Tower of Babel to the present day, languages have impacted communication, collaboration, and innovation, which are crucial elements of what makes a successful tech team. StudiesOpens a new window also prove that multilingual professionals are more creative than individuals who speak one language.Â
It’s time to examine how a tech team can leverage language diversity to gain a competitive edge in the increasingly globalized industry.Â
How Linguistics Shape Our Perception and Innovation
Language shapes our perception of objects, colors, directions, and habits more than we realize.Â
For instance, the grammatical gender of words in different languages can influence how speakers perceive objects. In Spanish, the word for â€œbridgeâ€ is masculine (â€œel puenteâ€), while in German, it is feminine (â€œdie BrÃ¼ckeâ€). This subtle difference in language can lead Spanish speakers to describe a bridge as â€œstrongâ€ and â€œtoweringâ€, while German speakers may see it as â€œprettyâ€ and â€œelegant.â€Â Â
The fact that people who speak different languages see the world from different perspectives, shows how important it is to encourage a mindset of thinking outside the box within tech teams. After all, in the fast-paced tech industry, innovation is crucial to drive advancements and stay ahead of the game.Â
For instance, If Steve Jobs and his team at Apple didn’t wholly reimagine the smartphone, then we would not have the sleek and user-friendly devices that have become ubiquitous in our daily lives today.Â
The Role of Language in Fostering Creativity and Advancement
Just imagine: Your US-based tech team hired a product developer from Beijing whose second language is English. Despite working remotely from China, he understands the tech landscape in both the US and China because of his language skills. While hypothetical, this is a typical example where it would be unwise to disregard the valuable contributions that his language diversity brings to the table.Â
Considering the diverse impacts of language diversity that go hand-in-hand with cognitive functioning, tech leaders must harness this advantage with multilingual team members. In the case of the developer from Beijing, his fluency in Mandarin and English is significant, foremost, because he can effectively communicate with vendors and clients who speak either language and pick up on cultural nuances that other team members might miss.Â
Hiring linguistically diverse professionals can bring valuable advantages to a tech team in several ways:
According to the findings of the DYLAN projectOpens a new window , a project set to identify the different ways language can be an asset in professional settings, teams with members who speak multiple languages are more capable of coming up with cutting-edge solutions to practical problems. When brainstorming, tech professionals draw on a common language that may not necessarily be their mother tongue. This allows them to tap into subconscious concepts beyond the surface of the language they are conversing in.
The most technologically advanced countries often need to be English-speaking countries. If your employees speak one of these other languages, they can access a wider range of tech resources, allowing them to find more optimal solutions to business problems. This has exciting implications as it demonstrates the possibilities for making new connections and drawing inspiration from unexpected sources, leading to groundbreaking ideas.
2. Product development
Operations of global companies differ between countries, making it crucial to have native speakers within the country-specific product development team. A prime example of this is Uber. Despite being a global service, Uber’s operations vary depending on the country. In India, being an Uber driver is typically a primary job, and cash payments are accepted, whereas in the US, it is often a part-time gig and cash payments are not allowed.Â
This highlights the importance of multicultural teams to ensure the consideration of cultural factors when developing Uber’s operations in India. Ultimately, incorporating diverse perspectives and insights from native speakers allows global countries to tailor their products to local markets; and improve overall success and customer satisfaction.Â
3. Cross-cultural communication
Cross-cultural communication benefits both company operations and customer experience. By curating a multilingual tech team, you are setting your company up to effectively navigate cultural and linguistic differences that can otherwise lead to miscommunication or misunderstandings. For instance, a diverse team can save you from embarrassing mistakes like politically incorrect headlines or culturally insensitive taglines.Â
Furthermore, understanding cultural and linguistic nuances specific to a particular region can enhance customer experience, too. For instance, if a local customer leaves a review with slang or phrases only locals would understand, your company can pick up on these nuances and connect with their customers better.Â
Within the team collaboration itself, heightened awareness and creativity that comes with active listening when communicating with individuals from different cultures can lead to incredible innovation in business. Meaning even unintentional misspeaking can trigger new ideas.
4. Multilingual marketing
Having language and cultural diversity on a tech team gives insight into the wants and needs of your target customer base. In the way Uber redesigned its app to suit its customer base in India better, other tech teams can leverage this superpower to create marketing content that’s not just culturally sensitive but also localized to connect with specific groups in unique ways. With diverse team members, you can fine-tune your branding materials, like logos and slogans, to ensure they resonate with the market’s authenticity.
Paving the Way for Tech Excellence in a Globalized World
The key takeaway is that language diversity in tech teams is a valuable yet often overlooked asset contributing to navigating the rapidly globalizing tech industry. Adapting to niche markets, improving communication across continents, and enhancing team collaboration is increasingly important. So, by embracing language diversity, businesses are setting themselves up for success.Â
Tapping into diverse perspectives and cultural nuances enables teams to develop groundbreaking solutions, improve cross-cultural communication, and tailor products to specific markets. Moreover, language diversity enhances problem-solving abilities, fosters effective collaboration, and allows for localized and culturally sensitive marketing strategies. As the tech industry becomes increasingly globalized, businesses must recognize and leverage language diversity’s advantages. By doing so, they can stay ahead of the game, connect with customers on a deeper level, and thrive in today’s competitive business environment.
What steps have you taken to unlock the power of language diversity in your tech team? Let us know on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window . We’d love to hear from you!
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