Daily Archives: November 19, 2010

How Important is Local Language?

English is the language of business in most of the world, and in some countries, like India, at least 1 in 10 people speak it as a second or third language. So if you speak English, you can theoretically do business the world over. But is it enough?

A recent article over on the Harvard Business Review on bridging the cultural divide asked if learning Hindi is the key to creating business connections in India. According to one of the individuals being interviewed, you have thousands of entrepreneurs blooming in every region, in every city and in every town. It is no longer a few large industrial groups that control the Indian economy. Many of these young entrepreneurs feel comfortable [doing business] in Hindi. And this is true in many countries where English is fairly widely spoken for business (including China).

Plus, every language has words that are not easily translatable into English, just like many words (and phrases) in English are not easily translatable into some foreign languages. For example, the article mentions the translation of ‘chhatra latak, vaayu jhatak’ for ‘ceiling fan’, which means ‘that which hangs from the roof and sweeps the air’ and a recent article on Matador Abroad gave us 20 awesomely untranslatable words from around the world. So there are numerous advantages to knowing a local language.

Of course, if you’re not doing local business, and mainly outsourcing to the region, you probably don’t need to know the local language, but if you’re trying to sell into the region, there can be significant advantages.

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Looking Behind the Knowledge Network Curtains

Today’s guest post is from John Shaw, the Director of Education Services for Supply Management at BravoSolution.

In a recent post, the doctor asked, “Where is the Knowledge Network?” and “What is an aspiring supply management professional to do?”

Our industry is offering a growing list of online resources and supply management organizations. We can use these resources to augment the knowledge we gain through our professional activities and personal networks. As the doctor stated, each of these resources takes time and effort to build, so naturally, the goals and objectives of these networks are aligned with those individuals who invest in building each network in the first place.

Our challenge as supply management professionals is to navigate this forest of information in a way that maximizes our personal development. To do so, we need to understand where our personal objectives align with those of a knowledge network. The better we understand how each network’s objectives align with our own, the more value we will receive out of the limited time we have to invest in them.

So as both a consumer of these networks and a developer of some (see discloser below) I’d like to offer some questions for you to ask when trying to determine if participating in a particular knowledge network would be valuable to you:

  • Does the intent of the network align with the needs of the membership?
    The Network Guidelines should clearly state the audience, and the types of information exchange the network facilitates. If they are not stated, or they do not align with what your current development needs, your time may be better invested elsewhere.
  • Who are the thunder lizards?
    Look to see who the most active participants are. The most active people in a community will steer its direction. If these people are your peers, or better, if they are in roles that you aspire to, look further into participating.
  • Who is in charge?
    Successful communities are driven by the membership. If enough thunder lizards march in the same direction a community will move and take a life of its own. The builder can find him/herself in the passenger seat. In the best scenario, you’ll find that the thunder lizards are your peers, and they are in charge!

So what are we to do? Unfortunately there isn’t a simple answer. Whether we are learning about supply management, following politics or trying to get the best advice online for fixing a leaking pipe, we need to look behind the curtains to understand our information sources

Thanks, John!

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