The Dutch East India Company made its fortune with a number of different trades: notably the tulip mania in 1637 that allowed the Dutch East India Company to be valued in the trillions of dollars while operating in dozens and dozens in countries (all of this according to Wikipedia). They operated globally and generated massive amounts of wealth and were a dominant economic force for almost two hundred years.
Global companies that operate today have a lot of resources that didn’t exist then (the internet – chief among them). But one of the challenges that remains an obstacle to all companies is language. It is a barrier to global collaboration and to the more than 60,000 multinational companies at work today, that barrier is a daily reality. If you have more than 6,500 languages – there are going to be some bumps along the road.
It also makes an impact on all of us, since the languages of business are quickly becoming a determinate of the languages used globally. The countries of dominant economic strength are turning up as some of the most commonly published languages, as well.
The flow of knowledge between parent companies and subsidiaries, between branches and disciplines, the type of fluidity required to generate great open innovation repositories has slowed. But to
1) Commit to multilingual administration. Employing someone on the innovation team who speaks multiple languages is not only going to make it easier to translate content, it’s going to go a long way in making employees feel heard – knowing that you’re considering translation in their native tongue.
2) Automatic Translation of User-Generated Content. There are more tools than ever to do this and perhaps the only way to keep up is to invest in automatic user generate content translation by machine (and verified by humans) as IdeaScale has done until automatic translation is accurate enough to make that process effortless and efficient.
3. Understand the Digital Language Landscape. Aligning business strategies with language realities requires a bit of research and the appropriate support. If most blogs are being written in Portuguese, perhaps it’s time to write or translate corporate blogs into Portuguese, as well.
image credit: Hugh Kimura
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Jessica Day is a marketing and technology writer and editor for IdeaScale. She received her Masters in Writing from the University of Washington. Day also blogs about crowd-based innovation and idea management solutions at blog.ideascale.com.