Curiosity is the Antidote to Language Industry Fears

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I recently listened to the Globally Speaking Radio Podcast entitled Forecast 2018:  What’s Ahead for the Language Industry.  As always Renato Beninatto and Michael Stevens gave their top predictions for our industry.

Renato’s final prediction in the podcast really struck me.  He said that the language industry is undergoing a period of involution (or a turning in on oneself) rather than evolution (any process of formation, growth or development),  that thought processes influenced by fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) will be prevalent:  resistance to machine translation and the fear it invokes, the adoption of other new technology, the speed at which clients expect us to deliver, changes in employee attitudes, customer security issues as exemplified in the recent security leak.

We are faced with a lot of change these days and the pace of change is accelerating.  It impacts our customers and demands they place on us to deliver more, more quickly and for less money.  Lots of pressure!

Resistance to change is natural, but it can be dangerous. The old ways of doing things are no longer working as well and may not work at all in the not-too-distant future. Burying our heads in the sand will only delay the inevitable march of change and render us incapable of responding to it in an effective way.  FUD-based decisions, and I have a LOT of experience with these, have always been my worst decisions.  My best decisions have invariably been based on openness to a situation or being curious about it, seeking to find a new solution and a willingness to change.

Curiosity is the Antidote to Fear

Brian Grazer, famous film director and the author of A Curious Mind, suggests we “use curiosity to distance ourselves from fear and disrupt our point of view on purpose”.  In other words Glazer suggests we use curiosity as a means of taking the emotion out of things and exploring a fear more deeply to find a constructive way of responding to it.

By harnessing fear and bringing it to curiosity you can ask yourself questions such as “why am I afraid” or “what opportunities might be available to me” by adopting AI or MT or a new service offering or process we’ve never done before?

Being curious begs questions. Curiosity enables us to ask trusted colleagues what they think or what customers think or how people outside the industry might approach a fearful situation.  By asking yourself and others smart questions, you might just spark a great idea that addresses your fear or helps you succeed in the new reality. Instead of the “FUD think” about how MT is ruining the translation industry, for example, we can use curiosity as a form of power and courage that enables us to rethink MT as a source of potential opportunity.

Being more curious about your customers might prompt you to offer a new service to help them address their own fears and create a solution for yours at the same time!  The best sales people are the most curious ones about their customers.  They ask many insightful questions to help build a compelling solution for them.

Being curious about people outside the language industry could produce insights that no one in the industry might think of.  They aren’t afraid to ask a “dumb” or even an outrageous question, because they reside outside the “industry think” that can pervade any industry.  Ours is no exception.  Grazer himself talked with hundreds of people from all conceivable industries, countries, professions and belief systems who were outside the movie making business as a means to challenge his own point of view on a whole host of issues.  These so-called “curiosity conversations” helped him create his most powerful and successful movies that were sometimes the synthesis of several curiosity conversations.  The key was that he was willing to accept that his point of view was not gospel.  It made him decidedly uncomfortable at times, but he learned so, so much.  Being curious and open made this possible.

Being curious about the things that make us fearful, uncertain and doubtful can help us rethink what our future success might look like:  adjusting target markets or expanding geographically or changing/expanding your service offerings or merging with another LSP or hiring new talent that can bring your new vision to reality.

I’m not saying curiosity is the  answer, but I do believe it can be the catalyst to finding answers in a less scary way.  It has helped me look at a number of my own fears and biases from a new perspective.  I’ve become more comfortable being uncomfortable and asked questions I wouldn’t have asked myself even a few years ago.  The results of this are a work in progress, but I can say the process is very exciting and rewarding.

I’m curious to know if you’ll arrive at this conclusion too!


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