The world of product is comprised of hundreds of tribes, and they all come with their own jargon, colloquialisms, and language. Whether you’re a product manager, an engineer, or a designer, being successful means being fluent in your own discipline’s language. When it comes to being effective across disciplines though, some are more so for a specific reason; they speak other languages.
Drory Ben-Menachem joins Products That Count to share a lively, charismatic presentation on the keys to being a multilingual designer, and how product leaders go about putting language fluency over technical skills. If you’re a fan of diversity, travel, and pop culture references, definitely check out the entire video.
On being multilingual across disciplines
Being able to effectively communicate and collaborate across tribes in an organization really starts with one key notion: curiosity. Droy emphasized that in order to truly become multilingual, you have to first be ok with not knowing the answer.
“How we speak influences how we think and how we relate to the world around us. Also, the languages we learn empowers us to connect with a more diverse audience. That means the words we use have a direct influence on how others perceive and interpret the value of our contributions.”
“It’s really about finding ways to immerse yourself in the culture of another tribe by experiencing it firsthand in the wild. If you’re looking to learn how to think and speak like a designer more, you know, maybe ask to attend a design sprint. Then, get yourself invited to a critique session or a brainstorming workshop. Any kind of tribal ritual we practice. Listen, take notes, and when it’s appropriate, ask questions. Ask about the words, phrases, and concepts that you hear that you may not know.”
The real key point is. context plus correlation equals clarity. If you can understand the communicative frame that surrounds an event, statement, or idea, it helps you better understand it. Then with the correlation part, you can also make a connection to the context. That creates a sense of clarity.
On the power of amplifying diverse voices
Drory spoke on a particularly poignant evening where the amplification of diverse voices was already loud in the air. He doubled down on the idea that embracing the different languages of individual disciplines can only benefit the entire organization.
“Being multilingual is really about embracing and amplifying diverse voices. That can only benefit you in terms of how you perceive the world. Really, the more we contribute to a culture of collaboration and psychological safety in our own organizations and groups, the more we open opportunities for everyone to be heard, and everyone to have a voice. That’s what being a tribe is all about.”
“Even though the title of the talk is multilingual designer, there’s no reason for my discipline to be selfish about it. Be a multilingual product manager or engineer. It’s actually a power that anybody can master.”
“I believe that a designer’s true power isn’t in the pixels they push, it’s in the ideas that we help inspire and the outcomes that we help orchestrate through the languages we learn.”
About the speaker
Drory Ben-Menachem currently serves as Sr Director of UX Research + Product Design at Zonar Systems, the leading entity in telemetrics within operations management. Considering himself more architect than artist, he drives deliberate ideation and design execution with a focus on designing outcomes over interfaces. His extensive background in creative design includes holding positions as Smashing Ideas Creative and UX Director, as well as Microsoft Creative Director. In high demand as a creative coach, he also holds long-term speaking engagements as a Guest Lecturer and Mentor at University of Washington, Cornish College for the Arts, and the Seattle Interactive Conference.