Something I wrote 2 years ago, in January 2007, when someone asked for thoughts on how to design technologies for another culture - with the big disclaimer (then and now) that I Didn't Know What I Was Talking About.
- Learn as much as you can about your domain (in most of our cases, engineering) and their culture and needs before you get there through any means possible.
- Upon arriving, totally ignore this prior knowledge (empty your cup).
- Once you've learned how and why they do it, and appreciate it as a totally logical, intelligent, valuable approach (not in bemusement at their "lesser techniques," because they aren't), then you start slowly bringing in your domain expertise and sharing things back with them.
And my favorite response (from someone else), foreshadowing the many "curriculum as culture" and "bahasa geek translator" moments I'd have later that year:
I believe that one of the most important skills to have when approaching complex problems is the ability to bridge languages. A "language," in this sense, is more than just a set of terminologies and jargons or even a particular spoken language... it's a way of thinking... We can't be expected to learn all the different ways of seeing a problem, of course. I wonder if the next best thing is to find people in our communities with those language-bridging skills and nuture what ambassadorial traits we happen to have within ourselves