I was reminded over the last 24 hours just how difficult communication can be when operating in a global environment. While communication is surely a challenge in any environment, when you overlay cultural norms, understandings, biases, accents, and plain old politics, things can get really exciting.
In this particular instance a set of 4 people (including myself) from 4 different countries were discussing a particular issue through email and phone. It became clear that despite agreement amongst the four of us, in fact we were agreeing based on a different understanding of the issue at hand.
Who is right and wrong in this case matters very little. What matters is that without using precise, common language when working with your peers in other countries, a little nuance can lead to a very big misunderstanding. Usually I am big proponent of “just pick up the phone” but sometimes email works better as it forces you to think about the message and gives you a record that “lives” and can be refined.
As marketers we have learned that communicating our brand and our product value externally needs to identify with local customs and norms. It’s worth remembering that same paradigm applies to how we conduct our internal business as well.