How do we know if we have a cultural problem?


By Grant Hall.  Founder of League Cultural Diplomacy

Do any of these statements sound familiar? If they do, it’s time to find a cultural solution to your cultural problem.

Broadly speaking, as I  wrote about in  The twin challenges of international business, there are two main needs that your business will need to meet in its overseas operations:

  1. The need to get the business aspects of your operations right, and
  2. The need to get the cultural aspects of your operations right.

In Business failures in China; a failure to connect at a cultural level, I wrote about the inability of many otherwise successful western companies to achieve success in China.  I said that the roots of their failures appeared to indicate more than simply an inability to understand the local culture –  they demonstrate a failure to connect with their target market at a cultural level.

In‘s most read post, The silent killer murdering international business ventures, I wrote about how an ignorance of the need to prioritise culture when operating in foreign markets or across cultures is akin to a silent killer whereby the cause of death is often misdiagnosed.

So, how do you know if your organisation has a cultural problem with its overseas business venture?

Look at the list of statements below. If they reflect your experience or the assessments of your organisation and you’re confident that you have the business aspects of your operations right, you might have a cultural problem.

We don’t seem to fit in

We’ve had a PR disaster

We can’t meet the right people

We lack beneficial relationships

We’ve been asked to pay bribes

We don’t understand the culture

Government red-tape is stifling us

No one’s buying what we’re selling

We don’t know our partners very well

Our locally based workforce is unstable

Our potential business partners avoid us

Our business partners want us to change

We’re not getting enough PR cut-through

We have difficulty interpreting local needs

There’s more pain than joy in our relationships

Bureaucratic processes are slowing our progress

Our network isn’t well connected to the right people

We’re not a priority for our potential business partners

We can’t get our staff to understand our way of thinking

There is a key decision maker blocking our path to success

We’re having problems recruiting and keeping the right staff

We aren’t connecting with our partners as well as we had hoped

Potential partners often seem to walk away from us… and we’re not sure why

People aren’t buying enough of our products or services… and we’re not sure why not

We are struggling to walk the talk in regards to the behaviors we know are important in the region

Potentially profitable agreements often seem to fall over at the last minute… and we’re not sure why

Do any of these statements sound familiar? If they do, it’s time to find a cultural solution to your cultural problem.  My business, League Cultural Diplomacy finds cultural solutions for it’s clients through corporate cultural diplomacy (CCD). Drawing on the finest traditions of statecraft and international diplomacy, many successful companies now use CCD as a tool to manage international business relationships and gain influence in foreign markets.

If you want to know more about CCD, be sure to check out some of‘s earlier posts including:

What is corporate cultural diplomacy?

2 Dozen reasons to use cultural diplomacy

Culture tools: prevention, maintenance and repair

And stay tuned to for more!

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