Toolkit for Quick’n’Dirty Country/Culture Research

Whenever you are planning to take your startup or a mature company to a new market, planning to export your products there or seeking to open a new office to plug into local talent pool, you always know it will somehow be different than back home. Some of this is quite intuitive, like guessing that the farther you go physically, culturally or linguistically, the larger the change in environment. An enormous amount of differences are more nuanced.

The smart thing to do, of course would be to turn to relevant locals and expats, anthropologists and culture researchers. Maybe even hire a dedicated consultants who have been there and done what you’ve about to. Yet, there is always some of the analysis you need to do yourself, either because you can’t afford the time or resources to get external help, or you just need to prepare before turning to them. As cultural differences are highly contextual, not all of them really matter for your case, but you need to do some thinking on what are the few things that really do, the least.

Years ago I ran a project to figure out where should Skype build our next engineering centre to support the needed hiring pace. We looked at 12 countries in mostly Central-Eastern Europe, drilled deeper on a final shortlist of four and settled on Prague, which has sine been a great part of the Skype product engineering family since and still growing. Despite of the successful outcome, it wouldn’t have hurt to have had a bit more structured understanding beforehand on how to compare all our options.

Hence the very compressed reference list below, of books, frameworks, country data sites and other notes. Meant not to excite any culture theory experts, but rather to provide a very quick’n’dirty toolkit for business people who need to think through an upcoming international move. Read the rest of this entry »