International Research: The World Is A Village


True to our ideals, THREE approaches international research as collaborators. And that means traveling the globe alongside our clients and like-minded local partners.

I’ve probably led 50 international projects in perhaps 20 countries and naturally, I’ve experienced some unexpected hiccups and delights along the way. Of my lessons learned, I share some highs and lows thusly:

Embrace Local Customs

Expect that group discussions conducted in LATAM countries will neither begin nor finish on time, and that B2B people in Japan will react and behave based on hierarchy. Plus, don’t be surprised if your French facilitator gets their drink on before moderating. Santé!

Plan B

You can prepare all you want. And yet, there will come a time when you’re in Germany and 10 minutes before your group is set to begin, you find out you have no translator. Das ist nicht gut! But it can be overcome. Similarly, you may need to overcome food expectations. Like expecting the tofu stir fry in Korea to be vegetarian. (“Steve, those other cubes? Those are lardons.”)

Know Your Limits

Jetlag is real, and should be kept in mind when scheduling fieldwork: humans need to limit waking hours. But some free time to explore is also important. Otherwise, how would one learn their white-knuckle limit on the Autobahn is 135 MPH in a rented BMW 323i?

When in Rome*

I really like to moderate in foreign lands. Yes, natives may better understand local nuance, but my advantage is that participants explain things in greater detail (‘Since you’re not from here, let me explain myself further…’).

*Only if you speak Italian. Which I don’t. So, this is really ‘When in London, Sydney, Toronto, and maybe West Texas.’

The funny thing (not ha-ha funny like some of the above) is that no matter the country, the language, the category or the brand – whether researching product concepts, a brand’s essence or a global ad campaign – certain truths exist. People love conversing and sharing with fellow humans. Laughter is the best medicine. And people everywhere eat some crazy stuff.

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