Cultural differences can make it difficult to implement certain operational strategies for your organization, and then make it more uncomfortable to express your feelings and needs when issues arise.

At Storytell, we value these high-leverage-thinking approaches:

  • Safe to try: Be open to new ideas and try them on for size 
  • Ship First, Then Iterate: Don’t be your own blocker — for code, ideas, processes, or content.
  • Consent Over Consensus: Ask “Does anyone object?” instead of “Does everyone agree?”

Because each country has its own work culture, we noticed that implementing these strategies is much easier for our US-based colleagues than folks living abroad.

In her book, The Culture Map, Erin Meyer breaks down how management styles, communication patterns, and business systems differ around the world. Each country has its own societal norms around feedback, trust, confrontation, time management, and so on.

In cultures that are used to more hierarchy and top-down decision-making, Storytell’s values aren’t just a little bit outside-the-box – they can actually be considered offensive. This created a lot of friction for our crew in the Philippines, who aren’t used to operating in a Silicon Valley startup type of environment.


  • Always saying yes, even when you don’t understand the task or can’t meet the deadline. 
  • Following “the rules” to the detriment of all parties
  • Consulting again and again to make sure you got it right, even if that means sitting on a project 

Here’s how the principles behind Clean Communication helped us navigate these differences.

Stages of Awareness: This framework helped our team switch their lens for seeing their world internally. When gaps in work styles caused friction, everyone was able to realize that there was a difference, take ownership of how they experienced it, and avoid blaming others.

Active Listening: When the time came to discuss the problem, we used this framework to make sure we fully understood each other and ensure each other felt validated and heard.

  • Within this, asking the question: Who am I fighting for? And who am I protecting?

Repair a Broken Agreement: We used this framework to get clarity around the situation, make sure everyone was on the same page, and then commit to a shared plan for moving forward.