Thanks for the insightful read. The post is worth the time to read.
I am not sure what it has to do with rule sets, Collounsbury seems to be discussing culture and common practice. When I think of rule sets I think of protocols and policies - usually between countries or entities wishing to do business with others. Collounsbury points out the the big issue is lack of consistent and clear legal frameworks that can be trusted. This is good material to understand the difficulties in working with other cultures. But the rule set piece seems to be the reproducible mechanisms that allow me to buy fuel or sell Marlboros or Sonys with predictable outcomes. In those Gap countries once the security is in place (guarantees, laws, insurance, whatever) our Western businesses will engage those who can offer a suitable interface, perhaps Western trained locals that understand both the Western needs (long term investment with predictable and consistent outcomes) and the local culture (risk averse short term gains) will build such conduits. In network speak this is a 'router' or 'gateway', something that can translate between one protocol (IP) and another (AppleTalk).
Explicit Rule-Sets are familiar to us because we have an Anglo-American legal culture of contract relations, statute and precedent, treaties and international conventions, corporate codes of conduct and the like. Very clear, at least most of the time.
Implicit Rule-Sets are no less real but they are often more powerful being rooted in cultural and societal habits touching upon power, status, social obligations, gender relations and the like. In many societies there is a much stronger communal ethos than here ( or weaker/arbitrary enforcement of positive law) that effect relationships in subtle ways or emphasize the continuity of the relationship over particular outcomes. Japan comes to mind in this regard. So does China.
Violating many of these unwritten ( and unfamiliar to outsiders)rules can result in an inability to accomplish what might seem to be a straightforward transaction. Or you might cause gratuitous offense. That's why regional experts like Col are sometimes required - they decode these implicit rules. " Western trained locals" provide the same decoding function to the other side.
Collounsbury did not write his piece from a PNM perspective but when he discusses the " big issue is lack of consistent and clear legal frameworks that can be trusted " it is because the personal-cultural Implicit rules of the Bazaari business culture often take precedence over the abstract contractual-market relations of the western investor. Col's piece provided a lot of concrete examples of how explicit rule-sets and implicit rule-sets interact in the MENA region.
I basically have been thinking about these things on a generic, theoretical, non-culturally specific level for a while and Col came along with a boatload of very specfic, real-world examples that exemplified the concept.
I hadn't thought about implicit rule sets. It makes sense in a variety of contexts, how we do care about the conditions that clothing is manufactured or our concern about women's rights in countries in which we do business.
In the world of object-oriented programming you would normally only care about the 'interface' between two entities and not what goes on inside each entity (the algorithms) - if you know 'how to do business' with the other object then all you care about is the results. However that thinking is also changing today, since there are real concerns about security and how 'safe' your code is - so the internals do matter.
*Disclaimer* I am not a real programmer, I just know enough to be dangerous.