With everything that is going on in the world, it is easy to "sink" and succumb to a sense of despair, anxiety, melancholy, and even resentment. While difficult times can undoubtedly bring out the worst sides of us, they can also bring out some of our best qualities that often get lost when it is "business as usual"--when we are on autopilot, and fall into routines, safety cushions, and comfort zones.
Humans are innately adaptable, creative, and entrepreneurial, especially when we feel we have nothing to lose. On top of that, we can be very generous, empathetic, and cooperative when the world needs our collective efforts most. Said qualities top the list of soft skills taught in school and emphasized by the HR department at work; they are seemingly second-nature and mindless, yet extremely difficult to put to practice.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, many people started their own micro-businesses or side hustles for the very first time to occupy their time, earn extra money, support local suppliers, and make their old/new hobbies more productive. Others took the time to reflect, learn something new, or develop new ideas. Whether it was because they had to, because they wanted to, or because an opportunity arose, these people took charge of their own circumstances. During the height of the pandemic and the ongoing global anti-racism movement, people have come together to start fundraising, create a movement, raise awareness, share, help, and support each other. Distance, language, funding, experience, and a business or leadership background, among many other things, were no longer barriers (read: excuses) for taking action. Because these examples prove how capable we are, even when the odds are against us, the question here is neither "what does a crisis teach us?" nor "why do certain social movements or phenomena bring us together?"
Instead, the questions become:
- Without a cause or a crisis, can we still maintain our adaptability, creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, generosity, empathy, and cooperation? (Among many other qualities that outshone our fear and anger during these difficult times)
- Now that we realized some of our barriers were actually self-imposed and totally manageable, are we going to do things differently?
- Without a cause to bring people together or a crisis to urge immediate action, can businesses and schools engage and empower their teams and students to take the initiative and actively participate?
Why wait for a crisis? Why wait for a cause?
Pictured here is my recent program, co-designed with the CEO and top executives of Inoue Rubber (Thailand) PCL., to engage and empower cross-functional teams within the company to unleash their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit and collaborate on new business projects to adapt to new business opportunities. This is an example of a company-wide effort to promote adaptability, creativity, entrepreneurship, and collaboration.
It was my honor to serve as this year's alumni speaker for Bangkok Patana School's Graduating Class of 2020. Returning to my 'second home' after 7 years definitely brought back a sense of nostalgia and reminded me of the 'mixed feelings' I experienced upon leaving high school (what these students are probably experiencing right now). Excited for a whole new beginning, yet sad to move on from
Leaving high school is a major life event. Students will transition from the comfort of their homes to sharing dorm rooms with people they will have just met, from adolescence to adulthood, from growing up with familiar faces to getting to know everyone all over again, from trying to fit in to working hard to stand out. ALL AT THE SAME TIME.
As high school students (i.e. not kids, not yet adults), many of them impatiently waited for freedom. Now, as young adults in transition, the freedom they wanted/needed is in their hands. Freedom comes with choices. Choices come with decision-making and responsibility. During the talk, we covered 'active choices' the students can make as they transition and begin the next chapter in life:
- Take advantage of how they can finally focus on the one thing they are good at or passionate about to become ‘everything in something,' while also ‘personalizing’ their own learning with new skills, experiences, and areas of knowledge to at least know ‘something in everything’
- Don’t feel ‘directionless’ if they haven’t found their WHY (i.e. passion, purpose, true calling). It's just as important to know their HOWs. What are they good at? What makes them happy? What empowers them? Combine 2-3 HOWs that complement each other to create something unique! The more they put their HOW(s) to practice, the easier it will be to ultimately find their WHY along the way
- Find something ‘extra’ in what they do
- While it is OK to have the urge to ‘sprint,' self-discovery is a long-term and ongoing process (like training for a marathon). Keep learning, taking action, experimenting, and self-improving
Pictures from Entrepreneurial Leadership Forums #1, #2, and #3 respectively.
I invited rising stars in social entrepreneurship and role models for many young people, Mr. Sorawit Paiboonrattanakorn of Saturday School Foundation and Mr. Somsak Boonkam of Local Alike, to join me and King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi for our 3rd Entrepreneurial Leadership Forum 'Mission: Possible.'
This forum turned out to be the perfect 'sequel' for the previous two forums: 'Women in Science and Technology' (Forum 1) and 'Off the Beaten Path' (Forum 2).
Young engineers realized their limitless career possibilities and the relevance of their fields across all sectors in Forum 1, with Ms. Ajarin Pattanapanchai (Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Digital Economy), Ms. Patama Chantaruck (Managing Director of IBM Thailand), and Ms. Nareerat Saetiew (Co-founder of InsightEra) as our guests. These well-respected tech women have made it big not only through their intelligence and hard work, but also their strong leadership, vibrant personality, and passion for their work in a male-dominated industry.
Young engineers then learned from engineers-turned-entrepreneurs whose first steps out of their comfort zone were not easy in Forum 2, with Dr. Chanikarn Wongviriyawong (Founder of EATLAB), Dr. Jessada Wannasin (Founder of GISSCO), and Mr. Chanun Somboonvechakarn (3rd Generation and Managing Director of over-70-year-old Ouayun Osoth). The audience learned that the hardships, self-doubt, uncertainty, and frustration that naturally come with running a business and, in particular, with creating and defining one's very own path. At the same time, they learned that being an entrepreneur and being entrepreneurial allow for an unparalleled pursuit of one's passion, a deep and personal sense of WHY, and constant search for new opportunities to grow and branch out.
In Forum 3, audience members, consisting of KMUTT young engineers and Mechai Pattana School young social entrepreneurs, were inspired to think big, do something much bigger than themselves, and actively take on a big challenge and a bigger role in their society. They got to share with our guests their dreams, as well as their fears. They were urged to take action anyway, regardless of how big or small or whether other people 'get it.'
Together with 80 students, from both Thai and international programs, we spent the entire semester rethinking and redefining the term 'Community.' A community doesn't always have to be a physical place; it can be a group of people with similar backgrounds, interests, goals, pain points, needs, values, and beliefs. Putting their innate entrepreneurial spirit to work, the student teams challenged themselves to serve an underserved community of their choice, such as:
- Aspiring musicians without a label, a YouTube channel, an artist manager, a producer, or a mentor, who want to get started on the right track
- Online shop owners who want to make their shopping experience as immersive, personalized, informative, and interactive as the traditional offline in-store shopping experience
- University students hoping to exchange study notes with peers from both the same university and different universities
- Freelancers hoping to find, take on, and manage multiple projects that accommodate their timetable and lifestyle
- Popular restaurants hoping to better manage their peak times
- Young people hoping to find a serious relationship, based on compatibility, lifestyle choices, and friendship, starting off with whether one is an introvert or an extrovert. An introvert will be 'matched' with another introvert to start getting to know each other by doing an activity that both introverts like to do, initially as 'friends.' The same concept goes for extroverts
We ended the semester with the perfect speaker for our Breakfast with CEO event: Mr. Mechai Viravaidya. As someone who is globally recognized for his half-a-century's worth of public service and still actively serving and empowering underserved youth and communities at the age of 79, Mr. Mechai was the epitome of a changemaker. His bold words, uncompromising and unapologetic personality, and clear sense of purpose have contributed to the success of his lifelong career, as well as nationwide and sustainable social change. While Mr. Mechai created change through activism and his extensive works in population development, education, rural development, and public health, the students were encouraged that they, too, can change their lives, other people's lives, their society, and even the world in their own ways. It may be through starting a business, volunteering, joining a movement, teaching, designing, engineering, etc.
Entrepreneurial Leadership Forum: 'Women in Science and Technology' was a huge success! With the goal to help young people realize their fullest potential, as well as their career possibilities and entrepreneurial opportunities, the forum served as a platform for STEM students to engage with 3 of Thailand's most sought-after and prominent women in tech:
- Ms. Ajarin Pattanapanchai, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, whose experience includes mega projects in the development of the petroleum & petrochemical, chemical, and energy sectors at Office of the Board of Investment
- Ms. Patama Chantaruck, Vice President for Indochina Expansion and Managing Director of IBM Thailand, after 23 years in various global, regional, and country-level leadership positions at Microsoft, including General Manager of Worldwide Software Asset Management and Compliance
- Ms. Nareerat Saetiew, Co-founder and Business Development Manager of InsightEra, a social media and marketing analytics startup that started off as a class project
Our guests shared their stories, turning points, growth, life lessons, and passion for their work. Participants then reflected on their own purpose, their own potential, and roles of technology in Thailand’s aged and soon-to-be super-aged society. Finally, our guests ran their very own own workshops, allowing young people to closely work with and learn from a key figure in the public sector, a world-renowned CEO from the private sector, and a young role model from Thailand's growing yet still exclusive startup scene. It is an honor to have partnered with King Monkut's University of Technology Thonburi on this project!