ASK and you shall receive

“Khun Kriengsak, we have discussed preparing Thais for the Asean Economic Community for the past two weeks. What else should Thais improve?”

“Khun Sawat, asking questions.”

“Coach, it is not a Thai forte. From my experience, when I was young my parents taught me: you have to listen to seniors, as theyve ‘taken the bath with hot shower before you.’

“In school, I was supposed to memorise the teacher’s words. When I asked too many questions, my teacher said I was a nuisance. He told me to stop asking stupid questions. But what frustrated me most was my friends. They complained that I had difficulty understanding things.

“When I came to work, I asked my boss some questions. He was unhappy and said I should accept whatever he said. Later, I asked other colleagues if they understood. They also didn’t understand. But they didn’t want to take the risk of being perceived as stupid by the boss.”

“Khun Sawat, how do you make Thais ask more questions then?”

“I’d like to share some inspirational examples about asking questions, for example: Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, mentioned in his new book, Why the Mighty Fall, that one of his mentors, Bill Lazier, told him: ‘Don’t try to come up with the right answers; focus on coming up with good questions.’

“In the book Leading with Questions by Michael Marquardt, he quoted Donald Petersen, a former chief executive of Ford Motor Co: ‘Asking more of the right questions reduces the need to have all the answers.’

“Mr Marquardt also quoted Peter Drucker, the leadership guru: ‘The leader of the past may have been a person who know how to tell, but certainly the leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask.’ With the growing complexity and speed of change in the world, the traditional hierarchical model of leadership that worked yesterday will not work tomorrow.”

“Khun Sawat, these are good.”

“Coach, do you have Thai business examples?”

“I have two stories. The first is from Dhanin Chearavanont, CEO of the Charoen Pokphand Group.

“From the Thai book Wisdom from Entrepreneur Minds by Ton-sa-kul Sui. The author quoted one of Khun Dhanin’s success tips:

“‘Every time I travel overseas, I always visit smart people. I want to learn from them by asking them a lot of questions. Then, I listen to them attentively. Regardless of age, they are my teachers. I respect intelligent people. I love intelligent people and I want to be friends with them.’

“The other story is about Tan Passakornnatee, the CEO of Maitan Co Ltd. Khun Tan was a founder of the Oishi green tea brand, later sold to Thai Beverage Plc.

“From another Thai book, Life Always Has a Way Out by Sorakon Adulyanon, Khun Tan shared his entrepreneurship success by asking questions.

“At 21 years old, after he was an outstanding employee for four years, he began his first small business as a newspaper kiosk in Chon Buri. Without any knowledge about it, he just asked from the newspaper agents:

“‘Whenever I start a new business and I haven’t had experience, I ask people. I get knowledge and strategies from other people willing to share their wisdom. Their experience helps me to shortcut my learning a lot.’

“During start-up at Oishi, one time he was in a car that just got a new sticker film. The smell of new sticker made him sick. He couldn’t breathe and misunderstood that he would die. He asked his driver to take him to the hospital nearby. On the way, he rolled down the window to get some air from outside. Suddenly he felt better. During the time he thought he was dying, he became aware that there were many things in life he hadn’t done.

“Inspired by that incident, he asked his retail store managers to double the sales of Oishi green tea for the next month with a question: If you could pretend that you would die before you really die, what would you do differently to increase sales of Oishi green tea?

“He was amazed when a Lat Phrao store, which already had high volume, doubled sales. He asked the manager how she did it. She told him that she went to Chatuchak Market and did direct selling to several kiosks. He went out to see and told his brother to boost the numbers. His brother increased at JJ from 80,000 to 280,000 bottles a month. Then he expanded to other markets at Chon Buri, Bang Saen and Rayong.”

“Coach, these are good examples of ‘Ask and you will be rich’.”