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The creative knowledge workers of Thailand 4.0

'Coach Kriengsak, you should write a column about knowledge workers in Thailand 4.0," Piya, a longtime reader of the column, remarks during a coffee break at a recent seminar we attended.

"Khun Piya, why is that?"

"The government is pushing the country towards Thailand 4.0."

"Could you tell me more about what that means?"

"Thailand 1.0 was based on traditional agriculture, before we made the transition to the light industry of Thailand 2.0 and then the heavy industry of our current 3.0 status. Thailand 4.0 is an economy based on creativity, innovation and high-level services.

"On the human side, unskilled and low-skilled labour will have to be transformed into a new workforce characterised by knowledge, expertise and high skills. The question I have for you is what do you think the knowledge workers of Thailand 4.0 will look like?"

I think for a few moments. "Khun Piya, I think we are looking at six key qualities here: willingness to embrace change, dedication to lifelong learning, critical thinking, creativity, communication skills and cross-cultural skills"

"Coach, how do we embrace change?"

"Based on my observations of people who embrace change with the right attitude, here are some of the mindsets they share:

  • Nothing is certain but uncertainty.
  • Whether you like it or not, change is inevitable.
  • Choosing to change is less painful than being forced to change.
  • It's not the strongest one who survives, but the person who adapts best.
  • The first change you need to make is in your attitude.
  • Change has positive and negative consequences: focus on the gains and manage the risk."

"What about the life-long learning?"

"Khun Piya, you're one of the life-long learners that I admire. What do you think?"

"I believe that if we do not learn, we will not be prepared to cope with the new world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. We also need to keep in mind that data, information and knowledge can easily become obsolete. Your recipe for business success from yesterday can be found within a few seconds on the internet.

"Also, people of your generation and mine are now surrounded by a younger generation. They are our staff, our bosses in some cases, our customers, our shareholders and our competitors. If we stop learning, we will not be able to understand them. These millennials are impatient and won't wait for you to catch up.

"In other words, you have to know what to learn and learn it fast. Now it's your turn, Coach. What about critical thinking?"

"Khun Piya. Here are some tips for critical thinking skills:

  • Learn to ask better questions to obtain good-quality data.
  • Know to ask the right people or where to find the right sources of data.
  • Be able to organise data so that it's easy to analyse.
  • Be able to analyse patterns with logic and without bias.
  • Be able to find the connections and see the implications of your data.
  • Express your thinking clearly so that others can follow your logic."

"That's interesting, Coach. I think we won't have enough time to cover all six qualities you mentioned. But since you've written frequently about cross-cultural topics, what are your cross-cultural tips for knowledge workers in Thailand 4.0?"

"Khun Piya, cross-cultural awareness is about appreciating and respecting other cultures. When we work with people from a different culture, we need to learn about their culture and its implications for business before we can communicate effectively with them. Once you have some ideas about them, here are some further tips:

  • Accept that people are different. Don't use your standards to judge others. For example, Thai people speak softly because in our culture it implies respect. But just because someone else speaks loudly it doesn't mean they disrespect you. Try to understand why in the context of their culture.
  • Look for a local-cross cultural mentor. If you're an expat, try to find someone who is the same nationality as you and has lived in the place for a while. You can learn from him or her about common mistakes instead of having to endure too much trial and error.
  • Focus on building trust in the beginning. For Thais, trust is about caring and competence. The majority of us put a lot of emphasis on care in the beginning to see how genuine the other person is. On the other hand, if a Thai goes to work in another country, the definition of trust might not be the same."

"I have a final question: Who is accountable for transforming us to be ready for Thailand 4.0?"

"All of us. In life, we're accountable for our own development and for responding to change. In other words, don't wait for someone else to give you a fish, learn how to fish now."

Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the brand TheCoach. He can be reached at