Lockdown Economy Thailand in a Transformation Consultancy with Poom Narudee Kristhanin
The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Anna Lucia
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In this interview hosted by Julia Skupchenko, we meet Poom Narudee Kristhanin, the CEO and Founder of Eureka Global, a transformation consultancy based in Thailand that has been active in the Asian market since 2006. Thanks to the care people of Thailand are taking of their health, so far the country did not have to go on the second lockdown. That allowed Poom and her team to restart workshops, masterclasses and other activities involving in person interaction. One important reason for the growth in demand for strategy workshops was the clients’ need to realign how employees of their business are looking at the future together. Among the challenges Poom mentioned prioritizing and balancing all the many opportunities that come along, especially when you don’t really know what they will lead to. She mentions that it is crucial “to have conviction in what you’re doing. Because, when you stick to your values and purpose, then it gives you many different opportunities that you can continue to work with.”
This is our follow up interview. The first time we spoke was in June, and now it’s December. A lot of things have happened since then. Last time, you spoke a little bit about Eureka Global, how it’s a transformation consultancy in Thailand. You were telling us about the projects you were doing pro bono with your customers and your clients, the COVID-response program and some collaborations, including with local magazines. There were a lot of things in the making at that time, I would love to hear more about what has happened since and how your business has been going since the lockdown was lifted.
Poom: After the lockdown, it was like anywhere else in the world. We had to stay at home doing everything we can to try to balance. But June was our first workshop since coming back. It started slowly and then from October, a few months later, started to increase exponentially. I’m thankful for the situation in Thailand in that we haven’t experienced the second lockdown yet. We have been wearing masks and everything. On the street people still wear masks and people feel quite safe when we’re together. We are allowed to meet in person, and we are allowed to run workshops.
After the lockdown, we felt like we had to reimagine everything together and things are now picking up. The fruit of all the work in the making was blooming like Sakura (cherry blossom). After things opened back up, people were waiting to meet each other in person. Thai people are really connected, so we really missed that.
Another side is also an impact. That means a lot of things have gone back to the heart. So there’s been a lot of reimagining the future. Not just the business but also the meaning of the business, and for the clients as well. Another thing is going back to the people, who are the real assets of the organisations. They’re coming back to realign and question our purpose, our values and our culture. These are the things that are coming back.
So, all in all, for the ideas that we had been created — like the project with the Hello magazine in Thailand — we decided that as soon as things were better, we wanted to host a big workshop with all the CEOs. I even asked at the time whether we’d be allowed to even have 30 people. But they were aiming to host 80 people. In the beginning, the take-up of applications was slow, but then all of a sudden it increased. In the end, we filled a room with 80 people and everybody was really happy. We’re glad that we started planning and imagining back when things were really impossible. Things were really impossible at the time.
That sounds incredible. It sounds like you had a lot of faith in better things to come, and that you were preparing for a lot of possibilities, without knowing what’s going to happen next. And then suddenly, it actually all came through.
I am very happy to hear that Thailand has not gone into a second lockdown. It’s especially incredible to hear that you have rooms full of up to 80 people, that you’re doing workshops people have applied to go to workshops.
I think the question that a lot of people would have is how you keep safe during these workshops? How does it work out on the safety side?
Poom: After the workshop, we clean the Lego bricks. And we remind participants of social distancing. When people are outside in the street, everyone still wears a mask. You’d look like an alien if you didn’t wear one. You can’t enter a 7/11 if you don’t wear a mask.
So that’s the foundation to everything that allows us to be safe and maybe take off the mask a little bit while we are in the same room. But we let people do what they want. Some people want to wear a mask and that’s completely fine. We don’t ask everyone to take off their masks. It depends on the client and on the workshop as well, but everybody has their masks and face shield ready. We still remind people to be mindful about cleaning their hands before and after each session and of course, use alcohol gel. We’ve also changed the way we arrange the room and used larger rooms than normal. Instead of having one big table of Lego, we have islands of bricks.
So, in the workshop setting, you had to adapt the setup so that everyone in the room can do what they are there to do, to discover the joint purpose, the strategy and the vision. But at the same time, make sure that health is the first and foremost importance.
You said one of those projects was the collaboration with Hello magazine. Maybe you can tell us a bit more about the history of how that happened. Where did it start and what happened?
Poom: Hello magazine contacted us and said they wanted to do a masterclass. They are a type of media disruptor. Hello magazine in Thailand is among few magazines that are still surviving in Thailand. Most of the other magazines have closed down. So, they are trying to give continued value to their clients and expand their brand and wanted to do a masterclass. But they are anything but normal, so they wanted to do it in a special way.
So, we started to think of ideas together. We crafted the class, changed a lot and considered different group sizes. But in the end, it was an amazing partnership. It gives Hello magazine the seriousness and the gravity of being perceived as not just to do with lavish lifestyles, but also as having a deeper meaning. The CEOs were all dressed up, but they were serious about reimagining themselves.
2020 is the best year to reimagine everything because the reset button had been pressed anyway. So, are you going to take this as an opportunity to grow, or not? A lot of entrepreneurs in Thailand have taken that as an opportunity to reimagine themselves. That’s how they came together for the workshop. There are some other fun parts like interviewing in the magazine and video interviews too, so it was a really fun experience. We have already started planning the second edition.
So, it was a series of masterclasses for CEOs in Thailand. Were they all female CEOs, or male CEOs as well?
Poom: We have male and female CEOs in Thailand, including a lot of women leaders. But it was open for all genders.
So, in the course of a few months of classes, you were teaching them how to reinvent what they’re doing with their businesses.
Poom: It was more like thinking of themselves as a brand because they all have history, they all have a legacy. It was about how you put it together in a way that is more strategic for themselves and therefore impacts their business in a positive way. They reimagined themselves, looked at what was holding them back and what they really aspire to become. So, define yourself as a brand. That is our workshop. I also have other workshop series that comes together as a big package and it became a totally unique experience for all the CEOs.
I also want to mention that this was just one example of how we facilitate transformation for organisations. I observed quite a few businesses where the first clients to leave were the first ones to come back in. I discovered that besides coming back to what really matters to them, they would invest in something they could not risk, like the way they align people looking at the future — they would invest in that. They tend to want to get more bang for their buck in terms of time and any kind of resource.
So, if I understand correctly, that means that the leaders of the companies saw the need to realign the people they have in the company towards a new future, to the new goal because in 2020 everything that was in the previous strategy had become completely irrelevant?
Poom: Absolutely. We had a lot of requests to help businesses with their strategy. We worked with a lot of top leaders in different organisations. Some of them are Thai global brands. Some of them are family businesses looking into reimagining the second-generation legacy, where the family is getting bigger and they need to reimagine the next legacy.
We looked at three-year strategic plans. Most of the previous plans had to end in 2020. For example, we helped the stock exchange of Thailand reimagine a three-year strategic plan using Lego Serious Play.
That’s a wonderful combination of tools and really interesting challenges. To imagine a three-year plan at this point in time is an incredible task. What is the main mood among the people that you work with? Such as your clients, or the participants of the workshops and the people that you interacted with since June until now. How is the atmosphere? Because that’s what varies from country to country, and I’m really interested to know how it is in Thailand among the people you interact with.
Poom: “It has been really tough and we are thankful for getting through it together.” Then there’s a lot of anticipation and hope of looking forward. There are many predictions and forecasted trends, but nobody really can predict anything. Like you said regarding the strategic plan, no one knows anything for sure. So that’s why we use play, Lego Serious Play to help them understand through play emergence, imagining different scenarios that might happen, to help them imagine what could be next.
A lot of companies were really convinced that they should change the way they’re looking to plan. The experience that we have been accumulating, all the client referrals have boiled down to this moment. Serious people want to reimagine seriously about the future and play becomes one of the ways that will have them unlock their ideas and break their habitual thinking. So that’s what I mean by ‘blooming’.
There has definitely been a journey from the moment of ‘it’s been tough, but we went through it together,’ to ‘now let’s put our brains together and invent a new way’. That’s a really beautiful thing about how businesses, especially medium and small companies, have the freedom to reinvent themselves. Let’s see what the new normal that we all invent together will be.
Inevitably among all that blooming and wonderful things, there still remains challenges that are brought about by the pandemic, by the lockdown and by the uncertainty.
What are the challenges for you and your team?
Poom: I would say because now things are opening up, there are a lot of opportunities. So the challenge is how to prioritise which opportunities to follow. Because you’re growing, you are growing through partnerships so there’s a lot of opportunity going on and a lot of areas where you can have an impact.
So you have to decide which one to prioritise your energy in. That leads to deciding what kind of system do you think would work and what kind of help you’d need. For example, what kind of system would help me with managing the resources and time to continue to deliver quality or focus on the quality. Because as a small business we take care of everything.
Just like you Julia, you take care of a lot behind the scenes, whilst you are at the forefront of helping people imagine as well. So, balancing prioritising and opportunities. Because now there’s a lot of things going on and people want to create impact, but how do we continue to weave our business and impact together as one, rather than doing it separately? Because both of them are what really matters, at least for us at Eureka Global.
It’s challenging to figure out how we design or influence or co-create or connect people in the ecosystem to create a business but also create something meaningful and impactful.
That’s a beautiful thought, co-creating the business and the impact that it makes. I think it’s important to think that way, and it’s important for all of us to keep that in our minds when we do anything. And like you say, prioritising and choosing what to go for is very difficult because there is so much opportunity. And the outcomes of each one isn’t immediately obvious or visible.
You spoke a little bit about needing a new system and deciding how to prioritise. But what are the tangible things you need help with? We have a lot of viewers and maybe somebody watching this interview might like to collaborate with you but be unsure what to bring. So, what do you need help with right now?
Poom: Maybe if you’re interested in creating an impact and make the business a reality for people to grow, then I would be happy to work with you or bounce ideas. Or maybe if you feel that you have some ideas to bounce off each other, especially in a community or Lego Serious Play. Sometimes, we do a lot of workshops and you need to see things in a different way as well. I would be open for that as well. It’s about when you are experienced, how can you unlearn yourself. So, by seeing the same thing from a different perspective that would keep enriching how you do things.
Absolutely. Though that sounds of and more as an offer of help rather than getting people what you need. While at the same time, of course, it’s about exchanging. It can come from them and can also come from you. I think that’s the beauty of your approach, that it really intertwines giving and taking.
Thank you very much for joining me today, sharing your insights, beginning sharing your journey with us and continued support in the Lockdown Economy. Is there anything that you would like to wish to our viewers or listeners?
Poom: Yes, I have one thing that I want to say. Really have conviction in what you’re doing. Because, when you stick to your values and purpose, then it gives you many different opportunities that you can continue to work with.
Next year (turning back to your previous question) we’re going to help and facilitate women in prison to grow. The partnership for next year is going to be more serious and more formal, so anyone that wants to use facilitation for impact or wants to contribute in any way with the design or taking our design to help the inmates in your country. I would be really open to this discussion.
Wonderful. Thank you very much, Poom. And thank you to everyone who’s joined us today.
About the Guest
Poom Narudee Kristhanin, the CEO and Founder of Eureka Global, a transformation consultancy that connects and unleash leaders to co-create impact for themselves, businesses and ecosystems by using ‘play’ to bring out high levels of human intelligence to solve complex problems. Starting from Eureka Consulting in 2006, then Eureka International from 2013, the company now grows and transforms itself into Eureka Global in 2020 with the mission of helping individuals and businesses reimagining their future with clarity in meaning and purpose. With a strong presence in Asia based out of Bangkok, the multidisciplinary Eureka Global team is steadily referred among top leaders as a trusted partner in bringing collective human intelligence to solve complex problems through serious play. It is known regionally for uncompromising facilitation skills using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Method to drive strategy and innovation in organizations with deep collaborative engagement.