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Thailand's formula for success
AuthorDefaultA…    文章CopyFrom    Hits336    UpdateTime2012-5-12    


  • Published: 11/05/2012 at 01:45 AM
  • Newspaper section: News

    Countless books authored by accomplished people from all types of professions from time immemorial have written about "The Formula for Success" in one way or another. From Machiavelli's The Prince, Sun Tzu's Art of War to Benjamin Graham's Value Investing, these great men attempted to put down on paper their secret for success in their respective occupations. Einstein gave us a general Theory of Relativity but is there a general theory for success? Will someone ever come up with a formulaic expression for success that can be widely applied? And can success really be defined?

    The entrance to the Energy Ministry on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, the new HQ of the Flood Relief Operations Command. Last year’s floods in Thailand were a glaring example of how not to manage a crisis and of ‘‘passing the buck’’, and we need to rediscover our team spirit if we want our country to prosper.

    In my humble opinion and I am indeed humbled by the fact that far greater men and minds have contemplated this very issue; nevertheless I will endeavour to find this ethereal formula for success that can be applied to a country that so desperately needs it, Thailand.

    I grew up supporting Arsenal Football Club in the days when the English Premier League was still called Division 1 and have seen the club through various phases some good some not so good. Arsenal's definition of success can be defined in one word, trophies. Then it occurred to me that Thailand is also a team but instead of 11 players on the pitch we have 60 odd million in various positions specialising in different areas.

    The question is whether we can learn something from great sporting teams and derive a formula for Thailand to start competing for trophies. I believe we can. But what is the definition of success and what trophies should Thailand compete for? Due the limited space accorded to each article I will use the term "success" generically to encompass political, economic and social success and in this article focus instead on the "roadmap" rather than the "destination".

    Of all the great teams that have competed for trophies consistently such as the New Zealand All Blacks to Barcelona Football Club I have found there are a few traits that these wonderful teams have in common. Therefore, according to these winning teams the "formula for success" dare I say it is as follows! Passing the ball to perfection + Superior work rate + Presence of team leaders + Team spirit + Belief in youth = Success.

    What is the equivalent of "passing the ball" for Thailand? Well, that's simple it is the ability for all branches of government to coordinate effectively with one another with the aim of providing an efficient and fair public service to the taxpayer, whatever that service may be. Unfortunately, instead of "passing the ball" our government agencies and politicians prefer "passing the buck". Instead of accepting blame we choose to allocate blame and rather than discovering the truth we Thais often hide from it. Cases of this are rife. Last year's floods in Thailand were a glaring example of "passing the buck". Thailand's Flood Relief Operations Command's dismal performance which saw its own headquarters inundated, was a severe letdown and a case study in how not to mange a national crisis of biblical proportions. But true to form it was Bangkok Governor MR Sukkumbhand Paribatra who was the scapegoat, and handed what rugger players call a "hospital pass" by the Pheu Thai Party-led government and will probably suffer for it in the next mayoral elections. Former prime minster Abhisit Vejjajiva takes the biscuit as a serial "buck passer". After pronouncing he would resign as leader of the Democrats if he lost the last election by a certain margin, Mr Abhisit surprised us all by actually honouring his pledge to "take responsibility" for the defeat. Comically, a few weeks later he put his hat back in the ring and was again elected party leader in an uncontested election.

    A superior work rate is something Thais can't be accused of but some would argue it's part of our charm. Thais' propensity for pleasure and instant gratification is renowned the world over. Pictures of MPs and senators slouched to one side drooling in a state of deep sleep during House debates are common fodder in the social networking world. And of course the now infamous Democrat MP who was caught perusing pornographic material on his iPhone in the backbenches gave the Pheu Thai politicians the perfect opportunity to make a mountain out of a molehill, which is rather odd because when it comes to the mountainous offences committed by their cohorts dressed in red attire they seem only to see molehills. And to think MPs recently voted themselves a salary raise, Oh, they earned every penny of it, I'm sure.

    The presence of team leaders is what all great teams possess. The All Blacks have Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter while Barcelona have Lionel Messi and Carlos Puyol. These leaders lead by example and inspire the whole team to fight and sacrifice for each other for the benefit of the team. These leaders are trusted and they return that trust by giving it all on the pitch to find a way for the team to win. Anyone fit that bill in Thailand apart from His Majesty the King?

    Thaksin Shinawatra is an inspirational leader with real business acumen but has failed to convince many Thais that he is a committed public servant because the term "conflict of interest" seems to have escaped his vocabulary. While Mr Abhisit is an effective debater and has to his credit avoided being entangled by accusations of conflicts of interests; he is also widely mistrusted because it is pretty obvious to the average Joe that he possesses no interest at all other than pursuing his own self interest, namely to become prime minister of Thailand for a second time.

    Team spirit is essential in this winning formula but it is the most elusive. It cannot be defined, touched or bought. Chelsea Football Club can buy any player they want but without team spirit they are but a pale shadow of themselves. With the appointment of a new manager in Roberto Di Matteo, team spirit is back and they are winning again.

    Thailand must rediscover team spirit, get rid of what my father calls our "I'm alright, Jack" attitude, and replace it with what the French term "L'esprit de corps". Admittedly, easier said than done.

    Last but not least, a belief in youth is indispensable in a country that wants to compete consistently on the world stage. Barcelona's belief in youth development embodied in their now fabled La Masia Youth Academy is the stuff of legends. Indeed, seven out of 11 players on Barcelona's 2011 Champions League winning team graduated from La Masia, a testament to their vision and commitment to what is commonly referred to as "education". According to Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist from Chulalongkorn University, Thailand's education mindset "is from the nation building and Cold War period to produce obedient and nationalistic citizens, which does not fit 21st century needs. It is hierarchical, top down with a systematic lack of critical thinking". Direk Patmasiriwat, a researcher at the Thailand Development Research Institute, says that while 71% of students receive secondary education in a country of 67 million, just 18% will go on to finish college. Evidently, we are letting our youth down.

    Thailand has a long way to go before we start winning trophies. We'd better get on with it. Our old adversary Myanmar has just entered the race.

    Songkran Grachangnetara is an entrepreneur. He graduated from The London School of Economics and Columbia University.


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