There are not many people who enjoy being told that they are set in their ways. It is not a good look and it is never a compliment: implying a fixed way of approaching life that no longer fits the circumstances.
Yet as we age, many people find comfort in doing things in familiar ways. It makes them feel secure and they may also feel that they know best because age has engendered wisdom and experience.
This kind of attitude isn’t just confined to individuals. It is the kind of approach that companies often end up adopting after they have been successful for a while. But complacency is a killer in the corporate world.
It is something that family-owned companies have to be especially on their guard against. Family members are, by their nature, long haulers at family-owned businesses.
Over time, they can become entrenched in certain ways of thinking, or interacting with each other. They may, for example, find it challenging to expand decision-making outside of the core family group, as the company gets larger.
But companies that stop innovating will get leapfrogged, most likely sooner rather than later. There is always a competitor coming up from behind with new ideas and the hunger to succeed.
This is something that we reiterate time-and-again as part of our training. We want to break the mindset that since THP is an established and successful company, we can simply continue doing things the way we always have done. Hence our core value: today is better than yesterday but not as good as tomorrow.
THP employees have a great role model in the importance of embracing change and not becoming complacent. My father and our R&D head, Uncle Tu, are always re-evaluating everything to find new and better ways of doing things. Neither their individual age, nor their longevity at THP acts as a barrier to this.
At the same time, my father never loses sight of the company’s long-term goal – to be a thriving Asian enterprise for 100 years. So we constantly remind ourselves about why we exist (what our essential purpose is). It is a very useful corporate exercise for any company to make sure that it stays on track.
Innovation and adaptability then becomes our roadmap to get there. As one of our factory directors, Ông Hoàng Anh Tuấn, puts it: “Dr Thanh always provides us with the big picture to follow and to believe in. But he also teaches us how to change our ways so that we can achieve our goals.”
In some ways, this way of thinking is a bit like deciding to spring-clean a house, or a wardrobe. It is good to reassess what we currently own and discard what we no longer need, painful though this process can sometimes be if something has sentimental value.
Our brains are constantly undertaking a similar exercise. We associate memory with the past. But the neurological reason for laying a memory down is all about safeguarding our future.
Our brains do not retain a memory of every single thing that we experience. They prioritise what will be most useful to us and clear out the rest.
This is why we are far more likely to remember something dangerous that happened to us such as getting bitten by a dog. Companies can do the same.