Observations From Southeast Asia

I’ve been immersed in different cultures for the past couple weeks in Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Yangon, Myanmar.  Some observations germane to leaders:

  • These cultures are distinctly different, and based on values and beliefs that inform both large group and individual behaviors.  If you want to change the culture in your organization, you have to work on the values and beliefs and ingrain them.  There are proven approaches and tools to do it successfully.
  • As little as seven years ago, Myanmar (Burma) had one of the lowest Internet penetrations of any country.  They skipped cable and went right to cell phones and now have one of the highest percent of the population using the Internet of any country. Want to connect with your employees in real time? Rethink your communication strategy.
  • Side note:  Despite the above, and the lifting of U.S. sanctions in October, Myanmar has enormous challenges with multiple sites of armed conflict – they have 136 ethnic groups speaking over 300 languages.
  • In every culture, the safest way to travel is to go with the flow.  Drive like the locals, etc.  Good advice for anyone wanting to fit in with a corporate culture.
  • There are very few signs in English, especially in Bangkok and Yangon.  The exception:  Large signs at a construction site and treacherous mountain road that read, “Safety First,” in areas where the population cannot read English.  Communication anyone?

Finally, a study of elephants in the 2014 book, Elephant Company, notes that which elephant is the natural leader of the herd has nothing to do with dominance, and everything to do with cooperation.  Elephants are exceptionally intelligent animals.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge


Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com


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