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Dear Puan Aarifa,
I’d like to share my experience with the hope of encouraging other leaders who are leading their organizations in the cusp of change. 
In the span of 60 years, our business has undergone several transformations—from selling charcoal then hardware through to becoming the largest DIY retail chain in Singapore and Malaysia. All these only to find ourselves reinventing our business model again to compete with online platforms like Amazon and Taobao.
We had been mindful of how our customers’ interaction with us have changed, and in the process we had found our physical stores turning into “showrooms." Young customers no longer see the mall as a place to buy things... This has been an ongoing change, and as a key step, we had used training as a way to go around it.
This higher-level awareness led us to shift our “brick-and-mortar” model to “experience” model—reinventing and right-sizing our physical stores into value-added service stores. Our core mission had to be adapted too - now focused on ‘service-centeredness’ where various courses are held – from teaching patrons to use specific power tools, to building their own wardrobe, to coding.
My team had to be transformed into coaches and trainers so they can teach patrons how to build their own furniture and fix up their homes and patrons can ask our handymen to do home repairs. 
We’ve seen our competitive advantage transform, building new relationships with our customers, doing things which online stores will find hard to replicate.
CK Lee, Home Supplies Sdn Bhd

Congratulations! You’ve changed your business model to thrive in the new landscape; here’s why you’ll still have 3 years to survive… 

The speed of change is just too much for your current team to handle.

The speed of change under the revolution is accelerating, and the old ways of creating new value through learning are too slow, too backward-looking and too rigid. 

ADB (2017) reports that the processing power of computer chips (from the Third Industrial Revolution) has increased by 1 trillion times over the past 50 years, and quantum computing has the potential to perform tasks that are barely conceivable today, eradicating the need for human agency. Nonetheless, education systems to support this speed in most ASEAN member states continue to rely on traditional curriculums, and many schools lack proper equipment (Tey, 2017, ADB). Only Singapore has been progressively adapting its education system and promoting 4IR re-skilling with its SkillsFuture program.

Additionally, Bersin (2017) reports that the average learner is overwhelmed to catch up, with only 1% of a typical work week allotted to focus on training and development (Bersin, 2017). Diagram below: 


  1. Are you aware of your team’s learning speed quotient—their ability to unlearn, relearn, and create new value?
  2. Is speed in learning a key metric in your recruitment, retention, and development plan?
  3. With this insight, what are your next steps for your learning and development programs?


Your competitors are too big that they are even getting cities to change for them. 

In May 2, 2018 Wall Street Journal report, Amazon has selected 20 finalists from 238 applicants from metro areas and regions like Detroit and Baltimore to small towns in Texas for its $5 billion second corporate headquarters, which it has said could create up to 50,000 high paying jobs.

Demand in its request for proposals included a metro area with a population of more than one million, public transportation, a big airport with plenty of connections to Seattle and a large pool of tech talent.

When Amazon made about 200 phone calls to cities the retail giant rejected for its second headquarters, some of the cities expressed disappointment to a point of making changes.

Cincinnati and Sacramento, California are restructuring workforce developments to focus on tech talent. Orlando, Florida, is considering starting a community fund to invest in local tech companies and draw more entrepreneurs. In Detroit, elected officials and business leaders are pushing a ballot initiative for a new regional transportation network that would connect outer counties to the city.  


  1. Which playing field are you most vulnerable to gargantuan disruptors?
  2. What talent strategy will increase your likelihood of success despite unforeseen disruption?
  3. How can you leverage on the major shifts being forced into the field you play?


Your data points can’t really help you become surely predictive. 

Does your data lead you to emerging customer behavior patterns and help you tailor your interactions with them? Are you empowered to process and make sense of massive data points?

Like CK Lee in the above letter, you may have already donned the thinking cap on how to effectively transform and have successfully executed the level of value for your company. 

In ASEAN specifically, Industry 4.0 changes the global landscape of manufacturing competition, reducing the relative competitive advantage of low-cost regions that rely on cheap labour. 

So three (3) skillful questions to ask are: 

  1. How long will this newly ‘transformed’ form last? 
  2. How fast can you transform to the next level?
  3. How can the ‘next level’ be ascertained?

In the context of Malaysia, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry released a Draft National Industry 4.0 Policy Framework and highlighted Industry 4.0 Transformation Drivers below:

Industry 4.0 is fundamentally reshaping the jobs landscape and will foster significant changes in how industrial worker perform their jobs. Entirely new jobs with very different skill requirements will be created, while others, especially manual tasks, will become obsolete. The shifting employment landscape has significant implications for industry, education systems, and the Malaysian government.

A qualified and skilled workforce is indispensable for the introduction and adoption of Industry 4.0. The technical knowledge required is high, and will be primarily recruited from the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects. However, for some years the number of STEM graduates has fallen below expectations. 

There is an urgent need to create a skilled and diverse workforce, with high salary, both by up-skilling the existing labour pool and by attracting and developing future talent in the manufacturing sector. Particular attention also needs to be given to re-skilling and re-deploying lesser skilled workers to other sectors and activities.

IR 4.0 is a buzzword in ASEAN, but according the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry, challenges are very clear for the Malaysian Industry to catch up because there are:

  1. Lack of awareness on the impact of and need for Industry 4.0 technologies, both in terms of opportunities and business model disruption, especially among SMEs. 
  2. Lack of a centralized and easily accessible information platform to understand best practices and relevant use cases
  3. Significant shortage of required talents, skills & knowledge for Industry 4.0, particularly in the areas of IoT, robotics and AI

Wouldn’t it be great to have a fully prepared up-skilling and learning strategy? Get your solutions by joining HR Talk Show 2018 live! 


It’s tough when almost every aspect of our lives will be touched: jobs, business models, industrial structures, social interactions, systems of governance. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will even challenge the very concept of what it means to be human. 

75% of 1600 CEOs in 19 countries surveyed convey that their organizations aren’t ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution economy. (Deloitte, January 2018)

2018 is the moment of great reset, threatening the incumbent market leaders, and rapidly advancing challengers. 

Attend the HR Talk Show 2018, on September 5, 2018, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and gain the wisdom to know what must be preserved and honored from the past and muster the courage to reimagine and boldly reinvent your future, as you embark in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

[above photo: HR Talk Show Sponsors, Delegates, Banquet, Awards, TV Interviews and Red Carpet]

Established in 2007, the HR Talk Show series is a high-impact interactive platform bridging the gap between government and business initiatives to drive human capital best practices and actionable insights into talent, technology and strategic HR. In a unique talk show format, CEOs, HR Directors, CIOs/CTOs and their CFOs from ASEAN’s and the world’s most admired companies will be working with 400 participants to interactively walk through the most current human capital challenges in fast-growing economies to ensure that the most important leaders in businesses and public organizations can:

• Stay superior and thrive in the Industry 4.0 economy

• Drive agility in learning, upskilling and leadership

• Cast off accident-prone legacy strategies for talent management

• Build digital awareness and evolve with fresh HR technology and services

• Leapfrog into disruptive roles with greater clarity of thought and vision

To sponsor or bring a group of 10, email the HR Talk Show 2018 Secretariat at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Draft National Industry 4.0 (2017). Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry. February 9, 2018. 
Ng, Kelly (2018). “Boss of DIY chain Home-Fix reinvents to prevent stores from turning into showrooms.” Today, May 1, 2018. https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/boss-diy-chain-home-fix-reinvents-prevent-stores-turning-showrooms
Ole, Adrian and Cheryl Chow (2017). “The Future of Work.” Presentation Slide Deck. Deloitte Consulting Southeast Asia.
Rice, Shayndi and Laura Stevens (2018). “‘Hi, It’s Amazon Calling. Here’s What We Don’t Like in Your City.’” Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2018.
Tey, Sovannaroth (2017). “Is ASEAN ready for the fourth industrial revolution?” ADB Blog, July 6, 2017. https://blogs.adb.org/blog/asean-ready-fourth-industrial-revolution

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