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Be inclusive, be a pair of chopsticks

Dear readers,

I was recently invited to be a radio show guest at the “Network of Executive Women (NEW)” on the topic of “Acclimating to the US as a foreign-born professional,” representing the AAAB and Tyson Foods. I was joined by Diana Figueroa of Visa and Bhagya Subbareddy of SAP – I came from China in 2009, Diana came from Mexico and Bhagya was from India – the three of us make a good representation of the major labor exporting countries to the United States. 
Towards the end, the host, Sarah Alter, CEO of NEW, asked what leaders should be doing to become more inclusive in a large corporate environment, and I responded, “To become more like a pair of chopsticks.” Here is why:

In my opinion, being inclusive to others’ perspectives and ideas begins by being inclusive to ourselves – our own thoughts, potential and interests. On one hand, we may consciously want to be more inclusive, recognizing the business benefits by considering different viewpoints and being open-minded towards new opportunities. On the other hand, subconsciously, our mind is greatly shaped by the system we operate in. Here is where the analogy of a pair of chopsticks comes in, as brilliantly illustrated in the image below by 32-year-old Siyu Cao, a Paris-based Beijing-Born graphic designer. 

Compared to the various utensils used in western dining, a pair of chopsticks used in my native cuisine, which is Chinese food, is designed to be used for much broader purposes, compared to each single piece of the utensils’ specialized purpose. I think the utensil phenomenon is more pronounced in mature corporations, with clearly defined divisions and teams than a startup environment, where people tend to wear multiple hats. 
Of courses, the “utensil system” has its pros: A structured team can be highly efficient in the modern complex world by developing specialty tools like the folks and knives of different sizes. The value, however, of using this chopsticks analogy is to nudge ourselves to recognize that, subconsciously, we could be greatly influenced by simple habits, such as the dining habits in different cultures, which can have a ripple effect on how we think and behave generally.

If you think this is a reasonable analogy for becoming more versatile and inclusive, here is how you can become more like a pair of chopsticks in a large corporate environment:
  1. Believe you have a lot more to offer than what your job title says;
  2. Become a real person in every conversation and interaction with colleagues, and thus to rebrand yourself not as a tool but as an individual that can grow in multiple directions;
  3. Trust that you can be a specialized powerful tool when the focus is needed, thus don’t think you need to abandon your old identity altogether;
  4. Look into opportunities for becoming more well-rounded, such as, starting a side business, exploring a creative field or a foreign culture, or rotating to a different functioning team in your organization;
  5. Seek to see the improved business results. Does it make you a more pleasant person to work with, and thus get more customers or collaboration opportunities? Does it paint you as a versatile team member with technical as well as people skills, and thus more promotable? Does it make you more impactful in innovation and creativity? If any of these is true – congratulations!
When it comes to becoming a more inclusive organization as a whole, it is easier to achieve it when we hold ourselves accountable. My challenge to you this coming month, December of 2021, is to start being more like a pair of chopsticks or at least try to eat a meal with them!
Happy becoming a pair of chopsticks,

Yang Luo-Branch
Founder and President, AAAB


Chicot Hibachi Express
Membership Type: Small Enterprise

"Chicot Hibachi Express" is a local Asian restaurant brand with multiple locations, one in Fayetteville, two in Little Rock, and one in North Little Rock, Arkansas. With a goal of connecting Asian food to America, Chicot strives to provide affordable hibachi while keeping the same high quality that customers love.

The business is owned by Hendry Sanusi, an Asian business owner from Indonesia. With a passion for providing food and beverage to the Arkansan community, Hendry believes that "food is an excellent bridge to learn about Asian culture", and he demonstrates this belief with his successful restaurant business. Outside of his work, Hendry contributes to the community through church activities and volunteering. 

Check out Chicot Hibachi's menu and info at their website!
Would you like an opportunity to be spotlighted as a member? Contact us or
Join the AAAB Membership


Upcoming event: Q4 "Arkansas-Asia Briefing"
8 am CT on Dec 9, 2021, the AAAB will host its fourth quarter's "Arkansas-Asia Briefing" event. The event will feature three topics, beginning by Yang Luo-Branch, the president of the AAAB, giving a review of the Arkansas-Asian business community in 2021, followed by Mary Zunick, Honorary Consul of Japan for Arkansas and the Cultural Affairs Manager at Visit Hot Springs, providing an update on Arkansas’ cultural and economic exchange with Japan, and Ruhul "Andy" Kumar, the owner of multiple businesses in Arkansas, sharing his experience in leading the Indian business community in Arkansas and beyond. Register here


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The AAAB mission
  1. To support the professional growth of those Arkansans of Asian descent and to promote Asian-owned businesses in Arkansas;
  2. To provide assistance to Arkansas companies looking to explore Asian markets;
  3. To provide resources for companies and professionals from Asian countries looking to explore business opportunities with Arkansas;
  4. Overall, to be an advocate for entrepreneurship that is related to Arkansas and Asia.
AAAB Board of Directors
Katie Thompson | Mimi San Pedro
| Young Chun |  Yang Luo-Branch | William "Goose" Changose |  Mark Young 
Copyright © 2021 Arkansas Association of Asian Businesses (AAAB), All rights reserved.

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