Samsung is Fueling its Future with Open Innovation

Posted by jartese on Oct 23, 2013 5:19:07 PM

It's been nearly a year since Samsung found the space in Palo Alto that would become the West Coast arm of its Open Innovation Program. At the launch party in early July, the mood was expectant as company executives mingled with some of the first collaborators and entrepreneurs selected to participate in the program.

This is one of the biggest think tanks fueled by crowdsourcing in recent years, but one check of the collective social temperature indicates it is not the first of its kind, nor the last.

Dismantling the "Walled Garden" Mentality

Three years ago, in an informal interview with This Week in Tech, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a telling observation.

According to Zuckerberg, social sharing is becoming a "default state of mind." People not only want to share information; they are happy to do it publicly and are doing so by the millions every single day (500 million users and counting, to be exact). The challenge for businesses is two-fold:

1.       How to adapt to this mode and stay relevant

2.       How to reign in social sharing and develop it into a competitive and advantageous construct

Samsung Embracing the Open Innovation Mentality with Their Own Unique Approach

  • Participation in Global consortiums: Samsung is actively participating in industry wide consortiums.  These consortiums allow them to analyze different viewpoints from around the industry allowing them to be up to date as to the newest trends and technologies.
  • Industry and Academia: Samsung creates alliances within the industry and top universities around the world.  These relationships are strengthened by promoting independent research in universities and sponsoring training for students and employees at the universities.
  • Synergy with equipment and Materials Vendors: This allows Samsung to be more involved in the manufacturing and quality processes of venders, ensuring Samsung is responsible for the quality of their products.
  • Overseas Research Centers: These centers provide research in emerging technologies and materials.  Samsung directly benefits from the R&D of these research projects and puts technology into play.
  • Accelerator Division: This division will focus on ways startups can use Samsung products while also helping start-ups get their products of the ground.
  • Venture Capital: Samsung invests in early stage startups to acquire revolutionary technology.
  • Mergers and Acquisitions team: Samsung is open to not just buying technology but working with companies in a more collaborative environment.

Keeping Sharks out of the Think Tank: Creating a Crowd-Friendly Business Culture

If anything, the launch of Samsung's Open Innovation Program proves that businesses and corporations alike are ready to accept a more socially open model. They are willing to breakdown the old and isolating walls surrounding innovation, and open up the fold to allow for the cultivation of fresh, new ideas.

Willingness is just the first step to successful collaborations through crowdsourcing. To control the juggernaut once it's set in motion, best practices have to be in place early and referenced often.

That's right; even innovation requires best practices; especially when it's fueled by collaboration. Here are the top three best practices for effective crowdsourcing management:

Don't make false promises. A lot of "big-name" companies continue to make this fatal mistake.  Work deliberately and actively to incorporate the ideas of participants and give them a chance to co-develop the project.

Everyone gets a well-defined role. Here's what that looks like:

  • Be the inspiration; the spark that ignites an idea.
  • Take the idea and create or design something that expresses it.
  • Judge and critique what is created.
  • Market the final product

Participants can play more than one role, but the roles need to be explicitly defined before a project ever begins. Too many ideas or solutions may dilute the effectiveness of crowdsourcing; ask the right questions first.

Activate, reactivate, and repeat. Participants in a crowdsourcing effort can get myopic as a result. True innovation is achieved when complacency is eradicated and the status quo is challenged. Reactivate participants many times over through activities and challenges that promote creativity.

These practices illustrate the core goal of crowdsourcing: collaborating with innovative thinkers takes a company from where it is to where it wants to be. It's certainly a goal that Samsung personnel like, Alexander Dirskill-Smith can get behind.

In a recent interview with, the Senior Director of Strategic Memory Planning, had this to say about Samsung's commitment to open innovation, " In the 21st century, no single company can do all its research alone and we see it as critically important that we partner with leading universities and research laboratories across the world to build and strengthen a vibrant research community.

Time will tell what the future holds for Samsung but in contrast to Apple’s past top-down structure Samsung looks poised for continued rapid growth.  Recently Samsung has engaged the crowd with a Challenge Driven prize competition. In a move to find uses for its new flexible screen technology, the company held a competition to come up with the best ways to use flexible screen technology.  This month Samsung announced the first curved screen smartphone designed to fit better in your palm and pocket, a sign that Samsung is serious about emerging technologies and crowdsourcing ways to use them.  Just as this blog was being finished Samsung announced an initiative  on Marblar to take exisitng patents and re-pupose them into new technolgies.

Authored by Joe Artese, Business Analyst

Topics: Innovation Insights

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