As I prepare for CES2013, I have themes with which to search for companies I'll visit and to organize what I'll learn there. One of these filters I use when thinking about a company's relative importance is its size. Another is the value proposition (to me and to the world).
A third way to think of companies is their culture. This one goes in many dimensions (East/West, Open/Proprietary, Off the books R&D vs. InHouse, etc), and is the topic of this post because I read a piece posted yesterday on TechCrunch about the importance of Samsung Electronics.
It's no surprise that business culture is very closely tied to the culture in which the company's employees work and live. For most people who have not lived and worked there, Korean business culture is very difficult to decode. This summary, on a website for Danes working in Korea, really seems to capture the essence:
The Confucian mind-set is a fundamental part of Korean culture. In accordance with Confucian principles, people of higher rank or age are treated with an explicit respect, both socially and in business matters. Employees of Korean companies have a strong sense of loyalty towards their employer and in any situation of conflict they are expected to seek confirmation or take the side of the employer regardless of the logic behind the arguments.
Confucian emphasis on education can be felt throughout Korean society. Koreans are in general very well educated and attach much importance to academic excellence and degrees obtained. The admission examinations for Korean universities are important events as the result of the examinations determine the future of thousands of young Koreans. Networks established during the high-school and college years often play a big role in the following career and throughout life.
It seems that spirituality is a theme in this post!
In the New Testament, the four horsemen of the apocalypse ride white, red, black, and pale horses. They represent Conquest, War, Famine, and Death, respectively. In 2011, as some predicted the Apocalypse in 2012, the metaphor was used in the business and financial press to analyze the impacts of businesses on the future of technology.
The TechCrunch post suggests that Samsung Electronics is reaching the same level of importance in terms of influencing emerging technology trends and developments as are Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook (some analysts I read on this topic do not include Facebook on the list and, in its place, have found IBM to be a top technology influencer in 2013). Hence, Samsung would be the fifth horseman. If the goal is to emphasize how important a company is on mobile platforms, then Samsung is more important than Amazon and this list could be kept to four. And, in terms of size, they hit the mark. The New York Times reports that Samsung will reach $8.3B in profits in the quarter that ended December 31, 2012.
The problem that Western analysts face in deciding where to position Samsung is that they have low insights into how the company has achieved its success to date, and what Samsung is planning. Given the difference in corporate culture, it is difficult, as difficult as predicting how spirituality impacts other domains, for those surveyed for these rankings to calibrate how Samsung will shape mobile platforms in the next 12 to 18 months.
While at CES, I will be spending a lot of time in the Samsung Electronics booth, as well as those of many other Asian companies, and will continue my quest to better understand how they, despite their business cultures being very different from American and European, are going to impact mobile business opportunities, particularly in Augmented Reality fields, in the next year.