Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

“Change Everything But Your Wife and Children!”

Samsung Electronics is clearly the hottest global technology products company out there today.  It is dominant in TV’s and has moved past Apple in smartphones,  It’s global mobile market share is 29% while Apple is at 22%.

All aspects of Samsung Electronics are run with the same “perpetual crisis” mentality, and it really shows. The hugely successful Samsung Galaxy S 3 has been quickly updated with the S 4.  When Apple introduced the iPhone 5, Samsung had very strong competitive advertising on the air within 7 days.  The ads were highly memorable.  They featured Apple fans in line for the iPhone 5, asking each other when Apple might be getting the features that a couple of “with-it” guys with Samsung S-3’s were showing them as they stood in line.

All of this momentum is being driven by one man; Chairman Lee Kun Hee.  He is absolutely obsessed with the need for constant change and innovation.  For example, about 50,000 Samsung employees receive training each year at Samsung’s Creativity Institute 45 minutes south of Seoul, Korea.

The Creativity Institute is a massive complex with a traditional Korean roof in a park-like setting and has a special area that houses the Franklin Room, which Samsung employees say is as sacred to Samsung as the Clementine Chapel is to the Vatican.  The Franklin Room is an exact replica of the drab conference room in a German hotel where in 1993 Chairman Lee gathered all of Samsung’s executives on short notice to lecture them for 3 days on the disappointments he experienced as he toured the world to get an assessment of Samsung’s struggling international business.  The most famous quote from the chairman that came out of his lengthy session was “Change everything but your wife and children,” which is well known and repeated often today within Samsung.

The two principles that Chairman Lee drives into every area of Samsung Electronics are valuable lessons for leaders today:

1.) In Every Area of Endeavor, Push Relentlessly to Be Superior – For example, once Samsung got into making screens for smartphones, it didn’t take long before they emerged with the Super- AMOLED screen  (for the non-nerds, AMOLED stands for active-matrix organic light-emitting diodes!)  that has exceptionally low power consumption and cost.

2.) Once Superior, You are in Immediate Danger and Must Significantly Improve – Mr. Lee stresses that it is guaranteed that you competitors are working to knock you off, so you better beat them to it.

Clearly Lee Kun Hee has done amazing things via the creation of a culture totally focused on change and innovation.

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