Agile, Interviews

Samsung Mobile VP: Can innovation be planned?


Meng Chee
Vice President, Product Management and User Experience, Samsung Mobile

Meng Chee showed his views on disruption and challenges of innovation processes in a global enterprise. He has 20 years experiences of global innovation for web, mobile and the Internet of things. His experience ranges from founding startups to international corporate innovation executive roles. He is an expert in combining business, technology and design to create new products or services. Moreover, he is experienced in leading global teams and advises disruptive startups.

At the DTIM Europe you presented a case study with the title ‘Disruption vs. Incremental Change: Challenges of Innovation Processes in a Global Enterprise’. In this context, which are your main challenges?

It is challenging to get a group of people to agree on what is truly ‘disruptive’ and worth doing or investing in. Large or global enterprises impose a high overhead in communication and bureaucracy. This is distracting at best and can be demoralizing to a project team.

In any large organization, there is a high chance similar ideas are being pursued in other parts of the company. It is often challenging and time consuming to deal with these situations. It takes constant attention to focus a team on getting meaningful results quickly instead of spending too much time trying to align input from many stakeholders or adapt multiple local preferences.

Why do you think that innovation processes cannot be planned?

Innovation to me means doing something truly disruptive or completely new and not incremental evolution of existing products or services. Doing so requires sudden leaps of insight and creativity within a group of people. Success is defined by the ability of the team to constantly adapt to changes and delivering high-quality results.

Planning is always a part of the definition and funding for any project, particularly for a large or global enterprise. This type of planning however is no measure of success and should be conducted with minimal effort. Global enterprises introduce an ‘innovation tax’ on internal teams resulting from multiple challenges of diverse markets and a large organization. Process and planning alone cannot address these challenges, as I believe innovation is more art than science.

In your opinion, what are the factors to focus on for good innovation projects?

Find a leader who can inspire and sustain a culture where each member of the team contributes their best where everyone on the team has a high degree of mutual trust, open expression, and cooperation. Utilize experience-driven processes like that described in the Stanford University Design School or at least enable the team to ‘fail fast’ as a positive outcome.

Focus on delivering a minimal set of end-user value propositions instead of a massive set of features. Optimize for speed instead and avoid rigidity resulting from too much risk management and controls.

What project are you currently working on at Samsung?

Smart Home, Media services, Lifestyle services, and Sports experiences. I am also working on Internet of Things.

Which questions or challenges would you like to discuss within the DTIM Europe community?

What would the Internet of Things look like to you in 5 years? What do you want in a Smart Home? What is different between the Silicon Valley ecosystem and the European startup ecosystems? And where are good cities to find great talent and establish innovation teams in Europe?

Thanks a lot for this interview!

Interview Partners: Meng Chee and Nicole Steuer

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