Seven Samsung tips for CoPS
March 15th, 2011 by David Bradley >> No Comments
For a company to be as successful as it possibly can be, one aspect of its ethos must be to acknowledge, nurture, and utilize the vast pool of knowledge held by its individual employees and its teams. One company that is apparently exemplary in this regard is South Korean electronics giant, Samsung Electronics, famed for the vast diversity of products and devices they make. According to Gyewan Moon in the Department of Strategic Management and Organisation Theory at Kyungpook National University, in Daegu, explains that key to this success in part is down to the company’s adoption of Communities of Practices (CoPs).
Much of world economics has shifted from the traditional industrial to knowledge; with companies relying on their innovation and design skills rather than raw manufacturing prowess to gain market share and profits. In many areas, particularly telecommunications and computing product life cycles get shorter and shorter with each cycle of Moore’s law while product quality and performance standards are on the increase. Complexity of processes and products means that knowledge is the crucial, tradable commodity that it never was before the advent of the digital age. Moon explains that Samsung Electronic s has used CoPs since 1998.
Knowledge can variously be described as an object, a process or a capability. Moon has investigated how CoPs act as social learning processes that occur among people who have common interests. The term CoPs was coined in 1991 by researchers Lave and Wenger. Today, Moon explains that, “CoPs are deeply related to managing knowledge and knowledge repositories in an organization because they help members to interact with tacit and explicit knowledge. They provide the opportunity to share experiences, expertise, and insights with others who have similar interests and goals.”
Moon explains that Samsung Electronics has moved with the times in terms of exploiting the latest business theories. In the 1980s, it engaged in process changes for operational effectiveness, in the 1990s, it focused on improving branding and endeavored to align its image with design excellence. By the end of the 1990s and into the 2000s, knowledge management practices were at the forefront of business and management and Samsung was able to build on its improved operations and brand to make the most of its innovative capabilities and so build and sustain a competitive advantage in the global market for electronic devices and gadgets, including mobile phones and tablet PCs.
The 1997 financial crisis in Korea left Samsung and its employees reeling following massive layoffs. Concerns about job insecurity in a commercial culture of “job-for-life” required a change in ethos to allow employees to increase their self-reliance. The company, rather than forcing employees to accept knowledge management practices and coordinating from the top down, established conditions within the company that would induce employees to participate more in knowledge sharing with cooperation and personal motivation at the center of this effort. To this end the company created a corporate university system with internal and external teaching. It created rest areas where employees could relax, listen to music or watch movies and socialize, something that Korean companies keen on efficiency and functionality had been loath to do. The company encouraged book reading among staff and management. Finally, the company encouraged goodwill among its staff and encouraged employees to praise each other’s efforts when appropriate.
In parallel with this overarching change in attitude to employment, it was also recognized that there are seven factors that lead to the development of effective CoPs, all of which emerge from this shift in company ethos:
1 Desire for learning and team motivation
2 Knowledge creation and sharing knowhow through team activities
3 Perceived relevance between team activities and regular work requirements as regards content and outcomes
4 Interest and support from the human resource development department
5 Formation of trust between team members
6 Quality of leadership from the team coordinators
7 Promotion of team activities
“Social learning processes within an organization such as CoP activities are a good vehicle for linking individual learning to organizational learning to increase competitiveness… The knowledge residing in individual employees cannot be extracted by an order from the top, but by the provision of relevant conditions,” Moon reports. “This case study of Samsung Electronics provides a better understanding of how CoPs might be implemented elsewhere,” he adds.
Gyewan Moon (2011). Effective implementation of Communities of Practices (CoPs) in a knowledge habitat: a case study of Samsung Electronics Int. J. Services and Operations Management, 8 (3), 335-346
- Samsung Poaching Symbian Engineers? (blogs.wsj.com)
- Samsung opens Electronics Engineering Academy in Africa (afrinnovator.com)
- Samsung Named As Possible Google TV Partner (webpronews.com)
- Samsung’s Bangle Angle (core77.com)
- Why Samsung Electronics Should Say No to Drugs (dailyfinance.com)
- Samsung Electronics America names new CEO (news.cnet.com)