How Samsung Helps Employees to Pursue their Creative Ideas

Today we show another side of life at Samsung, by sharing a story from Samsung Newsroom about an internal incubator program that’s empowering employees to share their creative ideas and to dream big.

Imagine being able to create your own business with the help of your employer. Even better, imagine being given the resources and time off from your daily job to help your venture become a success. It might seem like an unlikely idea, but it’s one that’s taking place at Samsung Electronics.

Samsung’s C-Lab (short for Creative Lab) was set up in 2012 to help employees to think outside the box and nurture their ideas by giving them the tools, time and support to become full businesses. The program encourages progressive thinking by giving workers the go-ahead to develop ideas. The only pre-requisite is that the idea is innovative and can gain the approval of other colleagues. The end result is a new product or service that could be developed further by Samsung, or stand on its own two feet as a business in its own right.



Workers taking part in this program can dedicate themselves to their projects 100%. They can take between six months to a year away from their usual day jobs to work on their ideas. They’re given free rein to experiment, which means unbridled creativity. It’s a positive move that helps Samsung’s people to unlock their potential by doing something they’ve never done before.


A Break from Tradition
Operating as a startup is easy when you only have a few members of staff on your books. Samsung is now finding that it is possible to introduce some of the elements that typify a startup within its own business. One of the aspects introduced with the C-Lab is holacracy, or a flatter way of organizing and managing teams.

“C-Lab’s structure isn’t governed by hierarchical systems. Instead, each team has a leader and project members. The absence of a set-in-stone structure enables everyone to get their hands dirty, and contribute and work collaboratively,” says Stan Kim, a director of C-Lab.

A notable tenet of the C-Lab approach is that failure isn’t a bad thing. It’s part of the exploration process that helps to hit the eureka moment. If workers aren’t afraid of failure, they can experiment and possibly create new things that they wouldn’t otherwise have the breathing space to do. What’s more, C-Lab teams get to work flexibly, meaning they can work when and where they want. It’s a reimagining of how teams work and collaborate.




Ideas Search
Discussing ideas is a breeze. Any Samsung employee can suggest and evaluate ideas through the company-wide MOSAIC platform or via email. Ideas can be submitted either individually or as a team. After the submissions of ideas, they are screened based on how specific, innovative and marketable they are, including a vote. By the end of this process, around 15-20 ideas are selected each year to become C-Lab projects.



The Next Step
Once they’ve received the green light, C-Lab members start developing their ideas into businesses full-time. As team leaders, they can select colleagues to work with through an internal job posting program. Employees can even recruit members from outside Samsung if they can’t find the right people inside the organization.

When C-Lab projects are completed, those that are closely related to Samsung’s businesses  – such as TVs or home appliances – are transferred to that division for further development and possible market launch. Other projects are launched as independent startups.  Samsung invests seed capital to help employees launch their business and offers counsel by way of technology and management expertise during the early stages to ensure stable growth. Despite all this, the startups maintain their independence.



The Measure of Success
The main objective of the C-Lab is to drive and encourage employees. Employees are empowered to kick-start creative ideas and get hands-on with technology development that may lead to a new business opportunity. Given that objective, the results have been encouraging. The number of projects submitted to internal idea contests has increased over the past three years. Meanwhile, the sharing of ideas has become a more natural part of the internal culture.

Ideas that have blossomed are a testament to the success of C-Lab. Some 46% of projects have been transferred to Samsung business divisions, and 18% have been spun off to become businesses in their own right. But it’s the people behind the businesses who are the real stars. Through the program, they are able to dream big and be bolder in their thinking. They unlock their full potential and are given the right amount of support and autonomy to be successful.



The Future
The company plans to increase the opportunities for employees to participate in C-Lab projects. New locations are already in the works, including a physical space to increase synergies between projects and personnel, the Seoul R&D Center for software and spinoffs, a tech shop and exhibit space in Suwon, plus an additional R&D base at Seoul National University.

C-Lab has been an incredible incentive for Samsung employees. Innovative thinking is being recognized with an opportunity to take the idea to market. Samsung believes that the more people get involved, the more they are able to engage their own workforce to go the extra mile. That’s why it will continue to encourage staff to become personally invested in innovation.





Source: Samsung Newsroom