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Samsung “startup reform” sounds like corporate version of the mid-life crisis sports car

South Korean mobile giant Samsung wants to restructure its internal operations in a bid to create a startup culture and, while it sounds like the corporate equivalent of a mid-life crisis, it actually makes sense.
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Following Mobile World Congress 2016, during which Samsung partnered with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, the mobile giant has been eagerly promoting is new Galaxy S7 smartphones and virtual reality headset, the Gear VR.

Given its deep-rooted focus on consumers, it stands to reason Samsung has come out to say that it wants to introduce a startup culture into the workplace.

Indeed, it’s been found in a study from BrightHR that companies must think of today’s employees as consumers, given the changing attitudes towards career paths and workplace enjoyment.

Of course, a startup by definition is a newly established business, so it sounds quite an outrageous ambition for a 1938-founded corporate firm with some 300,000 plus workers dotted around the world to posses.

“We aim to reform our internal culture, execute as quickly as a start-up company and push towards open communication and continuously innovate,” the firm said in a statement.

Many startup entrepreneurs and leaders will tell you that a company culture has been fostered from the beginning – so that’s going to mean a great deal of restructuring for the business.

It’s not simply a case of creating new office environments, policies and so forth, but nurturing that culture – especially when existing staff members will be in the habit of a rigid approach to work.

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With business growth slowing, hopes of acceleration have been pegged on encouraging broader communications between department heads and staff internally. A ceremony dubbed Startup Samsung took place and saw executives sign an agreement to change management tactics, reducing working hours and meetings.

Sir Cary Cooper, the University of Manchester’s professor of psychology and health, who worked on the BrightHR report, said: “Work is such a large part of people’s lives and is becoming more so as working hours increase and our ability to remotely complete work tasks develops too.

“When we spend so much of our time at work, it’s important to ensure that it’s an environment conducive to a healthy and happy lifestyle.”

The term “it pays to play” was used in the study, which revealed happiness and fun can actually be caused with very simple changes to the workplace. Methods cited included fulfilling tasks, relaxed environment, celebrating with colleagues, games and social events.

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While the UK may have a startup culture that encourages growth, those in the US like to retain the tag of startup for the long-term.

Uber, for example, has the ludicrous tag of “the most valuable startup in the world” thanks to a valuation as high as $64.6bn.

Elsewhere, HotelTonight’s COO and co-founder Jared Simon insisted the business, which has over 200 employees and five years of operation under its belt, is still a startup.

“I think of a startup as a state of mind, it doesn’t describe the structure of the company as much as it describes the dynamism,” he said.

“To me, and maybe it’s the America-centric way of looking at it, if we graduated from startup it would start to feel like we’ve got it all figured out. The reality is we’re still experimenting, doing lots of cool things, taking risks and it doesn’t feel like what a non-startup would be doing.”

Samsung graduated from being a startup a long time ago and seemingly it still doesn’t have it figured out.

Maybe the new approach to human resources will aid growth as intended, or maybe it’s just a mid-life crisis that will be returned for something more sensible – much like the ageing gentleman and his red sports car purchase.

Either way, you’ve got to appreciate the firm’s risk for refusing to stand still any longer – perhaps there’s still of flicker of startup in there after all.

One entrepreneur took business lessons rom Star Wars in attempt to create a Jedi company.

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About Author

Zen Terrelonge

Zen Terrelonge is the deputy editor of Real Business, specialising in media, innovation, technology and the digital sector. A media professional with eight years worth of experience he has worked for both startup and established publications.

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