Book review: Samsung vs. Sony

The book begins with an open question, in 2002 the market capitalization of Samsung surpassed that of Sony, how did this happen?

The author thoroughly explores the differences between these two companies – one a well respected icon in electronics and the other a young upstart with a coloured past. And comes to rest on the conclusion that it is the companies deep seated structures, processes and environments which have allowed Samsung to not only catch up but to overtake Sony.

In a summary that will not do justice to the book, Samsung has a strong command and control structure that has allowed them to make strong profits from building parts for other companies, mainly memory chips, at the best price. They invested aggressively in their business and by some clever strategic thinking positioned themselves to become a quality brand to escape the harsh realities of always trying to be the cheapest bidder.

Sony because of their charismatic founders Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka embraced an open culture that allowed creativity to flourish. They focused their attention on premium products and creating markets. That worked well in the beginning but managing a global enterprise has been a challenge for their successors.

It is like reading a book of modern warfare but nobody has to die. In fact, for a while neither of these companies were in direct competition with each other.

What is in it for you? Are you in an industry where you are trying to make more for less or you want to create something so cool everybody will pay you just to look at it? I find myself leaning towards the latter and this is a history lesson that will be good to learn from – if you don’t want to be overtaken like Sony has been. But the story isn’t over because Samsung is struggling with innovation and Sony have the oppotunity to learn from their mistakes

At the same time I was reading this book I was also reading…

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