Apple versus Samsung: Three Lessons for Strategic Initiative Leaders

Last week, after weeks of arguments in a highly-visible court case, a US jury found that Samsung violated Apple’s patents and awarded it $1.05 billion.

Here are three lessons for strategic initiative leaders:

Lesson 1: Tell the Better Story

Patent law is complex and specialized, not unlike the issues found in most strategic initiatives. These issues need to be distilled into a plausible narrative arc. This arc allows the audience to clearly identify the hero, the villain, and the tension between the two.

In this case, the jury found that Apple told a more plausible story: Samsung intentionally copied Apple’s patents. Expert witnesses for Apple stated that Samsung “ripped off” Apple.  Perhaps the most effective part of building the Apple case was a series of illustrations (see nearby graphic for a mash-up) that showed Samsung’s designs before and after the introduction of the iPhone. The jury was shown these slides repeatedly, reinforcing a central theme of Apple’s narrative.

Samsung’s lawyers had a more difficult story to tell, which was “Apple is not this creative genius that they claim to be. They are losing market share [to Samsung] and  want to compete in the courtroom,” (source, Brian Love as quoted in the Wall Street Journal, August 37, 2012). To make this story work, Samsung’s lawyers had to convince the jury that Apple’s had exaggerated the innovativeness of its patents. Second, Samsung’s lawyers had to convince the jury that Apple had infringed on Samsung’s patents (intellectual property law is a specialized and technical field). The result?  The jury was not convinced.

Apple showed Samsung designs before and after the introduction of the iPhone

Lesson 2: Make Better Strategic Bets

Trial testimony shows that Samsung had the opportunity to purchase licenses for smartphones and tablets from Apple.  Had Samsung chosen that strategy, they would have avoided the huge cost of this jury verdict and the weakened competitive position they are now in.

Lesson 3: Value Originality

We don’t know why Samsung chose the relatively lazy approach of copying Apple, rather than investing in its own design and engineering. Apple showed that other smartphone competitors could come up with original designs, as did Nokia and HTC.

One important element of leadership is the search for authenticity and originality, and the inspiring others to find a unique path.

What other strategic initiative leadership lessons are present?


About Greg Githens

Author, How to Think Strategically (2019) Executive and leadership coach. Experience in driving change in Fortune 500 and mid-size companies through strategic initiatives and business transformation. Seminar leader and facilitator - high-impact results in crafting and delivering strategy, strategic initiatives, program management, innovation, project management, risk, and capturing customer requirements.
This entry was posted in How to Improve Your Story Telling Chops, Success Principles for Strategic Initiatives and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Apple versus Samsung: Three Lessons for Strategic Initiative Leaders

  1. Pingback: Guerra de patentes (I): Samsung pierde, gana (el rey troll) Apple « Hemerotek

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