Why HR can learn some important lessons from Apple and Samsung – Is it time to bury the corporate hatchet?

May 14, 2015  |  Technology Disruption

Corporate battles are as noteworthy as they are memorable: soft drink companies, banks, and mobile phone carriers are examples that immediately spring to mind. With competitive rifts so deep it seems they’re never to be filled, they go to war in advertising, on the corporate battlefield, and in courtrooms around the world. Competitive products, competitive landscape; some long-time employees feel they’re not even to be spoken of in the same sentence.

But what does it mean for the world of business when one of these deep rivalries turns into a lucrative partnership?

According to a series of recent articles, Apple and Samsung seem poised to join forces in a global powerhouse move that could dominate the world of technology. A rift that started with deceased Apple founder Steve Jobs years ago is healing, with new CEO Tim Cook agreeing to wind down years-long patent suits and to allow the two companies to develop products together. According to an article in Bloomberg Business, Samsung will develop the main chip in the new iPhone and main displays for Apple products. Their greatest rival is now their biggest client, and Samsung is planning $14 billion in plant expansions to handle all the new business. When two innovative powerhouses such as these combine, the global impact can create a slew of ancillary businesses to support the products along with an even greater financial impact on their competition. Quite simply: this make both companies virtually unstoppable.

When it comes to HR, we deal with the fallouts of rifts all the time: the raiding of employees from our competitors, the intense distrust of people who show any alliances that could compromise corporate secrets. We build walls to make sure “They” never get a chance to be better than “Us.” Battles start with perceived theft or unfair competition and the ill feelings make their way down to the last person in the building. Fiercely loyal employees claim to hate the competition like soldiers at war, and the wounds can permeate the entire culture.

But then look what happens when a strategic business decision is made to align interests. Although I’m sure there are some bitter feelings with legacy employees of both Apple and Samsung, if there’s a mutual interest in success and a chance to create global dominance by finding common ground, that means there’s less money spent on battle and more invested in building a future of mutually-assured success.

Can we in HR suggest such alliances? Does it make business sense to bury the hatchet, to come out with an offer of mutually assured success rather than another swing at certain destruction? Only you and your management team can answer that question, but assess your goals and cultures and find out. If Apple and Samsung can do it, clearly there’s a great lesson in there for all of us: perhaps your next great strategy isn’t how to bury the competition; it’s how to work with them to build the future.

Rita Trehan is the Founder and Principal of Rita Trehan, LLC, a change management and leadership advisory firm focused on corporate leadership, emerging technology, and cutting-edge organizational design. As a seasoned top executive that has successfully transformed organizations at the Fortune 200 and beyond, she has extensive experience working with CEOs and top corporate management on process and organizational improvement for maximum profitability. A soon-to-be published author, Rita regularly speaks at industry conferences around the world. You can contact Rita on twitter at @rita_trehan and connect with her via LinkedIn. Rita’s blog can be found at www.ritatrehan.com.

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