Culture a hurdle in Apple-Samsung negotiations
Skip to content
May 17, 2012

Culture a hurdle in Apple-Samsung negotiations

By Tim De Chant

Apple samsung docking connectors

The sheer size of patent war between Apple and Samsung won’t be the only hurdle to overcome when negotiations between the two parties begin on May 21. The firms have very different cultures—not just at the corporate scale, but culture at a more fundamental level. Apple has been hailed as a quintessentially American company—it was started in a garage and has risen to be the largest company in the world by market capitalization. Samsung, on the other hand, is a archetypal Asian firm—it started small, quickly diversified, and now makes and sells everything from smartphones to ocean-going container ships.

Jeanne Brett, a professor of management and organizations and an expert on cross cultural negotiations, thinks the two firms’ cultural differences will strongly influence the negotiations, particularly with respect to the odd relationship they have, which is both competitive and cooperative. While Apple and Samsung are duking it out in the smartphone market, Samsung also supplies Apple with important components such as memory for its iPhones and other devices.

“The East Asians ability to tolerate contradictions, a way of thinking that does not tend to be shared by Westerners should help the Koreans to accept that they are at the same time supply partners with Apple and competitors with regard the patents,” Brett said.

There’s another barrier that could stand in the way, too. “A major cultural difference between Western and East Asians is the analytical approach that they take toward problem solving,” Brett said, citing a publication by Richard Nisbett and others.

Western cultures tend to take a more Aristotelian approach to problem solving, she said, which is more linear, logical, and rational. East Asian cultures, on the other hand, tend to be more Confucian in the way they tackle problems, which is more holistic and dialectical.

“Applied to this situation,” Brett noted, “we may see the American company focused rather narrowly on the issues in dispute and the Korean company focused more broadly on the relationship between the two companies and how this dispute fits into that bigger picture.”

Photo by Dave Schumaker.

This is the second in a series on Apple and Samsung's patent negotiations. Read parts one, three, and four.

Editor’s Picks

A mentor puts capes on proteges.
Careers

Podcast: How to Be a Great Mentor

Plus, some valuable career advice that applies to just about everyone.

Kids decide whether to buy water or soda.
Marketing

A New Way to Persuade Kids to Drink More Water and Less Soda

Getting children to make healthy choices is tricky—and the wrong message can backfire.

Computational Social Scientists discuss solutions.
Innovation

How Can Social Science Become More Solutions-Oriented?

A conversation between researchers at Kellogg and Microsoft explores how behavioral science can best be applied.

An entrepreneur enters an established company.
Innovation

Buying a Company for Its Talent? Beware of Hidden Legal Risks.

Acquiring another firm’s trade secrets—even unintentionally—could prove costly.

Careers

Take 5: Tips for Widening—and Improving—Your Candidate Pool

Common biases can cause companies to overlook a wealth of top talent.

Drug innovation at a pharmaceutical company
Innovation

Everyone Wants Pharmaceutical Breakthroughs. What Drives Drug Companies to Pursue Them?

A new study suggests that firms are at their most innovative after a financial windfall.

Careers

4 Key Steps to Preparing for a Business Presentation

Don’t let a lack of prep work sabotage your great ideas.

Healthcare workers meet in a hospital corridor.
Healthcare

Video: How Open Lines of Communication Can Improve Healthcare Outcomes

Training physicians to be better communicators builds trust with patients and their loved ones.

A man tries to improve OR scheduling.
Operations

Here’s a Better Way to Schedule Surgeries

A new tool could drive savings of 20 percent while still keeping surgeons happy.

Voters who do not trust each other.
Politics & Elections

Why Economic Crises Trigger Political Turnover in Some Countries but Not Others

The fallout can hinge on how much a country’s people trust each other.

A clerk scans brand trademarks.
Marketing

Building Strong Brands: The Inside Scoop on Branding in the Real World

Tim Calkins’s blog draws lessons from brand missteps and triumphs.

two coffee growers harvest beans
Economics

How the Coffee Industry Is Building a Sustainable Supply Chain in an Unstable Region

Three experts discuss the challenges and rewards of sourcing coffee from the Democratic Republic of Congo.