Interview with Think Tank Team’s head of innovation Bo Moon
Samsung Research America’s Think Tank Team is a small multidisciplinary team of researchers, designers, and engineers located in Mountain View. They are passionate about inventing products and technologies and are committed to creating an impact in the real world by transforming disruptive concepts that connect objects, environments, information and people.
We interviewed Bo Moon, Think Tank Team's leader of innovation strategy, to find out more about the team.
1. Can you first introduce yourself to our readers and tell us about your training background and how you became a part of the Think Tank Team?
Hello! I’ve been in many technology-based positions over the years, but started as an engineer in university, and from there progressed through many roles: programmer, technology consultant, user experience designer, product manager, entrepreneur, general manager, strategist, now, heading innovation strategies.
Over my 19-year career, I’ve moved from building, designing and managing products to founding and leading a technology start up, and finally to providing technology and innovation strategy/oversight to a large corporation.
I became part of Think Tank Team in a bit of an untraditional way—through the collision of advanced technology research and development and the need for go-to-market business strategy. This made the role I currently have at Think Tank Team possible—the need to manage innovation strategy in a forward-thinking lab.
2. Bo, if I'm not mistaken, everything started with Galaxy Gear. Can you tell us Think Tank Team’s story from the very beginning?
Galaxy Gear is one of the more visible innovations Think Tank Team originated, but there are many others that are not yet public, or else are integrated core components to different products. Think Tank Team was the brainchild of Pranav Mistry, an inventor and innovator whose background includes MIT Lab and Microsoft, and his vision was to create a team of scientists, researchers, designers and engineers who could imagine disruptive and future-centric products and technologies from the ground up, all the way to working prototype.
Think Tank Team’s success lies in having an elite group of multi-disciplinary contributors who can dream, conceptualize, and then prototype products that will have impact and change the meaning of “tomorrow.”
3. Intuition, imagination, and the creation of the future, a process dictated by continuous exploration. In product and process innovation, what is the importance of time in your opinion?
Innovation without proper resourcing and time is just insightful speculation.
One can speculate all day, and perhaps by chance or sheer genius have come up with the next big thing, but without research, development, collaboration, iteration, prototyping, and commercialization planning, it will amount to nothing but scribbles on a napkin. But if the concept is given time and resources, there is a small chance it will be a game changer. If it’s given the proper attention a group like Think Tank Team will provide, it has an even stronger chance of succeeding.
The challenge in a large corporate setting is to convince senior leadership that time is needed to incubate the best ideas. For Samsung, it’s not just accepted, it is embraced as the DNA of the company. Even though Samsung is known for break-neck speed of innovation, it’s only because it has groups like Think Tank Team imagining the near and far future years ahead of when the technology is optimally applicable.
4. ...and how can technology help us during this creative process each day?
Technology is just a means or a tool—having the right resources for our industrial designers ensures we create beautiful form factors; having unlimited access to engineering workspaces ensures we can create any circuit board we need, or create any array of sensors we can imagine.
Creativity is also a by-product of collaboration—new perspectives, differing points of view, alternative methods—and sometimes technology can hinder the process, displacing good old fashion face-to-face discussion.
5. Open innovation, Crowdsourcing, co-creation, and product design. In your opinion, what is the key to success in these activities?
People are driven by different goals, and so the environment must be geared towards mutual success in order for these more collaborative processes to work. Think Tank Team is one such environment, where the success of projects is shared across all team members, and contribution is valued along every step of the concept-to-prototype path. And the end goal is not always commercialization—sometimes the outcome is just that our team-members had a chance to work on something challenging and engaging.
On the other end of the spectrum, the quickest way to kill open innovation is by creating a hostile, competitive environment where the best idea wins, and the rest are seen as failures. Innovation is a process and a journey, and lessons learned along the way can turn out to be as valuable as the end product.