05.11.23 / Workforce

Bill Lee: What Survival Exercises in the Woods Taught Me about DE&I


  • Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. Three significant words often strung together with the power to shape a stronger company culture and workplace environment for all.
  • Samsung is continuing to make progress on our journey towards driving meaningful change. And we’re spotlighting the DE&I champions within our organization that are instrumental in enabling us to make an impact.
  • “Since many have a difficult time speaking about themselves, embrace the notion of ‘paying it forward’ by always creating positive and salient spin around deserving individuals.” – Bill Lee

Timed to Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we sat down with Vice President of Consumer Electronics Retail Operations, Bill Lee, who has been with Samsung for nearly a decade. Here’s what he had to say about DE&I

Bill Lee, brisket smoker, adventure motorcyclist, VP Consumer Electronics Retail Operations

1. What does diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) mean to you, both personally and professionally?

The mere reference of these three words woven into the personal and professional lives of many is a great achievement for our society. The individuals that are negatively affected by settings where DE&I terminology isn’t commonly used or where strategies and tactics aren’t implemented and practiced will unfortunately continue to be marginalized. In fact, my driving factor in pushing DE&I initiatives forward and into the spotlight is to encourage the amplification of all voices. Everyone is entitled to speak their mind and to not feel out of place in doing so regardless of setting.

2. How have you seen diversity efforts progress in the workplace during your career?

I’ve been in the professional workplace for 30 years and I can genuinely say that DE&I efforts have only come to the forefront in the past 10 years or so. Though this progress may seem slow, I’m encouraged by the accelerated rate of various efforts that have unfolded in the workplace within these past 10 years. This arms race is healthy as it’s now become a contributing factor for both current and prospective employees; what is the stance that said company has taken to support DE&I initiatives? I’m extremely optimistic about what the next 10 years will bring to the workplace, but also to our society as a whole.

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3. Do you believe that diverse and inclusive teams are the engines of innovation?

When I host offsite meetings with my team, I’ll often use the same team building exercise that I started using over 20 years ago. It’s a simple mock survival exercise where you’re dropped off in the woods and you can only bring certain items with you to increase your chances. Your survivability is determined based on what you’re able to do with the items you’ve selected. You first run through the exercise as a single individual, and you’re given a survivability score. We then run the exercise as a team. The team needs to discuss and debate which essential items they will choose to bring into the woods. The teams’ survivability score is then determined based on their selections. In nearly 98% of cases, over the span of over two decades, the survivability score of the team is always higher than that of individuals. This simple exercise reinforces the need and statistical realities that more minds at work together, even through heated discussions and debate, will have a better outcome versus that of the individual person. Having a diversified team only strengthens this output.

4. What’s one simple way your fellow colleagues can turn allyship into action?

Speak up and be heard. Take the time to bring attention to the good deeds of those around you. Speak on behalf of even those that you only know casually in the workplace because each credit and accolade matters. Since many have a difficult time speaking about themselves, embrace the notion of “paying it forward” by always creating positive and salient spin around deserving individuals that may not have a loud voice or the ability to draw a spotlight to themselves.


5. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Make the development and refinement of your EQ (emotional intelligence) an integral part of your professional and personal journey. It’s critical that we’re all extremely self-aware of our actions and the impact of our actions on others around us. This is a development journey that can and will take a lifetime, but I feel that the sooner you begin, the better off both you and everyone around you will be.

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