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Case Studies » Featured Case Studies » Case Studies » 3M: Innovation, ideas and solutions for a modern world - Developing a culture of innovation

3M: Innovation, ideas and solutions for a modern world - Developing a culture of innovation

Developing a culture of innovation

One of the most celebrated aspects of 3M’s entrepreneurial workplace culture is the 15 percent rule that encourages employees to explore and work together to generate ideas. Product development is driven by the cross-fertilisation of ideas and new technologies shared across the entire company. “Products belong to divisions, but technologies and ideas belong to the company.” 3M has developed six principles of innovation to support this culture.

Build a Vision Effective leadership means that employees understand the importance of achieving 3M’s vision. Innovation is a cornerstone of 3M’s self-image and the company prides itself on a culture of success stories by celebrating the achievement of its people. The importance of innovation is communicated and reinforced which replicates success. Foresight It is vital to, “…anticipate the structure of the future before it arrives.” 3M can solve articulated needs, whereby the customer knows and communicates what they need; as well as unarticulated needs, whereby 3M proactively provides a solution for a problem that the customers don’t yet realise they have! Going beyond 3M sets goals to challenge their people to strive for significant improvements. One objective is to generate 30 percent of all sales from new products introduced in the past four years. However 3M’s commitment to stretching goals is demonstrated through an additional objective; to cut the time for new products to reach the market by a further 50 percent. Empowerment Back in the 1940s McKnight said, “Hire good people and leave them alone”, and this philosophy is still paramount. 3M’s management believes that employees need freedom to achieve their goals. Empowered employees are given both responsibility and accountability for key tasks. The company trusts employees, provides direction, support and resources, with minimal interference. This collaborative management style is effective when dealing with intrinsically motivated and highly-qualified professionals. Communication 3M feels that successful people need to work with others. Management communicates the vision, employees communicate opportunities to management – the dialogue extends into multiple channels throughout the organisation. 3M use technical forums, trade fairs and conferences to encourage networking and ideas sharing. Staff use part of their 15 percent self-managed time to help people from other areas. Networking occurs internally across platforms and externally through customer feedback and joint ventures. Staff can be transferred locally and globally and apply their particular expertise on projects. This adds value by sharing both expertise and the experience of 3M’s diverse global culture. Rewards and recognition 3M believes that the most effective type of reward is recognition through technical and corporate awards and promotions. 3M’s celebrated Innovator Award is given to individuals who use their 15 percent self-directed work time to develop a new product or technology. The highly prestigious Circle of Technical Excellence honours extra effort, motivation and creativity. 3M have a dual career structure that maintains parity between technical and corporate staff. Outstanding technical employees can be promoted into positions such as Corporate Scientist or they can move into management with the same opportunities for salary, benefits and otherprivileges. This encourages topperformers to stay with the company.


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Associated with:
Learning Area(s):
  • Business Environment | Developing organisational culture
  • Business Environment | Mission and Objectives
  • Business Structure and Organisation | Aligning structure to objectives
  • Business Structure and Organisation | Forms of ownership of large organisations
  • Communication | Effective communication models
  • Communication | Team-based communication
  • Entrepreneurship/Innovation | Fostering innovation within business
  • Entrepreneurship/Innovation | Innovative business
  • Entrepreneurship/Innovation | Product/service innovation
  • Human Resource Management | Employee Motivation
  • Human Resource Management | Performance management
  • Management Skills | Communication
  • Management Skills | Role of leadership
  • Management Styles | Effective styles in management situations
  • Marketing | Product development
  • Operations Management | Quality management approaches
From: Edition 6

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