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Innovation Best Practices - 3M Case Study

Introduction
We have been working with a number of global organizations on innovation
practices for New Product Introduction (NPI) and have found in companies like: SAP,
Microsoft, Bell Canada, Siemens etc, - that operationalizing innovation from its early
creative stages is a staccato like tango. Balancing creative tension to ensure
innovation downstream execution traction requires tremendous leadership
navigation and skill.
It is so difficult for multi-nationals to avoid putting pressure too early on the creative
design phases in their short-term hunger for ROI results that more often than not
new innovation ideas at the conceptual or ideation stages are squashed or so
heavily restricted that the creative and expansive energy is so diluted that results
are impossible to achieve.
What we do know is the front end creative process at the ideation phase is a thorn
in many organization's side as they strive to improve front end effectiveness to
ensure ideation to execution is achieved. This requires more leaders to develop
skills and competencies in leading innovation effectively to achieve sustainable
growth in their organizations.
Less than 25% of organizations in North America are confident on their
organization's ability to innovate or have a cleared defined new product or service
innovation capability that is robust and adds business value.
Services or NPI Innovation Questions we hear consistently in our client experiences
include:
1.) How does my organization innovate more effectively?
2.) How does my organization filter and track what we fund?
3.) How do we avoid filtering ideas out too early or lose track of them?
4.) How much discipline do we need to drive innovation forward?
5.) How we evaluate more effectively early stage service innovation concepts?
6.) How do we get our leaders more comfortable in dealing with ambiguity,
uncertainty, the messiness of creativity?
7.) What decision making practices are role model?
8.) What business processes and systems should we use for tracking service or NPI
innovation?
There are many companies that are executing robust innovation programs,
practices, and processes. We will target to feature a case study of a new company
every week that helps to answer these eight questions to share our knowledge and
help move along our capacity to innovate more effectively.
Case Study - 3M
3M is a $16B technology company with reach into health care, electronics,
industrial, safety, consumer and office products. Most famously remembered for its'
innovation solutiono - post it notes. 3M has more than 40 business units world-wide

and offices in more than 60 countries. In 2002, the company celebrated a century of
innovation since its founding.
Innovation a Foundational Core Value of 3M
For companies to innovate more effectively, cultural capabilities are critical with
leadership effectiveness to engender confidence in employee minds and hearts.
Employees need to know they can take risks to be creative, experiment, think
outside the box, and be rewarded for demonstrating innovation thinking. They need
to believe they are encouraged to be life-long learners, and enabled to continually
learn and improve work products or services.
As the retired chairman of 3Com said: "Innovation is the key to our growth as it
delights our customers and it's the basis for long lasting customer loyalty."
3M Innovation Best Practices
The five best practices that 3M prides itself in are:
1.)
2.)
3.)
4.)
5.)

Six Sigma
3M Acceleration
eProductivity
Sourcing Effectiveness
Indirect Cost Control

What is important to understand about 3M is their KM and Innovation program office


which supports the companies 5 business units puts a tremendous amount of focus
on culture and guiding principles.
The pillars of 3M's innovation platform are:
1.)
2.)
3.)
4.)
5.)

Shared
Shared
Shared
Shared
Shared

World-class Technology
Customers, Channels and Brands
Manufacturing
Global Infrastructure, and
Cultural Innovation Values, Practices, Processes and Toolkits

A best practice for cultural innovation is to use stories for rapid cultural diffusion to
celebrate heroes of innovation who passionately and consistently pursue new ideas
or find new context to discover new meaning and rapidly share their knowledge
creating social energy networks to co-create collaboratively.
They have a freedom rule for inspiring creative imperatives as any person in a lab
can spend 15% of his or her time experimenting on any new idea that could add
value to 3M. This creative jazz time is not tracked; it is a freedom role to reflect,
think, and learn to encourage ideation in its earliest stages of creativity unencumbered by reporting practices.
3M's success has been predicated on its ability to foster collaboration in both formal
and information approaches, and their cultural norms are very mature in supporting

knowledge sharing - a core requirement to foster and seed innovation capacity


development.
Technology Enablers
The company has a number of technology enablers to support innovation. They use:
- streaming videos to collect learnings and make them available for global access,
- Comprehensive lotus notes databases for collaboration and knowledge access, and
- an Idea hopper which captures and helps filter ideas to move from concept to
funding phases of implementation, etc.
The library and information services group has as its core mission to help 3M
employees worldwide create, share and use knowledge more effectively throughout
the organization, so there are strong Electronic Library solutions, virtual help desks
to source know-how, etc.
Strengthening People Innovation
3M uses a number of talent management techniques to support innovation such as:
-staff rotational assignments to develop new skills to strengthen innovation talent
capabilities,
- Reward and recognition programs for people to share ideas and receive peer
recognition,
- connecting its scientists with its customers,
- Training talent on problem solving approaches such as 6Sigma, and also
- promoting story telling as a leadership competency to help on cultural diffusion to
celebrate innovation successes, and celebrate talent moments of creativity.
The company also leverages communities of practice and learning techniques to
support the continual flow of internal knowledge.
What opportunities must 3M pursue for new innovation robustness?
Based on our analysis of 3M's financial reports, innovation patents, and research,
3M is like many global companies not as externally integrated with its customers to
leverage next generation collaboration and organization of the future practices
which are highly web 2.0 and social mediated driven.
There are major opportunities to bring in solutions for social network analysis,
collaboration experiences leveraging new collaboration platforms, like Mzinga,
providing product managers with collaboration labs with customers using blogs, and
wikis, etc....
With the speed of knowledge diffusion and know-how outdated often in less than 12
months -- applying more real-time and on demand ways of developing and
sustaining innovation will be critical to 3M's future growth.
What 3M does have to constitute world-class leadership attributes:

- charts the course - or sets the vision


- raises the bar - creates tension to achieve performance excellence
- energizes others - creates passion to motivate others to create and follow
- resourcefully innovates - values creativity but also balances accountability to
execute
- lives the 3M values (which go back 100 years and hold true today - satisfy
customers with superior quality, value and services, provide investors an attractive
return through sustained quality and growth, respect the social and physical
environment, and be a company that employees are product to be part of
- and delivers results.
These attributes combined with business acumen, functional expertise and
corporate knowledge supports 3M's overall leadership model.
Conclusion
Innovation is a core competency at 3M and is at the heart of the company's culture.
They appreciate the fragility of innovation in its weakest creative design moments,
but also reinforces shareholder value which needs to be top of mind to ensure
accountability in the culture.
At the same time, 3M allows freedom for ideation 100% unencumbered from stifling
and controlling business processes which is a rarity in business today.