3m Innovation Case Analysis

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cInnovation Organisations: The 3M Way

Damian Gordon

Recommended Reading

3M
  

formerly known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company Founded on the North Shore of Lake Superior at Two Harbors, Minnesota in 1902 With over 76,000 employees they produce over 55,000 products, including: adhesives, abrasives, laminates, passive fire protection, dental products, electrical materials, electronic circuits and optical films

Richard Drew
 

June 22, 1899 – December 14, 1980 American inventor who worked for 3M in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he invented; –




Masking tape, Cellophane tape, and Duct tape.

Masking Tape




In 1923 3M employee Richard Drew visited an autorepair shop in St. Paul, Minnesota. 3M produced and sold sandpaper and Drew was in the shop to test out a new batch.

Masking Tape


When he entered the shop employees were expressing disappointment at a failed attempt to paint a car in the two-tone style that was becoming popular at the time.

Masking Tape


 

Typically how the effect was achieved was by painting part of the car in one colour while covering the other parts with butcher paper The butcher paper was usually held in place with a heavy adhesive tape. Unfortunately, removing the adhesive tape peeled away part of the paint job.

THE IMPORTANT BIT:



Rather than just sympathise with his customers and move on, Drew decided to do something about it.

Masking Tape




His company 3M had a lot of know-how in creating adhesives from making sand paper, so Drew figured he would try to make a paper tape to help solve his customer’s problems. Drew began experimenting with a range of materials and manufacturing processes to solve this problem.

William McKnight
 



11 November 1887 – 4 March 1978 Businessman who served his entire career in the 3M corporation. McKnight encouraged 3M management to delegate responsibility

Masking Tape


  

Eventually the then-president of 3M, William McKnight, noticed that Drew was spending time on money on this unofficial project. McKnight asked Drew to return to his actual job, improving sandpaper But Drew persisted, diverting funds and time to work on abrasives McKnight eventually realised this, but did nothing

Masking Tape
 




In 1925 Drew managed to create Masking Tape. This product has sold in the millions for 3M in the past 70 years. And this was just the start of creating an innovation culture in 3M William McKnight learned his lesson from Richard Drew

William McKnight


McKnight's greatest contribution was as a business philosopher, since he created a corporate culture that encourages employee initiative and innovation. As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative. This requires considerable tolerance. Those men and women, to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way. Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs. Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it's essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.



3M
 




McKnight’s philosophy had a profound effect on the way 3M does business. 15% of all employee’s time is allowed to be on their pet projects (the “3M Way”). Yet there is a clear a tension between innovation and efficiency. Why? because innovation usually challenges existing procedures and norms.

James McNerney


 



For example, in 2001 James McNerney became the CEO of 3M he sacked 8,000 workers (about 11% of the workforce), intensified the...
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