Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The 3M ‘Innovation Time’

After reading this week’s assigned chapter on the four different types of strategy most commonly employed by firms, I wanted to explore niche schemes and tactics used by companies to supplement and boost their main strategy. In this blog post, I have tried to study multibillion dollar powerhouse 3M whose initial experimental schemes have become the norm in a variety of industries and are now regarded as 3M's key strategic move in history.
  • 15 percent Program
In an innovative scheme introduced in 1948, 3M allows its employees 15 percent of their paid time to chase rainbows and hatch their own ideas through independent projects. Over the last seven decades, this ‘time’ has produced many of the company’s best-selling products including the famous Scotch® Brand Tapes, Post-it® Notes, ScotchgardFabric Protector, automobile window treatment films, multilayer optical films and silicon adhesive systems for transdermal drug delivery. This 15 percent program is used by many other technological giants like HP and Google today.

The company beats all the other organizations in the intellectual property space and has a massive 22,800 patents to its credit. It is known as the third most innovative company globally and many of these patents are a direct result of the 15 percent individual initiative time given to employees. 3M lives by the ethos: innovate or die and this strategy has been 3M’s biggest move in securing their position as an open-minded organization which fosters organic growth.

  • 3M Technical Forum

Founded in 1951, the Technical Forum unites more than 9,000 members of the 3M technical community, including theoretical mathematicians, human factors engineers, biological psychologists and scientists from around the world. This culture of cooperation, communication and cross-pollination of ideas among marketers, scientists and other employees generates enthusiasm to share technologies and best practices across 40 business units and 30 research labs around the world.

On the whole, 3M follows the product/service diversification strategy and creates uncommon connections with access to multiple 3M technologies. No company can match the breadth and depth of 3M’s more than 40 technology platforms in as many combinations, for as many purposes across the world. With more than 55,000 products, 3M continues to demonstrate an uncanny ability to combine highly innovative technologies in new and unexpected ways.

I find these sub-strategies and specifics the actual winning points of a brilliant strategy. As we see with Coca Cola and Pepsi, all organizations evolve and modify their overall strategies along the way however, there are some core values and programs that these companies have stuck to since the beginning of time, strategies which makes them exemplary strategists and trend setters for other followers. And thus, I have tried to cover two of such tactics which have help an innovative company like 3M organically grow and foster internal innovation of new ideas and concepts. I look forward to discussing other such programs which have been game-changers for companies in the past. 


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