Innovation Strategy Proposal – The 3M Company

The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, now only referred to as 3M, is an American multinational conglomerate with interests in diverse fields like healthcare, industry, and consumer goods. The 3M Company was originally found in 1902 as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. Five businessmen from Two Harbors, Minnesota, came together to mine corundum. However, the venture fell apart when they discovered that the mine they had an eye on actually had anorthosite, a mineral that held no commercial value at the time. Rather than fold, the founders decided to try their luck in other mining-related activities. The firm now makes everything from bandages, contact cleaners, to adhesives and sandpaper. From the huge number of products it sells, it is estimated to be worth $120 billion in intraday Market Capitalization (3M, 2018). According to Yahoo Finance, the firm had a revenue amount of $32.83 billion and a net profit of $15.74 billion in the last financial year. It has many competitors in the different spaces within which it operates, with some of the main ones being General Electric (GE), Tyco International (TYC), Danaher (DHR), and Carlisle Companies (CSL). 

The 3M Company has the reputation of being one of the most innovative companies in the world. In a recent poll, 3M was rated one of the most innovative companies in the world, trailing only the tech juggernauts Apple and Google (Herrera, 2015). Much of the company’s success can be attributed to the existence of a fine-tuned process that allows the firm to continually find innovative ways to solve problems for their consumers. 3M is known for its three-step process of innovation. Over the years, the firm evolved into a system of innovation that divided the responsibility among Scouts, who were responsible for identifying opportunities, Entrepreneurs, whose job was to capitalize on the opportunities the Scouts identified, and Implementers who were tasked realizing the opportunities.

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In the century that it has been in existence, 3M has made a number of missteps with the potential for disrupting its dominance in the market. One such misstep was the introduction of Six Sigma by former CEO James McNerney. Six Sigma was especially effective for the manufacturing process because it was equipped with tools designed to eliminate wastage and production defects while increasing efficiency. However, it was less than ideal for innovation, resulting in the company’s inventiveness to experience a slump. Thus, the firm needed a process to identify opportunities before Six Sigma could be used to iteratively improve upon them. The solution appeared in the form of the three-step process previously mentioned. 

Even though the Scout-Entrepreneur-Implementer model is efficient, it brings with it a number of challenges. For starters, it is rigid. The insistence on following a three-step process, while effective at ensuring a systemic path from discovery to execution is available, places a significant roadblock on the innovation process, much like Six Sigma did. Therefore, 3M needs help in simplifying the innovation process to ensure that it is not rigid, and fits into their business plans, even as it continues to support the culture of innovation in the firm. My efforts at encouraging innovation in the firm will focus on defining an innovation strategy that fits into the company’s objectives. More importantly, it will provide an adequate framework to support the innovation without any of the rigidity that currently hinders the creative process.

References

3M. (2018). 3M reports second-quarter 2018 results. Retrieved August 22, 2018, from http://investors.3m.com/news/press-release-details/2018/3M-Reports-Second-Quarter-2018-Results/default.aspx

Herrera, M. E. B. (2015). Creating competitive advantage by institutionalizing corporate social innovation. Journal of Business Research, 68(7), 1468-1474.

Yahoo Finance. (2018). MMM key statistics | 3m company stock. Retrieved August 22, 2018, from https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/MMM/key-statistics

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