Case Study of Innovation at 3M

Topics: Innovation, Management, Creativity Pages: 8 (2605 words) Published: September 22, 2013
Creativity & innovation is important for enterprises, especially high-tech corporations. In the trend of extensive globalization, it is almost impossible for any enterprise to survive in the business world without seeking help from creative innovations. The paper focuses on significance of creativity & innovation in the operation of a famous company----3M. 3M is a manufacturing company that has a long history, it has a series of well-known products and brands. The first part of the paper will identify and discuss three issues in the case study of 3M, which intrigues me the most. In the next part of the paper, the creative innovation method used in 3M will be hypothetically applied to an electronic company in Hong Kong; the difficulty that might be confronted will be discussed. In the last part of the paper, the method of 3M will be applied to my own situation if I am manager of the company. Both strength and Challenges will be examined.

I. Creative innovation in 3M----a case study
The case of 3M corporation is a very impressive enlightenment on the method of creativity and innovation in a company. The whole creative innovation system in 3M is a guarantee in the company’s great success. In my point of view, the success of 3M by adopting creative innovation method is no co-incidence. From the emergence of creative ideas, to the development of them, and then comes to the application of these creativities into productions, from the fostering of innovations to the implementation of them, 3M offers a wide range of encouragement and incentives to its employees. In the following passage, I would like to discuss three issues that interest me the most in the creative innovation methods of 3M.

First, like many other companies nowadays, 3M has been consistently supporting creative thoughts. It employs the people who has higher potential of creativity and is used to innovative thinking patterns. In the workplace, 3M allows the employees to have more free time and space on their own. 3M encouraged “bootlegging” employees working on innovative projects in their own time. Besides, the company also tolerate its employees to make mistakes, because as one of its most prominent CEO William McKnight puts it: “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.”

What impresses the most 3M’s open attitude towards mistakes, this enlightened attitude owes to the company’s corporate culture that respect is the foundation of the company spirit. (Flynn & Chatman, 2001) The employees are given the most freedom possible in developing their innovative thoughts and put them into practice. This distinguishes greatly from those bureaucratic companies where they punish harshly on employees’ mistakes and would not tolerate on the employees’ casual behaviors. Often, employees in a highly bureaucratic company will face tons of specific rules and regulations. Employees under this kind of stressful working environment will gradually limit their thoughts, let alone innovation, their slowly get used to following their job in prescribed order and are afraid of trying something new.

3M’s understands how important it is to respect every individual employee in the company. As respect and encouragement are the pre-requisites of promoting creative innovations among employees.

The second enlightenment in the experience of innovation management in 3M is the non-bureaucratic style of management in the corporation. According to the introduction in the material, the company permits the promotion of personnels straight to the management level if they make a great contribution to the technical innovations to the company. This means employees who are in charge of technical research and development are possible to be directly promoted to managers of the company, they do not need to transfer from technical positions to management positions to get a managerial promotion....

References: Bharadwaj, S., & Menon, A. (2000). Making innovation happen in organizations: individual creativity mechanisms, organizational creativity mechanisms or both?. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 17(6), 424-434.
Flynn, F. J., & Chatman, J. A. (2001). Strong cultures and innovation: Oxymoron or opportunity. International handbook of organizational culture and climate, 263-287.
Figueroa, E., & Conceicao, P. (2000). Rethinking the innovation process in large organizations: a case study of 3M. Journal of Engineering and technology Management, 17(1), 93-109.
Hindo, B. (2007). At 3M, a struggle between efficiency and creativity. Business Week, 11, 8-14.
Tushman, M., & Nadler, D. (1986). Organizing for innovation. California management review, 28(3), 74-92.
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