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3M’s Seven Pillars of Innovation

BusinessWeek reveals the secrets of 3M’s success. 3M is 104 years old, but the company churns out cutting-edge products like a brash new startup. 3M stays so inventive by paying attention to the “Seven Habits of Highly Innovative Corporations.”

3M has been extraordinarily inventive, often using its expertise in one product line to create an entirely new one. Indeed, the company came up its first blockbuster this way: masking tape in 1925. And the methodology still works today, as 3M has shown by its extension of the Post-it line from note pads to slap-and-stick photographs.

Indeed, 3M is third in this year’s BusinessWeek ranking of the world’s most innovative companies, based on a global survey of top executives. It finished second in 2005.

Larry Wendling, vice-president of 3M’s corporate research labs, says that in 3M “we do think innovation is more than an accident”. Furthermore, he illustrates how an old company stays so inventive by paying attention to the following seven things. BusinessWeek call it “The Seven Habits of Highly Innovative Corporations.”

1. From the chief executive on down, the company must be committed to innovation.
2. The corporate culture must be actively maintained.
3. Innovation is impossible without a broad base of technology.
4. Talk, talk, talk. Management at 3M has long encouraged networking — formal and informal — among its researchers
5. Set individual expectations and reward employees for outstanding work.
6. Quantify efforts. 3M is able to judge whether its R&D money is being spent wisely.
7. Research must be tied to the customer.


BusinessWeek – 3M’s Seven Pillars of Innovation