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Case study - 3M corporation

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3M Corporation

One firm renowned for its attitude to innovation and investment in R&D projects is 3M Corporation. 3M has a 15% rule: for decades, engineers and scientists at the company have spent up to 15% of work hours on their own projects, playing with ideas that have nothing to do with their job's mission. In addition, the company expects all new product teams to be led by a 'Product Champion'. The champion typically has an entrepreneurial vision of a new product, and recruits scientists to use their 15% time to help develop the vision. New product teams can make great progress on company time with no official approval, and once they have developed their idea far enough, they appeal to the company for funding to bring their venture to market.

3M bets heavily that informal, bottom-up scientific innovation will lead to profitable products, an approach reflected in its demand that 30% of each division's sales come from products less than four years old. A new product development team at 3M is cross-functional, collaborative, autonomous and self-organizing. It accepts change, takes initiative and assumes risks. If the team is making progress toward a new product, it will be left alone. This unwritten rule of 15% dream time is so ingrained at 3M that "you can feel it right down to your toes," as one 3M scientist put it.

Over 6,500 scientists and engineers in the R&D community proudly represent 100 years of breaking technical boundaries. Our work spans abrasives and optics to nanotechnology and micro-replication. It's complicated. To simplify, we collaborate across technical, functional and global boundaries. This is how we build robust skills and discover revolutionary solutions.

We encourage employees to explore ideas outside their day-to-day job, (historically called the 15% rule). That's part of the story behind the invention of Post-it(r) Notes. Select grants often fund these 15% projects.

3M careers information