3M and The Innovation Race

June 7th, 2007

I guess the Invisible Man found a soft landing at 3M.  Check out the cover of this week’s BusinessWeek – which slams the company widely recognized as one of America’s greatest business innovators. Remember when Post-its were the new “it” product of 1980? The editor discusses the innovation crisis currently facing the company that produces over 55,000 products.  As a corporation that prides itself on “the ability to …develop unique products,” the issue highlights the recent struggles 3M and other major corporations face in keeping up with the challenge to continually produce creative products and do it efficiently.


As the editor reminds us, “Managing the yin and yang of efficiency and creativity is one of the greatest challenges facing managers around the world.”  It got me thinking: what does it take to stay ahead in the innovation race?

A recent Gallup Poll reveals that some of the most successfully innovative companies all point to one commonality – the right culture.

So how do you nurture a culture of innovation? Too complex for a single blog, but I’ll start:

First, create an “innovation inspiring” space. Here’s how:

1. Open Floor Plan – Open up the office to foster open communication, employee camaraderie and a great atmosphere for idea generation.

2. Unpretentious Conference Room – Design a room that has a “living room” feel.  Homey.  Relaxed.  Unpretentious. People who are comfortable in their zones are able to contribute stronger, more insightful ideas.

3. Stimulating Design – A well-lit, colorful and artistic room design contributes to more creative production.  So spice it up. Go on, be creative with it.

Don’t have control over the space in which you work? Here at Braithwaite we employ the acronym T.H.I.N.K. as an informal set of rules to help guide the creative brainstorming process:

T: Travel to a creative place (mentally of course)
H: Hold all criticism (no idea is a bad idea)
I: Invent out loud, but capture every idea
N: Nurture others’ ideas through free association
K: Kindle the good ideas into great ones

Although it helps, you don’t have to be in a creative space to actually be creative. T.H.I.N.K. helps keep innovation alive and well, and nurtures the right kind of company culture. So 3M: if you’re reading this, give me a ring. We might just have an innovative solution to your problem.

Posted Under: Agency Insider, Innovation & Technology
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