Growth through ingenuity and enterprise
A 3M United Kingdom case study

Page 1: Introduction

Everything you use at home, at school, or college has its origins in simple, perhaps ingenious, ideas. However, it takes more than creative thinking to make a good idea work. Good ideas have to be turned into realistic, affordable solutions that people want. This process is known as innovation. It is a mix of ingenuity and enterprise, and has marked every stage of 3M's 100 year history. Today, 3M...
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Page 2: A century of innovation

3M has been in business for 100 years. In 1902, five young entrepreneurs founded the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. However, the mineral deposit they had planned to mine proved to be useless so they had to 'think again'. They turned to buying in the mineral necessary to manufacture sandpaper, and their ingenuity and enterprise saved the company and laid the foundations for an...
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Page 3: Managing and developing ideas

How does a company encourage people to look beyond their current goods and services to something better and/or different? The answer lies in the company's culture, ie the typical pattern of relationships and behaviours within an organisation. For people to be creative they have to have freedom; freedom to explore new ideas within an environment that tolerates mistakes, understands and manages...
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Page 4: Commercialising ideas

Commercialisation means taking an idea and then getting a product into the hands of paying customers as quickly as possible. This involves many stages, including:Prioritise ideasEach year at 3M, thousands of ingenious ideas and technologyapplications emerge. It is vital to prioritise these ideas and focus on those with the greatest potential for growth and profitability.Make a prototypeTypically...
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Page 5: Intellectual Property Rights

Many of 3M's ideas are patented (each year the company applies for more than 500 patents). Once 3M has been granted a patent in a particular country, it has the legal right to prevent other firms from profiting from its ingenuity for a specified period of time. This ensures that 3M can put resources into commercialising the idea without fear of another company copying it. Patented ideas are...
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Page 6: Accelerating innovation

As part of 3M's acceleration programme worldwide, a small focused team, the Enterprise Growth Team, is working in the UK to speed up the process of getting new products to market. The team is multi-disciplinary, involving people with sales, technical, manufacturing, product development and business experience. It is focused on finding new customer-driven applications for existing 3M...
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Page 7: Innovative applications: multi-layer films

3M produces a range of multi-layer films which draw their inspiration from nature, particularly the glittering blue wings of the Morpho butterfly which are created without the use of colour pigment. By combining films in layers similar to those of a Morpho butterfly's wings, 3M has produced multi-layer films which reflect in the same way, whatever the light angle.3M recognises that it is not the...
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Page 8: Maintaining the momentum

While short-term success can arise from a one-off product or service, it is often just the entry ticket to a new market. Companies have to be able to repeat that first success, as there are always other firms ready to copy, catch up and overtake.Innovation is at the heart of how 3M operates. The company has an entrepreneurial culture that encourages people's ingenuity managed by a structured...
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