The Power of 15%

Last week I had the wonderful privilege of visiting one of our esteemed clients – 3M. I was at their Global Innovation Center just outside Minneapolis. I got a tour of the incredible facility and learned that every one of us is no more than 10 feet from a 3M product.

Less than 20% of their products actually have their logo on it (e.g., scotch tape) and most of their products sit inside or behind countless other products. I learned from the visit that 3M made a major shift in their R&D several years ago that has proven invaluable to them. The shift was away from making products that they thought the market needed and therefore push sold to them… to producing products that the market demanded. They made a shift to responding to legitimate needs instead of trying to create need.

At the heart of their innovation model was the concept I talked about at length in my last book — they call it collaboration. Their motive was to get different departments and various expertise together to collectively leverage R&D. One of the cornerstones of this model was their 15% Rule: every employee at 3M can take 15% of their time to work on or engage with any other person(s) in the company on an innovative idea. That means everyone from an office administrative assistant to a doctorate researcher can get together and work on something. The result is hundreds of small teams organically collaborating, bringing together perspectives and skills that otherwise would also see each other only in the parking lot.

This is truly an impressive model I think most any organization–profit or non profit–can duplicate. At the Innovation Center lies a “Wall of Fame” where employees who have hundreds of patents and made major discoveries are showcased, with only one caveat–they are voted into the wall of fame by their peers, not the organization.  Even the reward model is collaborative!

2 responses to “The Power of 15%

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