Business Case Studies, Innovation and New Product Development Case Study, 3M's Innovations: A Rethink on the Guiding Principles?

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Innovation and New Product Development Case Study

Case Title:

3M's Innovations: A Rethink on the Guiding Principles?

Publication Year : 2006

Authors: Chiradeep Chatterjee, Sauvik Dhar

Industry: Leisure and Tourism


Case Code: IPD0074

Teaching Note: Available

Structured Assignment: Available

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Minnesota, Mining and Manufacturing Co., known as 3M, is known for its culture that had spawned ground-breaking research products. 3M had developed this culture under the guidance of one of its earliest president's, William McKnight. This innovation-oriented culture had served the company well until the 1980s, when sudden downturn in the economy and other radical changes in the business environment resulted in the company's fortunes plummmeting. Sensing a deficit of inherent leadership talent in the company, its board roped in an outsider, James McNerney (McNerney), who had been previously with GE, for the first time in 3M's history to rescue it out of its quagmire. McNerney was initially successful with his policy of job cuts and other cost-cutting measures like Six Sigma, in boosting 3M's bottomline, but his policies had an adverse impact on the employee morale. Eventually, he quit to lead Boeing Co. 3M next hired another outsider George Buckley, who was entrusted the task of ensuring active bottomline and yet preserve 3M's unique innovation-oriented culture.

Pedagogical Objectives:

  • To discuss the evolution of the unique organisational culture that gave 3M its innovation orientation and helped it to forge path-breaking inventions
  • To discuss how a change in business environment can force an organisation to bring about a change in its internal culture
  • To discuss what possible factors enable decadence to seep into the culture of an organisation
  • To discuss how restructuring strategies must be designed keeping in view the driving force of various organisations (for example, at 3M - Innovation).

Keywords : Innovation; Manufacturing; Innovation Management Case Study; Organisational culture; Business research; Research-assisted production; 15% rule; McKnight principles; Post-it notes; Six Sigma; Management strategy; Emerging business opportunities


  • 3M – The Years of Innovation
  • McNerney's Strategies for 3M – Cost Controls and 'Six Sigma'
  • George Buckley's Future Strategies

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