3M Cha-Cha-Changes

3M started up its business in 1902 in a small town in Minnesota.  That was back in the older times when things were simple, back when the name of the business didn’t leave non-employees guessing what those 3Ms stood for.  It was simply the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company.  They started out in hopes of becoming a mining business, but changed with some innovating products that includes masking tape.

That way of innovating thinking has caused this mega-brand to stay afloat for more than 100 years.  3M has businesses like Google and Hewlitt Packard participating in some of the same business practices today that 3M came up with and put into practice over 50 years ago.

Today, 3M is one of the top ten companies in the world.  They make 50,000 products and their annual sales are at $20 billion.  One of 3M’s technical directors, Kurt Beinlich, credits that success to the company’s ability to be innovative.

A big change happened in the way the business operates in 1948, a business operation change that helped to create the most creative and successful line of products for the company.  That business operation is called the 15 percent program.  It started at the time in America when defining job roles and home expectations after World War II were at an all-time high.

The 15 percent program means 3M employees get to spend 15 percent of their time at work creating and working on individual projects of their choice.  These can be worker’s own ideas, or projects that they donot have enough time for otherwise.

The idea is structured to make sure the time is productive.  Representatives from the different departments, about 200 people total, gather once a year to show off what they have all done with their 15 percent time.  3M says some of their most innovative products have come from this time, and some employees are at the most creative at that time.  A product that has been developed from this 15 percent time is Scotch blue painter’s tape that allows painters to paint in places more neatly.




I think this is a really interesting idea.  Personally, I think it would be a great way to learn about oneself and their strengths and weaknesses.  This time is different than simply taking time off or relaxing, it is getting time to create and do something.  I think this idea of also caring for their employees also sends a great message.  I think enabling employees to take ownership and initiative about their own projects.  I think these values would also translate over into their other work too.  The site says that the 15 percent program is also used as a recruiting technique.


Goetz, K. (2001, Feb 1). Co Design Retrieved from http://www.fastcodesign.com/1663137/how-3m-gave-everyone-days-off-and-created-an-innovation-dynamo on Oct 4, 2013.

Retrieved from http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/3M-Company/Information/Resources/History/ on Oct 4, 2013.


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