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3M Innovation strategy: The post-it notes idea capture

3M innovation strategy

About 3M

The 3M Company, founded in 1902, makes adhesive tape, and related items, as well as consumer electronics components. The company’s headquarters is in St. Paul, Minnesota. 3 M’s innovation strategy is also prevalent for its other innovative idea of using colored granules in roofing.

The Idea and Implementation:

In 1974, Spencer Silver, a 3M adhesives engineer, delivered a presentation on a pressure-sensitive adhesive compound he had created in 1968. In the beginning, even Silver could not decide on a useful application for the adhesive since it was so weak. Two pieces of paper were barely held together by the adhesive. Silver could stick the glue to surfaces and reapply it without leaving any trace.

Arthur Fry, an engineer from 3M’s paper products division, was among Silver’s audience. Months later, Fry called to mind Silver’s glue in an unlikely context.  Fry was a member of his church’s choir and used to mark the songs he needed to sing in his hymnal with small paper pieces. The small bookmark paper bits would frequently fall out, leaving Fry to thumb through the book in search of the correct page. Fry remembered the weak glue he heard about at Silver’s presentation. He recognized that the glue might be used to make a reusable bookmark by sticking it on paper.

“I thought, what we have here isn’t just a bookmark. It’s a whole new way to communicate.”- Art Fry.

The 3M innovation strategy:

The company began creating the product with Silver, understanding its potential to hold messages and communicate around the company. Fry provided the updated notes to the whole organization, and they were well received. As a result, the sticky note became a bookmark known as Press-n-Peel. It was first sold in 1977 in four locations and failed miserably. Then, 3M gave away free samples to office workers in Boise, Idaho. Some of them began utilizing them as self-attaching notes. It became popular when post-it notes became widespread. They were originally launched in 1980 in the United States, then in 1981 in Canada and Europe

Results of 3M innovation strategy:

At present, Post-it Notes produce around $1 billion in revenue each year proving the 3M innovation strategy to give out free samples a great approach.

This story is a perfect justification of how “no idea is too small, and all sorts of ideas have the potential to change the world as we know it for the better.”

Capturing employee ideas is a profitable move, as it helps organizations cut costs, increase revenue, open up new market segments, and like in the above case, come up with new innovative products. You too can benefit from your employees’ ideas with the help of idea management software like InspireIP. Have questions? Send us an email at enquiries@inspireip.com and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

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