What would you do if you had access to world-class laboratories and scientists, and almost one day a week to investigate a new idea?
A core belief of 3M is that creativity needs freedom. That’s why, since about 1948, we’ve encouraged our employees to spend 15% of their working time on their own projects. To take our resources, to build up a unique team, and to follow their own insights in pursuit of problem-solving.
If there’s a secret ingredient to 3M’s more than 100 years of innovation, it’s this: give talented people the time and resources to prove the worth of their ideas, and in the long run you’ll come out well ahead. Even if those talented people are mistaken, you’ve learned something.
“Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it’s essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.”
- William L. McKnight
Former President and Chairman of the Board, 3M
Twice a year, six to eight of the most interesting ideas floating around 3M can receive Genesis Grants: about $30,000 to $75,000 of seed money for 12 months of research. All told, that’s $750,000 given out per year to explore ideas that don’t have the official financial backing of a business unit.
15 Percent Time might just be an innovative idea itself. For years, 3M has been an innovation powerhouse with its unique approach to building a culture driven by the creative exchange of new ideas. Now, some of today’s mightiest innovators have adopted similar practices into their own company cultures, taking lessons from 3M’s pioneering approach.
We love seeing that: we believe freedom to explore is critical to developing new ideas and solving problems that will make a difference for everyone.