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How Do Google & 3M Encourage Innovation?

February 22, 2010

What Are They Doing That Your Company Should Do?

Before we get back to ITS and the NWTC interviews here’s an innovation quickie.  Below is an excerpt from a good short post from Managing Automation editor David Brousell about managing innovation.

Managing Innovation: An Oxymoron?

Published: FEBRUARY 16, 2010

Is true innovation a random act that really can’t be managed in a classical business sense? Do ideas that can result in a new product or a new market or a new way of doing something just emerge from creative people, or can the process be systematized in an industrial sort of way?

Take Google. Staffers at the Internet search giant devote 20% of their time — that’s one day a week — to special projects of their own design. Moreover, Google organizes in small teams to help drive innovation. To avoid rigid organizational structures that could end up stifling innovation, Google encourages these small teams to interact. It’s a form of cross-functional pollination.

3M has its own equivalent of devoted innovation time. Called 15% Time, the 3M practice allows employees to experiment, but within a system of principles and practices, said David Frazee, director of R&D for digital dentistry at the company, at last week’s ARC Advisory Group meeting Orlando. Now, 3M’s challenge is to go outside the company and create a “virtual tech forum” that will also aid innovation efforts.

Full post…

One way that Google keeps the innovation fires stoked is by inviting guest speakers in to present new ideas and different viewpoints from outside the empire. Google shares these talks on YouTube the “Empire TV Network” its bread & circuses for the masses . Here’s but one of Google’s videos on innovation, in it speaker Scott Berkum points out how 3M learned to loosen-up and encourage experimentation. There are a gaggle more of Google related videos.

Google Tech Talks – May 14, 2007

Speaker:Scott Berkun

21:20 Talks about 3M and PostIt notes.


Much of what we know about innovation is wrong. That’s the bet this talk takes, as it romps through the history of innovation, dispelling the mythologies we’ve constructed about how we got here. This talk, loosely based on the upcoming O’Reilly book (May 2007), will help you to recognize the myths, understand why they’re popular (even if you don’t believe in them), and how to use the truth to help you innovate today.

It’s easy to innovate when you got nothing to lose, it’s more impressive to try new things when you’re running well ahead of the pack.


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