The case describes the evolution of 3M as an innovative organization over its 110-year history. It highlights the early challenges faced by the founding entrepreneurs that had an impact on the tolerance for failure in the 3M culture, and also the entrenchment of its innovation philosophy in the ‘‘William L. McKnight Management Principles’’. Further, it describes the role of structures, processes, rewards and people in continuously sustaining the innovativeness of the company over its lifetime.
The case then describes 3M’s approach to innovation across its global subsidiaries, wherein innovators from subsidiaries in different geographies are expected to drive innovation for their context based on their understanding of local user needs. 3M’s strategy for innovation among its subsidiaries is somewhat different from that of most other multinationals that still rely largely on innovation from their home country organization. The case throws light on the efforts by the parent company to transfer and entrench its innovative culture at 3M India, its subsidiary in India. While 3M had a presence in India for over 20 years, for much of this period, the emphasis on innovation was rather limited. However, with the inauguration of its new 3M Research and Development Centre in 2011, 3M India, with the full support of the parent organization, has provided a renewed thrust to innovation for the Indian market under its “In India for India” strategy.
At the end, the case highlights some of the challenges faced by 3M India and some potential challenges that it might face as expected by analysts
The case has two objectives. The first objective is to examine the ways in which an organization can support innovation. The case provides a rich context to discuss the options available to organizations to build ambidexterity so that they can not only obtain efficiencies in their current operations, but also be effective in creating business opportunities for the future. The second objective is to examine the roles of the parent company and its geographic/international subsidiaries, and the relationships among them in the organization’s global strategy for innovation.