Implementing Ideas the 3M Way

May 30th, 2011 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Ideas - (2 Comments)

New ideas, the basis of innovation, depend upon tapping the tacit knowledge of employees and making this knowledge available to others within the organisation. Once the knowledge is shared and recorded within the organization (codified knowledge) it becomes a component of the corporate memory of the organization. What the organisation then does with the new ideas presented by employees will have the potential to add value to the organization. Although many organisations capture and record ideas they fail to develop these ideas further or fall short of converting these ideas into new products or services, new processes or new organisational systems.

The global company 3M, known for its unique innovative practices, encourages employees to spend 15% of their time to work on their own ‘pet’ projects. These pet projects allow employees to investigate and test their ideas, and subsequently develop these ideas into concepts or applications. Known as the ’15 percent rule’, 3M use this approach to stimulate unplanned experimentation that may turn into successful, but unexpected innovations and new opportunities for the compsny. Had it not been for the existence of the 15 percent rule Art Fry and Spence Silver may have not had the opportunity and encouragement to develop the 3M Post-it® notes.

In the spirit of 3M, organisations that generate and capture a large number of ideas through their employees could hold internal ‘idea auctions’. Idea auctions are essentially forums where employees present and showcase their own ideas to an audience of interested parties who might be keen on taking on the idea and working with it, either individually or in groups. The process allows employees who come up with the ideas to ‘sell’ their ideas to anyone within the company, especially when their immediate supervisor or team members refuse to back the employee. Furthermore, some people are good at generating ideas while others prefer the implementation phase.  Using a group approach to reviewing ideas will also quickly provide important feedback from an ‘internal customer’ perspective.

A key success factor to successful implementation and exploitation of ideas within an organization is the availability of funding to support projects based on new ideas. Establishing a central organizational fund would relieve departments and business units from the responsibility to risk their existing operational budgets on new ideas. Such a fund would remove any financial obstacle to pursue ideas as the funding comes from a non-departmental budget. Subsequently the investment criteria for this fund would be different to the normal investment or product development criteria as the risk threshold associated with the investigation and development of new ideas would be elevated. 3M for example have provided up to US$50,000 in the form of ‘Genesis Grants’ which are internal venture capital funding for developing prototypes and market testing of new ideas and opportunities.

Generally, financial managers in many organizations would find it difficult to fathom the establishment of an internal investment fund to be used solely for the investigation and evaluation of new ideas.  Their first request would be for someone to justify the return on investment for such a fund, however, it is generally accepted that playing with the notion of exploiting new ideas is a risky business. The core management philosophy of 3M established in the company’s infancy by its then General Manager William McKnight has overcome any challenge to justify a return on investment. William McKnight developed the following founding principles at 3M back in 1914 which continue to influence the culture of 3M today: 

  1. Listen to anyone with an original idea, no matter how absurd it might sound at first.
  2. Encourage; don’t nitpick. Let people run with an idea.
  3. Hire good people and leave them alone.
  4. If you put fences around people you get sheep. Give people the room they need.
  5. Encourage experimental doodling.
  6. Give it a try – and quick!

McKnight’s approach was to encourage individual initiative that would produce the ‘raw material’ for new innovations. He also understood that along the way mistakes would be made, especially when giving employees the freedom and encouragement to act on their own initiative, however the organization as a whole would be continually learning.

A culture conducive to the generation, evaluation and exploitation of ideas is therefore a key success factor to driving innovation. Take a look at 3M today with over US$27 billion in revenue and a large number of innovative products servicing a wide range of industry sectors. For further information refer to the 3M website.

Dr John Kapeleris

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We are faced with many decisions on a daily basis both in our work and personal lives, for example:

  • Do we pursue a new business, product or market opportunity?
  • Do we proceed with establishing a new collaborative partnership?
  • Do we accept an invitation to attend a network meeting?
  • Do we take the family on another vacation even though the budget is tight?

Decision making is a mental function that involves selecting a course of action among alternative options and involves making a final choice. Decision making is critical to managing and leading individuals, teams and organizations. Following is a model that outlines where decision making and choice making occur in a problem solving context. 

The model begins with the realisation that an undesirable state  (a problem) exists and that a solution needs to be identified and implemented. The decision making stages involve firstly the diagnosis of a problem, followed by the generation of alternative solutions and finally choosing an appropriate solution. 

Decision making on a daily basis may involve the following approaches:

  • Choosing the first option that comes to mind (based on past experience) which is perceived to be likely to achieve the desired outcome
  • Listing the advantages and disadvantages of a situation, then making a decision
  • Making a list of available options and then choosing the most appropriate option to acheive the desired outcome
  • Decision making based on intuition
  • Flipping a coin to make a decision

When faced with difficult decisions it is best to utilise a systematic approach to achieve the best outcomes. An effective decision making approach is outlined below:

  1. Outline the goal and desired outcome you wish to achieve.
  2. Gather the available data and information to provide background knowledge on the situation.
  3. Brainstorm to develop a number of alternative solutions.
  4. Evaluate each alternative by determining the advantages and disadvantages for each option, and the likely impact it will create.
  5. Make the decision by choosing the most optimal solution.
  6. Implement the solution immediately by taking action.
  7. Evaluate the outcome, and learn from and reflect on the decision making.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Whether we like it or not we are all sales people. On a daily basis we are involved in some way with either selling our capability (ourselves), selling our ideas or selling our point of view. Therefore, one of the key success factors to personal development and career progression is the power of persuasive communication. Persuasive communication is the process of guiding people toward the adoption of an idea, attitude, or action by rational and emotional means.

Most of us have excellent communication skills which is a requirement of our daily work and personal lives. However, the ability to influence people through persuasive communication is a rare attribute that isn’t generally taught in our education system. This skill has to be learnt either through specialised courses, mentors, self-education or on-the-job training. Following is a list of the key elements of persuasive communication:

  1. Establish credibility and rapport
  2. Connect emotionally with your target audience
  3. Communicate the compelling value proposition for the audience
  4. Reinforce your position with compelling evidence and expressive, vivid language

One of my favourite books is Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Green Book of Getting Your Way which focusses on how to speak, write, present, persuade, influence and sell your point of view to others. Jeffrey describes a number of key elements that reflect your persuasive ability:

  1. Explaining what, why and how – people need to better understand your offering by knowing the what, why and how.
  2. Explaining what’s in it for them – people want to see how they win as a result of your persuasion. That is, your compelling value proposition.
  3. Your sincerity – your conviction is part of their acceptance
  4. Your believability – your statements must be true and conceivable
  5. Your questioning skills – persuasion starts with powerful questioning. Don’t tell, ask.
  6. Your communication skills – practice what you will be presenting
  7. Your visionary (storytelling) skills – it’s the stories that people remember. Paint a picture that is clear and vivid.
  8. Your reputation precedes you – an exceptional and honest reputation will lead to a yes
  9. Your history of success – the more wins you have had in the past, the stronger your persuasive strength

Your ability to master each of the elements above will help you to be more persuasive.

Dr John Kapeleris

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The interaction with people throughout your life can influence and determine your future path. My parents and grandparents were a strong influence in my younger years, guiding me and providing me with direction and knowledge. Many of my values and beliefs originated from my parents and grandparents, predominantly through story-telling in the evening and during bed-time. My parents and grandparents were my mentors in my early life.

Throughout my education and career I would source new mentors who would continue to influence me and guide me through my learning and development. One of my career mentors was Dr David Wyatt who was also the Chief Executive of a company where I worked as a senior manager. He was a person who could inspire you to seek new ideas, and continually learn and develop. He would motivate you in your work and make you feel positive and energised. David was also a wealth of knowledge and creative inspiration. He provided me with frequent articles of useful information that would challenge my thinking and provide me with new knowledge. David would also challenge me to think beyond the immediate problem or opportunity. When I was working for David I just couldn’t wait to get to work on Monday morning so that I could experience something new, exciting and motivating. My personal development at that time in my life soared significantly.

In another example, after leaving a company that I worked in for 12 years I employed the services of a personal development mentor to guide me through my next career transition. I would meet with the coach on a weekly basis over three months and discuss my progress in building and enhancing my skills for my next challenge in life. My mentor would give me self discovery exercises, references to read and small development projects to complete between the meeting sessions. My mentor also opened my mind to a wealth of opportunities that I would investigate and develop in later months and years.

Finding the right mentor or business coach can have a significant effect on your life. A mentor can teach and guide you through your life journey and can be one of the best ways to achieve personal success. For example, a business mentor can provide you with the tools and resources to grow your business or to teach you the strategies and processes (tricks of the trade) for a new business opportunity. In a recent experience, without the influence of an internet business coach I would not have been able to develop my internet-based business skills. Can you identify a person in your domain or area of interest who has been successful and would make a great mentor? Your next step is to contact the person via telephone or a written letter and request whether they can be your mentor. Don’t be afraid; the worst thing that can happen is that they say “No”. If this occurs you then look for another possible mentor. For additional mobile information, consult the experts when it comes to samsung galaxy specifications.

Building networks of people who can add value, share ideas and build collaborations or alliances should be one of your key goals, if you are going to succeed in any business or creative endeavour. Your networks will become a source of ideas, knowledge, support, motivation, channels to other networks, access to markets, and even revenue sources. How do you then set about building a network? The first step is to become a better networker by improving your networking skills and overcoming fear and low self-esteem. Following is a simple six-step approach to networking:

  1. Identify networking opportunities and events such as meetings, luncheons, seminars and conferences. Target specific events with a topic of interest related to your definite purpose or goal.
  2. Take the responsibility to interact first. Remember the worst thing that can happen to you is a polite rejection. Network the room as much as possible. Don’t stick to a single person, or remain alone at the outer perimeter of the room, which is common amongst people with low self-esteem. Try to join a group of people who are already interacting or look for someone who is alone.
  3. Have a topic of interest to discuss e.g. a topic from the seminar or conference, or ask the other person a question about their job or work. I always like to begin with “Hi, my name is John and I work for …”. After the other person responds with their name and organisation, I immediately follow with a question or statement related to the seminar or conference. If the networking occurs before the event I tend to ask a general question such as “Are you looking forward to listening to the speaker?”, “What attracted you to this seminar?” or “What do you do for a living?”. It is also a good idea to have a prepared 2-3 minute “Elevator Pitch” describing what you do. For example I say, “I put money into people’s pockets by helping them take their ideas to market”. This generally grabs the person’s attention.
  4. Exchange business cards or contact details. This is generally done during the introduction or after you have found out more about the person. Ensure that you offer your business card first as the other person will generally reciprocate. If the other person does not have a business card write their contact information in a notebook or on a piece of paper. It is also a good idea to write where you met and any follow-up action items or notes about the person on the back of the business card. Don’t forget to record their details, as soon as possible, in a contact database together with notes about the person, where you met and any follow-up actions.
  5. Cultivate your relationship through maintaining regular contact. This could be done through the use of a combination of tools and processes, such as regular email, the online tool LinkedIn, a contact database or by periodically catching up face-to-face for coffee, lunch or at upcoming meetings and seminars. I use LinkedIn quite extensively as this allows me to build a network of people very easily. It also has an email function that allows me to send individual or group messages, and also includes a short message function linked to Twitter. For more specific profile building of my contacts I use a database such as Microsoft Business Contact Manager which is linked to Outlook. I like to use a Relationship Maintenance Schedule (in spreadsheet format) for my more important contacts where I build in a schedule of activities, including periodically sending my contacts articles of interest, links to interesting internet sites, or provide them with business leads and new opportunities.
  6. Become a network architect for others. The ultimate goal is to become the “go-to” person for introducing others to people you know. You essentially become the “intellectual gravity” or thought leader for a given domain and its networks, by attracting like-minded individuals or people seeking knowledge and inspiration.

Napoleon Hill in “Think and Grow Rich” described the power of the Mastermind. The mastermind principle is defined as the coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people for the achievement of a definite purpose. A mastermind group can be a powerful way to achieve your definite purpose or goal. I have joined a few mastermind groups each having a specific purpose or goal where the contribution of the knowledge, experience and united spirit of all members can catapult you to the next level of achievement. Members of a mastermind group will have a common interest where each person is willing to discuss topics openly and contribute knowledge and experience. The mastermind groups that I belong to meet regularly and have formal and informal agendas for prior preparation and subsequent discussion. A number of outcomes have emerged from my mastermind groups, including sharing knowledge and ideas, creating new start-up businesses, identifying new commercial opportunities, and developing solutions for business and community problems. Some of the most successful people in the world (e.g. Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie) have relied on their mastermind groups to guide them or provide wisdom and inspiration.

Another example of a mastermind alliance is that of the creative community which dates back to the Middle Ages. For example, Leonardo da Vinci worked in a master’s studio (Verrocchio’s workshop) with like-minded people to learn his trade, and share knowledge and technical skills, including drafting, chemistry, metallurgy, metal working, plaster casting, leather working, mechanics and carpentry, as well as the artistic skills of drawing, painting, sculpting and modelling. The Parisian Salons of the 1920’s and 1930’s are other examples of creative communities, where people like Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and Thornton Wilder would get together informally at the Parisian apartments of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, to fuel their creative inspiration. You can also locate and join a mastermind group or creative community that focuses on your domain or area of interest. Searching the internet, reading trade journals or popular magazines can identify mastermind groups or creative communities. You can also ask your contacts through your networks if they belong to any mastermind groups or creative communities. If you cannot locate a particular mastermind group or creative community then you might consider forming your own.

Make it a great life!

Dr John Kapeleris

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