Six Sigma ‘killed’ innovation in 3M


Firms must define innovation and how it fits into the company’s objectives. They should then provide the right support and avoid rigid processes hindering the creative process, says former 3M exec behind the Post-It note.

It is important to provide the leadership and then people know that they can practise innovation. That is part of the problem, people are afraid of failure. Maybe it’s because of ‘losing face’ in an Asian society, but the fact of the matter is, failure is not failure. I would rather call it a learning experience

The 3M ambassador also outlined pitfalls companies should avoid in order not to stifle creativity:

  • Asking for a 5-year plan
  • Insisting people go through all levels with a new idea
  • Being control-conscious
  • Expressing criticism and withholding praise
  • Being suspicious of every idea that originates below you
  • Making a decision to reorganize in secret and maximize surprise

Initially what would happen in 3M with Six Sigma people, they would say they need a five-year business plan for a new idea. Come on, we don’t know yet because we don’t know how it works, we don’t know how many customers will take it up, we haven’t taken it out to the customer yet.

However, the 3M ambassador pointed out he had nothing against the Six Sigma, but felt it was not ideal for the creative process. “I met the guy who in fact put Six Sigma together and I said to him, ‘What about innovation? Because at 3M right now we are having problems–we’re being asked about Six Sigma and trying to utilize it in the creative stage’. He said it was never designed for that, it was designed for manufacturing when starting to scale up a product,” said Nicholson.

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About olivierlehe

Passion for Innovations

3 responses to “Six Sigma ‘killed’ innovation in 3M”

  1. domain says :

    I love reading an article that will make men and
    women think. Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

  2. win an apple watch says :

    Why visitoors still usee to read news papers
    when in this technological world everything is presented on web?

    • olivierlehe says :

      There is not one choice of media to be taken; of course the future is with web. But media with paper, radio or TV will continue to live. Everything is aggregate. Nothing will really disappear.

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