Evolution of 3M’s Innovation Process

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1. Evolution of 3M’s innovation process
1.1 Shift in Management’s Goal on Innovations
The innovation process shifted away from innovating incremental products or product line extensions to radical products that are completely new to the market. Emphasizing the importance of this shift, 3M’s top management has set a new objective to generate 30% sales from radical products. 1.2 Traditional Market Research
Traditionally, 3M hired market researches to understand the market trends. Other market information came from the 3M product users themselves and also the sales representatives. Whilst it was helpful for 3M to develop more than 30 key technologies, with its new objective to move away from incremental innovation, the traditional market
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3.3 Lead User Research VS Traditional Market Research
With reference to the table in annex A, the information stream of the lead user research is from the lead user, who shares his knowledge willingly, whereas the traditional market research obtains its information from the existing customers and the sales representatives, which is relatively easy to obtain. The lead user research which involves the radical type of innovation has a period of 5 to 6 months incubation, which is longer than traditional market research that requires incremental innovation. As such, the information collected differs as it is qualitative and quantitative respectively. Apart from such differences in characteristics, there are also different drawbacks in the methods. Firstly, the problem with traditional research methods is asking the wrong questions. Many companies will ask customers, in essence, "What do you want?" The focus has to be on the problem the customer is facing--and even that can be tricky because customers can't always articulate problems that aren't directly targeted by existing solutions. Secondly, data could be misinterpreted if it was handled by the wrong expert. Often, senior leaders will

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