It seems like not that long ago that my previous employer instated a company-wide ban on social media websites and blocked us from accessing any of them from our company computers. It also seems like it wasn’t that long after that they lifted the ban and rolled out the enterprise social network Yammer and encouraged its use. So why the about-face? How did social media go from being a workplace pariah to an invaluable business tool?
For companies like my previous employer—and many others that deal in consumer products—one of the key benefits to an enterprise social network is collaboration. Collaboration breeds innovation and innovation is key to success when new ideas and products are your business.
There are few companies that know more about innovation than 3M. Their Canadian website houses a list of over 6,300 products they produce and distribute in Canada—everything from adhesive tape and bandages to gas masks and home air filters all marketed under familiar brands like Post-it®, Scotch®, Command™ and Filtrete™. While this list might seem extensive, in actuality it only represents a small portion of the 55,000 products that 3M produces and sells worldwide. With a product line that robust it’s not hard to see how important innovation is to 3M and fostering creativity and collaboration amongst their employees is a key component to their success.
Originally founded in 1902 as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, 3M got its first real taste of innovation when they discovered that the mineral that they were mining had no commercial value. They needed to re-invent themselves to keep afloat so they began researching and producing sandpaper products. In the 1920’s 3M invented the first waterproof sandpaper followed by masking tape and later cellophane tape paving the way for what it is today; a multi-national corporation with over 89,000 employees in more than 70 countries with $30 billion in annual sales.
Traditionally innovation at 3M had taken place within small groups of analysts until one day a couple of them had the idea to leverage the knowledge of the employees through internal crowdsourcing. 3M set out to find a vendor that could supply them with an Enterprise 2.0 social networking solution that would allow 3Mers from around the globe to connect with each other and collaborate within the company. In the following slideshow John Woodworth, R&D Systems Manager at 3M discusses how 3M believes that their success depends on their ability to “tap into expanding and diverse flows of knowledge, enhanced by a digital and physical collaboration infrastructure”.
After examining many suppliers of enterprise social networking solutions, 3M landed on a vendor called Socialcast as it had many features they liked and also met their stringent security needs. 3M named their network “Spark” and within the first year had over 2,000 users and had grown to 6,000 by 2013. With R&D labs spread out across the globe, 3M is literally working on new ideas 24/7 and Spark creates the atmosphere of working in “one big lab” providing a more direct path to information and ideas.
“Improving the flow of knowledge in motion has also been instrumental to 3M’s culture of innovation, where a conversation on Spark can result in a real-time brainstorming session that can spur new creative ideas.” John Woodworth, R&D Systems Manager, 3M
Lessons for Others
3M views itself as a Global Innovation Company and it’s hard to argue that when we are surrounded by their products every day. They provide their employees with a corporate culture that’s conducive to open collaboration and have done so for over 100 years. Instead of hiding social media from its employees, 3M has embraced it and found a way to use it to unify its worldwide operations and foster creativity and collaboration.
Industry: Manufacturing Company
Name of Organization Contact: John Woodworth, R&D Systems Manager
Authored by: LAESmith
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.
3M. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3M
3M Case Study – Socialcast Gives 3M’s Global Labs a Distinctly Local Feeling. (2013). Retrieved February 13, 2016, from http://socialcast.com/files/3M-Case-Study.pdf
Brands, R. F. (2012, May 16). Innovation: 3M’s Lessons to Be Learned. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-f-brands/innovation-3ms-lessons-to_b_1515768.html
Davids, K. (2013, November 14). Using Social Media for New Product Innovation – FACE. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.facegroup.com/blog/social-media-for-new-product-innovation/
History. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/3M-Company/Information/Resources/History/
Who We Are. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2016, from http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/3M-Company/Information/AboutUs/WhoWeAre/