Evolution of 3M’s Innovation Process Essay

3103 Words Mar 9th, 2013 13 Pages
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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This has caused a shift from the innovation process from engaging its customers to focusing innovation from within the company. 2.2 Why does 3M need to close this gap?
3M did not have the tools or expertise needed to develop new product ideas and therefore the need to develop concepts for new and breakthrough products and services by learning from users who are ahead of the market was essential. By getting information straight from people who have the knowledge needed, the 3M technicians helped "yielded unexpected benefits ". (p. 2) Through the use of this method, 3M is able to find out new products to develop which they could not have done using the traditional research method. 3. What is lead user research?
3.1 How do we go about in conducting lead user research?
The lead user process is a 4-step process which takes approximately 5 to 6 months to implement. The four stages involved are “project planning, trends or needs identification, preliminary concept generation and final concept generation.” (Thomke, 2002, p. 17)

3.2 The Role of Lead User Research
It is a new method whereby businesses goes beyond customer centered approaches whereby they seek knowledge from "lead users" who are ahead of the industry such that they have the essential information that big companies like 3M would require in order to innovate products that would satisfy the future needs of the masses. These "lead users" are people who require that product which is

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