Everyone likes a creative team member, whether it is the research team or the operations team. The question we need to ask ourselves is what are we doing to encourage this creative streak in team members. Unstructured time to pursue an idea is a risk…but the surest way to encourage a creative mind set.
The 3M Company encourages creativity from its employees. The company allows its researchers to spend 15 percent of their time on any project that interests them. This attitude has brought fantastic benefits not only to the employees but to the 3M Company itself. Many a times, a spark of an idea turned into a successful product has boosted 3M’s profits tremendously.
Some years ago, a scientist in 3M’s commercial office took advantage of this 15 percent creative time. This scientist, Art Fry, came up with an idea for one of 3M’s best-selling products. It seems that Art Fry dealt with a small irritation every Sunday as he sang in the church choir. After marking his pages in the hymnal with small bits of paper, the small pieces would invariably fall out all over the floor.
Suddenly, an idea struck Fry. He remembered an adhesive developed by a colleague that everyone thought was a failure because it did not stick very well. “I coated the adhesive on a paper sample,” Fry recalls, “and I found that it was not only a good bookmark, but it was great for writing notes. It will stay in place as long as you want it to, and then you can remove it without damage.”
Yes, Art Fry hit the jackpot. The resulting product was called Post-it and has become one of 3M’s most successful office products.