During the mid-1960’s, 3M was conducting a four-year program called ‘Polymers for Adhesives’ and it was then in 1968 that Mr. Silver discovered the formula for the sticky adhesive. Mr Silver, one of the chemists became interested in a new family of polymers developed by Archer Daniels Midland, Inc. (ADM). Silver acquired the polymers and performed an experiment which mixed unusually and created a totally unique phenomenon, a new polymer that was only partly sticky, not aggressively adhesive.This polymer would ultimately serve as the “tack” on the back of the note which would stick onto other surfaces.
This was stage one of the innovation process known as insight. After years of little success with the glue and the end of 3M’s four-year programme, Silver was transferred in 1970 to the System Research Group, where he met biochemist Robert Oliveira. There they began to investigate an application for the unusual glue. However, it was Mr.
Silver’s colleague, Art Fry who came up with a practical application for the adhesive.In 1974, whilst singing in his church choir, Art Fry was tired of losing his place in the hymnal and remembered his colleague’s adhesive and that’s where the ignition for the idea came from. Stage two, development, occurred when Art fry realised that the use of adhesive could be developed as a component for a product. Stage three is the design of the innovation, the Post-it Note would require three main factors in its design; they would have to be moderately sticky on the back, however, not sticky on the front of the note and they would have to be able to be stacked on top of one another into pads.
The next stage is product engineering. Art Fry started to take the work home with him and started working on a machine design that would be able to manufacture the product. The Pilot testing stage was carried out in 1977, Fry overcame manufacturing problems and managed to produce enough Post-it(r) Notes to supply 3M’s management.
The management and staff at 3M both came addicted to the product and so market testing was carried out in 1977 in order to gain feedback of what the consumers thought of it. However, the four major maketing campaigns carried out in 1978 failed.This was due to 3M’s policy of refusing to give away free samples when introducing a product to the market. However, once Bill Schoonenberg, the manager of marketing services decided to open a fifth test market in Boise, Idaho where the marketers launched the famous free sampling effort know as the ‘Boise Blitz’.
After saturating the office supply industry with samples, 90 percent of consumers who tried the product said that they would buy it. Once 3M’s management were satisfied with the consumers’ feedback on the Post-it(r) Note, stages six and seven of the innovation process began.In 1979, 3M introduced Post-it(r) Notes in 11 Western states with heavy sampling; the sampling was such a success that consumers started to ship the notes to their co-workers in cities where the product had not yet been introduced. By 1980, Post-it(r) Notes were introduced nationally in the United States. In 1981 Post-it(r) Notes were introduced in Canada and Europe. By 1990 Post-it(r) Notes were celebrating their 10th anniversary and the Notes were featured on many of top consumer’s products of the decade. Technology Push versus Demand Pull InnovationsA technology push describes a situation where an emerging technology or a new combination of existing technologies provide the driving force for an Innovative product.
3M’s Post-it(r) Notes were invented by luck through a failed adhesive that had no practical use; the innovation was developed both because of Scientific technology produced and the demand for it from Art Fry. Technology Push versus market pull innovations is also often a question of interpretation. Innovation legends, which often can’t stand up to critical examination, come into being as a result of people not presiding over the complete picture.An example of this is 3M’s Post-it(r) Notes. This product has been mentioned in many publications and has been described as both a result of a technology push and in other cases as reaction to market needs.
A good example which constitutes both the Technology Push and the Market Driven elements of an Innovation was Rothwell (1994) who created the Coupling Model: With this model, the process is still essentially linear and sequential like previous models; however, both technology and the market are influential. In author’s opinions such as Nayak, P.Ranganath and John M.
Ketteringham (1994) the Post-it(r) Note was created through both technology and the market need. The crucial element that this recent model shows are the ‘feedback loops’ between the various functions, such as Manufacturing or Research and Design between both technology and the market need. The Post-it(r) Note was developed due to scientific research which was then connected to a market need. Research, Design and Development was carried out and related to both the technology of the adhesive and the market need created by Art Fry.Prototype production was carried out when Art Fry came up with the idea to create a product using the adhesive. Manufacturing was started once the prototype had been accepted on a mass scale. Marketing and Sales interrelated as the success of the Post-it(r) Note came when it was sampled to the market.
Innovation Typology The Post-it(r) Note could be argued to be both a product innovation and a process innovation as a new machine had to be designed in order to manufacturer the product. However, the Post-it(r) Note can definitely be classed as a product innovation.In (1990) Henderson and Clark pointed out that to make a product normally required two distinct types of knowledge; Component knowledge; this is the knowledge of each component that performs a function within the product, in the case of the Post-it(r) Notes, the knowledge of the new family of adhesive meant that this could be created into part of a function of a product. System knowledge; this is how the various components of the product work together. The Post-it(r) Notes required knowledge of how to prepare the paper and the glue in order for the end product to be a success.
Henderson and Clark (1990) then went on to differentiate four categories of innovation using the distinction between component and system knowledge. However there are limitations that the model has, the main fault being that it fails to look at the usefulness of the innovation. Henderson and Clark’s definition of a radical innovation relates distinctly to the Post-it(r) Note; “Radical innovation establishes a new dominant design, hence a new set of core design concepts embodied in components that are linked together in a new architecture” Henderson and Clark’s (1990).The Post-it(r) Note can be classed as a radical innovation because the design of the product was new, the core component i. e. the adhesive was new and the architecture that linked the components together was new. It could be argued that the paper component of the Post-it(r) Note is not new therefore both core components of the innovation are not new.
3M’s current strategy is to introduce the Post-it(r) Note to become electronic. This Innovation could be classed as a Radical Innovation as the products core components are new and the link between the core concepts and components are new. Innovation in a theoretical contextWhen analysing an innovation such as the Post-it(r) Note, it is important to apply theory in order to class it as a certain type of innovation. This helps future understanding of the patterns that innovations take in order for it to be successful. There are four common theories of innovation, all which are present in the Post-it(r) Note. The first theory is technology, which is the ‘S curve’; The ‘S curve’ describes how technology progresses over time on a life cycle from the ‘seed’ stage to the end of life stage, and which point a new S curve starts – replacing the existing technology in the market.As the diagram illustrates, there is a steep learning curve in the early stage and then as product performance slows down, there is an engineering effort which is usually technology based in order to increase the product performance.
The Post-it(r) Note can relate to this theory, however, the scientific discovery of the polymer used on the back of the post-it(r) Note was such a technological leap that another, more superior substance has not yet been developed. There have however, been very many different designs to the Post-it(r) Note.In fact in January 2007 there were more than 600 Post-it(r) Note products sold in more than 100 countries. The Post-it(r) Notes product performance has yet to slow down as there have been no technology advances which could improve the product and so 3M have not yet needed to input engineering effort to replace the existing technology in order to increase the product performance. The Post-it(r) Notes S-Curve up to this date can be seen as one life cycle. The company 3M has however had to re-design the product and come up with new product lines in order to satisfy the market needs.
The electronic Post-it(r) Note could be viewed as a new generation curve. However, it could also be viewed as new product entirely. Foster (1986), argues that “technologies simply have physical limits” therefore, at some point the Post-it(r) Note will have a new generation S-curve. Everett Rogers (1962) defines diffusion as; “The process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system”. Some new innovations diffuse rapidly creating a steep S-curve; other innovations have a slower rate of adoption, creating a more gradual slope of the S-curve.The diffusion rate has become an important area of research to sociologists, and more specifically, to advertisers. In relation to the Post-it(r) note, the rate of diffusion was rapid once 3M introduced the “Boise Blitz”, creating a steep S-Curve.
The main reason for the Post-it(r) Notes rapid diffusion was due to its promotion and marketing as this spreads knowledge of innovations to a large audience rapidly. The second theory is punctuated equilibrium. This often involves new entrants initiating technological innovations which can in affect, lead to previous technology being discontinued.In relation to the Post-it(r) Note, its previous innovation was the notepad. The notepad is still in use, however, the Post-it(r) Note was the new generation of the note-pad. The technology of the Post-it(r) Note did not lead to the note-pad being discontinued as a product; however it has, in relation to the S-Curve, improved the product performance of the note-pad.
The third theory is absorptive capacity. This involves an organisation’s recognition of new information from an external source.This theory relates to the Post-it(r) Note to a certain extent. The Post-it(r) Note does recognise new information from external sources and it could say that 3M are affective in doing this as to this date there has been no competition that has developed a new technology which would discontinue the Post-it(r) Note. 3M needs to constantly look at developing the product and to listen to information from external sources. This may be the reason that 3M has developed the Electronic Post-it Note in order to keep one step ahead of the competition.
The last theory is dominant design. According to Anchoun and Tushman (1991) dominant design is a; “Single basic architecture that becomes the acceptable market standard”. Dominant design occurs when the market accepts a particular type of design, this could be because they become attached to a particular product. In relation to the Post-it(r) Note, the design was accepted after the ‘Boise Blitz’, when 90 percent of consumers that tried the product would buy it in the future. Identification and analysis of the organisation’s strategyThe success of the Post-it(r) Note can be related to the stars who brought the Post-it(r) Note alive and that made consumers realise its potential. From Art Fry and Spencer Silver who created the Post-it(r) Note through to Jack Wilkins, the marketing director who manufactured the demand for the Post-it(r) Notes.
The price of Post-it(r) Notes is also relatively cheap. To buy a 12 pack at 100 sheets per pad of 51 by 76mm Post-it Notes would cost i?? 8. 99. However, economies of scale benefit the buyer as well as 3M. Post-it(r) Notes have become universal and are sold in 100 countries.
Thanks to Jack Wilkins, the Post-it(r) Note has got office workers throughout the nation to try, fall in love with and create demand for Post-it(r) Notes. The Post-it(r) Note engulfed the market when it was introduced and so consumers could not ignore it, this is how the success of the Post-it(r) Note was generated. The “Boise blitz” in Idaho created appeal for the Post-it(r) Note and the sampling method approach was the strategy behind the success as it made consumers try out the product then fall in love with it and then finally want to buy it.The company 3M’s motto is “Innovation is part of 3M’s DNA”, this itself suggests that 3M will keep expanding and developing the Post-it(r) Note and make sure that the technology is not outgrown and replaced by another competitors product. 3M’s belief is simple, “if your people grow, your company will grow”. The company firmly believes that leadership is at the top of the company’s agenda and in making sure successful leaders are appointed, 3M believes that the company will keep growing, which in turn will make the products keep on developing.At 3M, they believe that what the company stands for is just as important as what it sells.
They are proud to have built a century-old tradition of operating with uncompromising honesty and integrity. 3M’s reputation is rooted in their corporate culture and embodied in its business conduct policies, the code of conduct they first introduced in 1988. The organisation’s strategy is therefore to keep improving their products and develop more product lines in order to satisfy consumers.