Innovation Exchange: The 3M-Kelley Partnership
Alumna Ashley Stinton (BS'06) is employed by 3M.
3M’s Post-it Notes are ubiquitous in businesses and homes across 100 different countries. And they’re no longer limited to small yellow squares: they’re now available in eight standard sizes, 25 shapes and 62 colors. There is even a Post-it photo and a newly launched digital Post-it for your computer.
With such wide-ranging applications, it’s hard to believe that Post-its actually began with a project gone wrong in a 3M lab. In 1968, a 3M scientist was working on a new type of glue, but what he produced just wouldn’t stick. It peeled off surfaces too easily to hold anything together. Three years later, a product development engineer singing in his church choir was looking for a solution to hold his place in the hymn book. Slips of paper didn’t work because they kept falling out—he realized what he needed was that not-so-sticky glue.
This sort of innovative thinking is what 3M is known for. Originally formed in 1902 as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, one of the company’s earliest problem-solving successes came when it learned that the imported Spanish garnet intended its sandpaper wouldn’t adhere. Consumers complained that the abrasive stones kept falling off and the founders realized it was because the garnet was being shipped in olive oil, which penetrated the stones and made them useless. Rather than take a loss on the ruined stock, the founders roasted the stones over a fire to remove the olive oil.
These days, 3M is a Fortune 500 company with almost $25 billion in revenue, more than 75,000 employees, and a tremendous need for new talent that can help the company maintain its reputation for innovative solutions to a wide variety of problems. The Kelley School of Business is one source of this talent for 3M. Since 2000, more than 60 Kelley undergraduates and MBA students have gone to 3M as interns and new hires. 3M’s leaders clearly see something they like in Kelley’s curriculum and graduates. Joe Harlan, BS ’81, executive vice president of electro and communications business at 3M in 2009 and a native Hoosier, maintains strong ties with the school. "Kelley’s terrific curriculum prepares the students to hit the ground running,” he says. "They make things happen.”
Harlan and 3M choose to support Kelley because they believe that education is the key to solving issues and problems faced by society at large as well as business challenges the firm faces. “On a micro basis, running a company we need the best and brightest talent to continue the pipeline of the best talent possible,” Harlan observes. “Kelley is a great place to get that talent.”
Harlan returns to campus about twice a year to participate in Kelley events. He also serves on the Dean’s Advisory Council. When asked about his reasons for choosing Kelley for his own undergraduate degree, Harlan recalls that the Kelley School has always had a stellar reputation for providing a great business education —and landing jobs for graduates. “I’ve worked all over the world, in Asia and in Europe,” he says. “I’m proud of my career and where I came from. But I vividly remember those Kelley leadership experiences I went through, and the skill sets I got there initially helped me get the job interviews that started my career.”
The company also relies on Kelley Executive Partners (KEP) to provide upper-level managers and executives with cutting-edge insight and practical information. And in order to minimize travel expenses and disruption to work schedules, KEP presents short courses that are delivered at company locations.
Many of the courses that Kelley has developed for 3M are related to marketing and delivered through on-site classes and some online. Nearly two-thirds of 3M’s marketers are outside the United Sates, making it nearly impossible to reach them with traditional classroom training. The Marketing Leadership Development Program was created to help 3M improve the link between its technical and marketing teams in order to accelerate the development of new products and services. Other courses include “Planning for Growth,” a three-day program, and “Fundamentals of Marketing,” a 10-module online course.
According to Steve Henry, professional marketing development manager at 3M, “The partnership between 3M and the Kelley School to provide world-class training programs to our marketing leaders and practitioners remains strong now and into the foreseeable future.” 3M not only seeks Kelley’s innovation resources in the form of new hires and educational programming, the firm also helps to foster the development of new innovative talent and ideas by supporting students and faculty at the Kelley School. 3M is a key sponsor of Kelley's Center for Global Sales Leadership, which supports the Global Sales Leadership Society, a unique student organization whose membership is based on job interviews. Students compete for promotions in order to move up the ladder into the “corporation’s” leadership roles. The center is devoted to promoting the success of students going into professional sales through corporate sales guest speakers, trips, sales competitions, and numerous recruiting and philanthropic activities that provide benefits for the business school and the community as well as educational opportunities for members.
The 3M Front Line Leadership Conference provides faculty the opportunity to share best sales educational practices to advance the success of a front line sales force. Students from 3M front Line recruiting schools have an opportunity to test their sales leadership skills at the collegiate level. Kelley students gain valuable learning and hands-on experience participating in case competitions with other universities in this 3M-sponsored activity during the conference and during their internship.
3M also supports Kelley faculty, through annual giving and funding of special projects and initiatives that recognize professors who are award-winning thought leaders. The 3M University Relations Faculty Grant, 3M Research Scholar Grant, and 3M Junior Faculty Fellowship are some of the numerous fellowships that support faculty research.
“The interchange between 3M and the Kelley School is one that fosters innovation. Not only does 3M benefit from a constant stream of new employees who are prepared to innovate and perform, but Kelley also benefits from the feedback of an innovative partner that is responding to real-world business challenges,” observes Dan Smith, dean of the Kelley School of Business.