3M was founded in 1902 as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. While it began as a mining firm, a focus on innovation led the company to create products to help it do things more easily and efficiently—and these proved to be immensely popular with everyone.
3M has gone on to make over 55,000 products, some of which are probably an integral part of your everyday life, such as Post-it notes, Scotch Magic Tape (and more than 1,000 other Scotch Brand tapes), Scotchgard, Scotch-Brite, Scotchprint Graphics, Ace bandages, Nexcare, Dobie scouring pads, Hookit sandpaper, Thinsulate, Microfoam, ACCR, and Aearo.
In addition, 3M makes products you probably use daily without even realizing it because they’re part of numerous other companies’ products, including cars, planes, phones, flat screen TVs, filtration systems, office equipment, medical equipment, security devices, and manufacturing machinery.
As explained by Fortune Magazine journalist Marc Gunther, “3M is not a conglomerate like GE or United Technologies, which own a variety of industrial businesses that operate, for the most part, on their own. Nor, like Apple or Sony, is it a technology company that focuses on a single industry or two, i.e., consumer electronics and entertainment. Instead, 3M—a supplier to all of those companies—is a set of businesses organized around a big, busy, and intellectually productive R&D lab which researches new technologies and processes, and then develops them into products. The company’s purpose, as best as I can tell, is to invent useful new things. Its unique competitive advantage is a culture that fosters innovation.”
That innovation is reflected not only by 3M’s products, but also by how it treats its employees. For example, 3M allows its researchers to spend a whopping 15% of their time independently pursuing their own ideas. As 3M’s VP of Global HR Business Operations Jon Ruppel told us, the company’s philosophy is, “If you put fences around people, you get sheep. If you give people the room they need, they innovate.”
This also translates to how 3M handles careers. For example, Ruppel told us that if an employee is interested in a lateral move, “we offer different types of project-based experiences so (the staffer) can dabble in that space to see if there’s a good fit.” If that works out, 3M provides “stretch assignments” for the employee to further develop. And if those results are promising, 3M helps pay for internal and/or university training for the person to fully learn the new skills—which might even occur in a different country, leveraging 3M’s global presence.
Regarding the latter, 3M operates in more than 70 countries, employing over 89,000 people.
It also operates in 29 states in the US and employs a whopping 4,400 US researchers.
3M is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades,. These include it being the #1 choice among 13,000 high school & college students and young professionals for “Most Preferred Company to Work For” in the 2016 National Society of High School Scholars Millennial Career Survey.