Optimizing Innovation – Mauro Porcini of 3M

by Braden Kelley

Mauro Porcini of 3MWe are happy to bring you some of the key points and insights from Mauro Porcini’s talk at the Optimizing Innovation Conference, which was held October 21-22, 2009 in New York City.

Mauro Porcini, Head of Global Product Design – Consumer & Office Business at 3M
spoke about the importance of design and its role in innovation. 3M focuses a lot on taking a technology and adapting it to a lot of different products in different industries. In 1948 William McKnight created the 15% rule (time to use for anything) at 3M, and this stimulated innovation.

And when we look at the world as a whole, it is clear that we’re reaching the limits of efficiency, and this is leading companies to focus on innovation to meet the relentless pressure of shareholder expectations. And at the same time, design-thinking is everywhere – including this New York Times article, and at most of the fast growing companies.

Design alert businesses benefit in their turnover, stock price, market share, and in a reduction of price competition. At 3M we talk about how Holistic Innovation connects R&D Innovation to Design.

Luckily the decision of whether to invest in design today is becoming a no-brainer for many companies devoted to innovation. At the same time, many people don’t understand what design is or what design is compared to design thinking.

When 3M hired me they didn’t know how to use me – they just knew that they wanted to have more of a presence and focus on design. At 3M designers existed, but they were often not involved until the end of solution development.

So what are some of the cultural roadblocks?

  • A misunderstanding about the meaning of design
    • It helps to start by defining design and its value for people
    • Show how each group will benefit

  • Not invented here syndrome – “We can do it ourselves”
    • Build credibility and respect – Make Yourself necessary

  • Reluctance to change (People who answer – it’s too much – too complicated – too expensive – too much additional work – too difficult – too stylish – too trendy) – This is the reason it usually requires a crisis to change
    • Build smooth integration of the new design variable, and focus on cultural risk management.

And what are some of the other ways to overcome the barriers?

  • Bring a new strong design know how
  • Strong top management support
  • Find a co-conspirator that is more of an insider than you
    • I started with Italy first and then tried to go worldwide

  • Get external reinforcement and don’t be afraid to use customers for reinforcement
    • I pitched to Target what I was trying to do at 3M and they thought it was interesting and they then decided to transform their monthly tech fair into a design fair

One of the quick wins of our design journey was a projector, where we did only styling (no product design) – The result? – Sales doubled. But design is not just about the consumer market. Even changing the styling of a molding machine doubled the sales. The fact is that if you have an ugly product, you have to spend more money to sell the technology.

One methodology that is grabbing more attention is Design for Six Sigma (DFSS).

Pragmatic Design Flow:

Idea -> Purchase -> Receive/Unpack -> Use -> Store -> Dismiss

  1. Visceral Relation (purchase experience)
    • Emotional impulse purchase

  2. Interactive Relation (use experience)
    • Emotional satisfaction & loyalty

  3. Expressive Relation (use experience)
    • Communication & spontaneous PR

You should be creating things that you are happy to display insteading of hiding. And while the practical interaction must be good, you must also deliver some magic.

Luckily, design at 3M has moved from beautification to integrating with the other functions. If you don’t focus on the rational and emotional and focus only the functional, ultimately your competitor might do it and kill you in the marketplace.

Design can provide intimate pleasure and/or reassurance, but also the communication of mindset, status, etc.

“When you are in love with your customer, you want to surprise them – instead of just satisfy them.”

Optimizing Innovation Conference


Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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