Case | HBS Case Collection | August 1998 (Revised July 2002)

Innovation at 3M Corporation (A)

by Stefan H. Thomke and Ashok Nimgade


Describes how 3M Corp. introduces and learns a new and innovative methodology called Lead User research to understand future customer and market needs. A team from 3M's Medical-Surgical Markets Division applies the Lead User methodology to the field of surgical infection control and discovers not only new product concepts but also a very promising new business strategy. Focuses on: (1) 3M's approach to the management of innovation and understanding market needs, (2) an in-depth description of the Lead User method and its potential as applied to the medical business, and (3) the managerial challenges of introducing novel methods into a successful organization.

Keywords: Innovation and Management; Innovation Strategy; Managerial Roles; Marketing Strategy; Demand and Consumers; Market Timing; Product Development; Problems and Challenges; Business Strategy; Medical Devices and Supplies Industry;


Thomke, Stefan H., and Ashok Nimgade. "Innovation at 3M Corporation (A)." Harvard Business School Case 699-012, August 1998. (Revised July 2002.)