We talk about 3M often in Fishbird. It’s a fascinating brand: founded in 1902 as a mining business (the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company), they believed they had found corundum, a mineral ideal for producing sandpaper. Problem was, what they thought was corundum was something quite different. So they decided to buy a sandpaper company instead, struggling for years over how to make it successful.
Finally, they decided to move to St. Paul. And they started finding their footing, inventing masking tape and cellophane tape during this time.
3M’s most profitable invention, however, was perhaps, at the time, their most illogical one. In 1948, they launched the 15% Program, a creation which allowed workers to use 15% of their work hours to pursue “hunch” projects and ideas. The program was open to everyone, from scientists to secretaries, inspiring all to fail and succeed in often exponential ways.
It’s where the Post-It Note, clear bandages, and painter’s tape have come from.
And it’s why the 15% Program still exists at 3M today, not to mention at countless copycat organizations (ahem, Google, ahem. Gmail, Google Earth, and Gmail Labs have all originated from their 20% hunchtime).
The key to this hunchtime for 3M and Google is that outcomes are backed. Many other organizations have tried to use this free time approach only to have failed because of their conservative tack on supporting new ideas. We’ve seen this time and again in Fishbird.
So let’s start advocating for org-backed hunchtime.
One hour for lunch, one hour for hunch!