Below is the winning essay by Andrew Singer, a senior majoring in chemical engineering at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
I have worked at 3M Company for over two years, and if there is one thing that is clear, it is that there are very few companies that have been built better than 3M. What started as a small mining company in 1902 on the shore of Lake Superior grew into a company that provides staple and advanced technologies to the world.
This growth and stability could not have occurred without the shared beliefs and values of 3M’s founders. These values have remained constant since 3M’s humble beginning 112 years ago:
- 3M Technology Advancing Every Company
- 3M Products Enhancing Every Home
- 3M Innovation Improving Every Life
The first core value, 3M Technology Advancing Every Company, exemplifies 3M’s genuine desire to help out the “little guy.” Since 3M was once a small company on the verge of failure itself, it has made it a goal to help smaller companies achieve success. Whether that be supplying chemicals at discounted rates, disposing of waste material for free, or simply advising smaller companies, 3M has never been or will ever be “too good” to help companies that are just getting on their feet.
This 3M value also benefits the United States as a whole. By helping smaller companies succeed, 3M pours resources into boosting the nation’s economy. When smaller companies grow, they hire more workers. When these companies grow even larger, they start selling higher-grade chemicals at competitive prices, improving the health of the chemical industry – a $4 trillion industry. The benefits of this 3M value stretch far and wide, and are many times overlooked, but 3M will continue to uphold this value. They will always strive to benefit companies, no matter the size, and the economy.
The second core value, 3M Products Enhancing Every Home, demonstrates 3M’s ability to prioritize its consumers’ needs. 3M creates products that will undoubtedly enhance homes such as Post-It Notes, Nexcare first-aid materials, Filtrete furnace filters, and countless others. Every 3M employee learns on their first day that there is no alternative to supplying customers with the highest quality products. If it were any different- well, let’s just say that the world would be on the verge of chaos without the trusty Post-It Note.
Another aspect to this core value is how 3M treats all customer groups equitably. For 3M, it is about the person that is buying the product- they are not simply a customer. For example, 3M could earn more profit if they supplied only one type of large bandage that had a stronger but harsher adhesive, but then 3M customers with more sensitive skin would not be able to use this product comfortably- 3M responds by making a variety of large bandages to accommodate every customer group possible.
This mentality has migrated to most of 3M’s products and has furthered the positive effect that these products have on homes across the world. These actions correlate to 3M’s first core value as well- 3M will always prioritize the individual.
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3M’s final core value, 3M Innovation Improving Every Life, has been the company’s driving force since it was born. The value of innovation holds all of 3M’s other values and goals in place. As a result of 3M’s innovation, old technologies are vastly improved and new technologies are created constantly. A perfect illustration of this is when 3M recognized a need for a safer, more environmentally-friendly adhesive for baby diapers. The company strove to create the perfect product that met all specifications, and it did. Multi-Touch display systems shows this as well as an example of newer film technologies. This technology allows people around the world to connect instantly on their handheld devices.
These two products of innovation barely scratch the surface of how 3M is improving lives with their innovation. Apart from innovation leading to profitable products, 3M also encourages individualized innovation.
At 3M, every employee is encouraged to use 15% of their work time to pursue innovation in whichever way they choose on any idea they may have. This ground-breaking mentality has been the source of hundreds of amazing products such as Post-It Notes, masking tape, Scratch-and-Sniff Crayons, and so many more. It also coincides with 3M’s goal of treating every employee and customer as an individual, not a number.
I am not saying all of these things about 3M just to explain how great of a company it is. While it is a great company, a company does not have as great of an impact on the world as 3M has had without a firm foundation of shared beliefs and values. All of the 3M products that were mentioned were created to help the world by helping the individual. When one starts to explore what 3M is truly about, they will find that 3M is the very company it says it is. It is a company that did not lay-off a single employee during the Great Depression.
It is a company that donates hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours each year. It is a company that, because it was built on three core values, with common goals and aspirations stemming from them, has grown from a small five-person company in 1902 to a company with 67,000 employees worldwide. 3M is a company that has had an undeniably positive impact on the many companies, homes, and lives that it has come into contact with thanks to its technology, products, and outstanding innovation.
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