Analyzing the Evolution of 3M’s Business Strategy: A Comprehensive Overview


For over a century, 3M has been a force in diversified technology, with a business model that has evolved over time. The company started as a small mining venture in Minnesota and has since transformed into a global corporation, with operations in more than 70 countries. The purpose of this article is to analyze the history of 3M’s business strategy and understand how it has evolved over time.


3M’s first foray into the business world was in mining minerals like corundum and gypsum, and later, sandpaper production. However, the founder of 3M, William McKnight realized that to sustain a profitable business, they should diversify into other areas. So, with time, 3M moved into a new focus area- product innovation.

Innovation has been at the core of 3M’s strategy since its inception. The company invests heavily in research and development (R&D) to create new products and technologies to meet customer needs. This is evident in the number of patents the company secures each year. In 2020 alone, 3M secured 886 patents, making it one of the most innovative companies in the world.

The company’s diversified business model has been a key factor in its continued success. By offering a wide range of products across various industries, 3M has been able to weather economic downturns and cyclical changes in demand for particular products. Currently, the company has five business segments: Safety and Industrial, Health Care, Consumer, Transportation and Electronics, and Non-Woven Materials. This diversification has enabled 3M to be less dependent on any one specific market and has helped the company maintain steady growth.

One of the most famous examples of 3M’s business strategy in action is the Post-it note. When the product was first released, it was considered a failure because it did not meet the needs of its intended users. However, 3M sought feedback and found alternative uses for the Post-it note, eventually turning it into a multi-billion dollar product. This demonstrated the company’s willingness to be creative, flexible, and adaptable to changing circumstances.


In conclusion, 3M’s business strategy has always been focused on innovation and diversification. The company’s culture of experimentation and R&D has allowed it to create relatively successful products that cater to various markets. Its diversified business model also provides a degree of cushion against the cyclical nature of certain markets and has helped the company maintain growth over time. The Post-it note is just one example of how 3M’s business strategy allows for creative adaptation of its products. It will be interesting to see how the company continues to evolve its strategy moving forward.

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