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FUSE in Focus

A community that brings designers and brand strategists together through creative, inspirational, educational, and thought-provoking content.

Extraordinary Experience #2: 3M and Design.

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Okay, I have something to get off my chest before we get started. It's about time I come clean. I'm an MBA. Yes, one of those. Went to the Carlson School of Management, studied in Manchester England and graduated with some form of honorable mention.

During this adventure, the word innovation came up often and was given the title of "the only sustainable competitive advantage." And design seemed to be closely related, as BusinessWeek put both under the same tab online. This struck me as both interesting and rather important. Figured I would do well if I got as close to one or both words.

So, I started a design firm with a partner, designer Brian Adducci.

Now I continue to wonder, are design and innovation BFFs? Kissing cousins? Significant others? Or estranged lovers?

My view is good friends. They're not attached at the hip, but they do find themselves at the same parties, hangin' with the same crowd and eating at the same hot spots. They're close, but they don't go hand-in-hand skipping down the boulevard.

Why does this make sense? Let's consider 3M. The Minnesota company set out to own the concept of innovation. And, by my standards, it has done an exceptional job of this.
My extraordinary moment came when I discovered these games, Mr. Who and Ventures. Both "gamette's" by 3M. Yes, 3M was once producing board games. And as these gather dust in the Capsule library, their aesthetic actually came back around again and now occupies a rather stylish retro place.

3M has always been an interesting and valuable brand in my world. Prestigious, efficient, well managed, plenty of margin and at least partial owner of the word "innovation." But, what I've also found fascinating is how design isn't an area in which 3M has led. Both disciplines are soft and malleable, both are hard to measure, and as previously discussed, they are closely related in some form. Do you associate great design with 3M? It depends on your definition of design and how close you see design and innovation.
Having a recent opportunity to talk with Mauro Porcini, Head of Global Strategic Design for 3M he provided some thoughtful insights. One: he said the definition of innovation is changing and getting closer to design. Its becoming less about the technological innovation and more about innovating a customer experience. Two: if you define design only as aesthetics, you're not seeing the larger view of design as a way of thinking and how, I quote, "design can put the love back into the corporation."

This will be an interesting discussion by Mauro Porcini, at FUSE in April. I think you'll want to hear more about his vision on design, and I certainly want to know if he thinks design and innovation are kissing cousins, college roommates or estranged lovers.

Aaron Keller
Managing Principal, Capsule