3M's Battle Between Efficiency and Creativity--Inside Innovation Issue #5.

You see it again and again: Six Sigma versus Innovation. The latest issue of IN tackles that issue with an indepth look by Brian Hindo at how 3M lost much of its creativity in search of process efficiency and how it got it back.

Some companies—Bank of America, Starwood and others—appear to have found that balance between efficiency and creativity but it’s rare and difficult to achieve. Sometimes they have to double-track the two processes and then link them up somewhere in the organization.

In the past, cost cutting and quality control gave companies a competitive edge. Now they need something more. But managers trained in Six Sigma, which aims to reduce risk and variability, have a difficult time embracing design thinking and innovation because they aim to raise risk and increase variability. Managing that higher risk and variability requires new skills and talents that many sitting managers just don’t have.

The 3M story is an in-depth look at this conundrum, which may be the most important facing business culture today.