Social Media Drives Creativity Inside The Enterprise

Employees surprise 3M (and themselves) with a video ‘gift’




Have you seen this video? 

Who did this? Why? The description doesn’t divulge much:

17 teams of 3M employees from around the world volunteered their personal time to create this video, a SURPRISE ‘gift’ to other 3M employees. We did this on our own, working ‘undercover.’ The video was released in a viral way inside the company on October, 2010. We’re now putting it on YouTube so we can share it with friends, family and retirees.

A year ago I saw a ‘lip-dub’ video from the Shorewood High School. Lisa Foote (@footenotes), a local, non-3M doyenne of mobile computing, ‘tweeted’ about it. I watched the video several times, transfixed. It is very uplifting and spirited. I could not watch it without smiling.

An entire high school — jocks, geeks, ‘emos,’ cheerleaders and even the swim team – filmed a single session in one shoot, backwards. Yes, I was taken with the students’ enthusiasm, but I was also amazed at the coordination. I wondered how so many students could cooperate together in five minutes and build something so brilliant.

Then the idea: could employees at my company, 3M, do something like that? Would we ever lip-synch through hallways? Could we be as brilliant as the high-school students were?

3M is like that school in many ways: it has ‘hallways’ (countries, business units) and a diverse population of 75,000 employees, worldwide. We’re pretty brilliant, too. 3M has a reputation for innovation and collaboration. The opportunity was there.

So, how to coordinate a company-wide, volunteer effort?

We relied on internal social media tools, specifically Lotus Connections and an internally-developed video sharing tool called 3M DIY Video Library. Connections’ Communities allowed for private discussion and debate. Connections’ Wiki managed group documents for project plans, team pages, storyboards and music strategy. There was a private community blog for announcements, status updates and weekly newsletters. Teams uploaded drafts of their video segments for comment (and praise) from the other teams to the video library.

I should add that all effort was ‘after-hours,’ voluntary and unsanctioned. Most of the seventy-five people have never created a video before. Few were familiar with Connections.



We sent an anonymous video invitation with very little information. This intrigued the kind of people we sought.


But those who accepted the private invitation “will you join us?” were willing to teach themselves.

Daniel Pink says employees will accomplish incredible things if given Autonomy, the chance to Master technique, and they believe in the Purpose of a challenge. The exceptional 3M employees in the project proved Pink right. People taught themselves how to create videos. Many used their after-hours time, personal holidays and vacation. They spent their own money, all to ‘surprise 3M.’

The team released the final video behind the firewall in October, 2010. Fellow employees, including executives, were delighted. And we now have permission to publish it on YouTube.


Project objectives:

  •  Surprise the company
  •  “Bottoms – up”
  •  Raise the spirit of each person who watches it
  •  Make 3M executives aware of how ‘cool’ the employees are
  •  Prove collaboration can happen with the social tools. Teach innovative people how to use them.


Other project facts:

  •  3M employees, only.
  •  All video had to internally developed.
  •  Oversight was team-only.
  •  McKnight had to be in each video segment, somewhere
  •  Theme: show McKnight how far we’ve come
  •  Encouraged: subtlety, things off to the side, mystery, exuberance
  • 75 people from the US, UK, Poland, Russia, Italy, Canada, Dubai, China and Singapore
  •  Most of the team members don’t know each other, have never met, and probably never will – in person.


I’ll be honest and tell you I was worried when the project launched. But I think we did pretty well for a bunch of amateurs. Don’t you?








  1. What a great story John.. Thanks for sharing and I think the video turned out great as well.

  2. John, when I first watched this, I should have known you had a personal hand in it. As a non-employee of 3M, it was very enlightening as well as entertaining. Congrats to everyone!

  3. The topic that your blog deals with demands loads of research. Thanks to you who has provided the intricate information in simple words.

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