Successful innovation is increasingly global in scope and requires intense commitment from everyone in a company. This was the message delivered by George Buckley, CEO of 3M Company, as he was honored last night by USCIB at a gala dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria.
“The kernel of successful innovation is to hire the right people, inspire them, give them a dream and the resources to get the job done, and then stand back,” stated Mr. Buckley. “Like an attentive parent helping a child learn to ride a bicycle, only help them when it looks like they might fall off.”
USCIB presented Mr. Buckley with its International Leadership Award, recognizing top performance in promoting closer international cooperation to support trade and investment, before an audience of global business executives and diplomats. The event marked the award’s 30th anniversary. Recent honorees have included Muhtar Kent of Coca-Cola and Fisk Johnson of SC Johnson.
In his first remarks to the annual award dinner since becoming chairman of USCIB earlier this year, Harold McGraw III, CEO of The McGraw-Hill Companies, himself a 2006 award recipient, urged the incoming Congress to work with the White House to advance a pro-trade agenda.
“As we rebuild our economy in the months ahead, we must take a different course. President Obama has set a worthy goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years. And when the new Congress convenes, Republicans and Democrats need to work together to meet it. They can start by approving our three pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama.”
In his acceptance remarks, Mr. Buckley said success in innovation often means “doubling down” on international investments, which he called “the single critical element in 3M’s ability to emerge from the economic turmoil as a stronger enterprise.”
The 3M chief said successful innovation also has strong roots in a company’s culture. “Innovation and creativity can only flourish in an atmosphere of relative freedom,” he said. “I don’t mean laissez-faire or anarchy, but constructive freedom with interesting guidance of great employees by enlightened managers. That’s how it gets done.” He noted that 3M researchers are encouraged to allocate 15 percent of their time to pursuing their own ideas.
Dinner attendees included previous International Leadership Award recipients George David (United Technologies) and Abraham Katz, USCIB’s president emeritus. A highlight of the gala event was the screening of a video featuring interviews with several past award winners, including James Robinson (American Express), Chad Holliday (Dupont), Frank Popoff (Dow) and Lee Raymond (ExxonMobil). More information on the award dinner and the International Leadership Award is available at https://uscib.org/annual-award-dinner-ud-850.