Published03. May. 2018

McKnight: Hire Good People and Leave Them Alone

Volker Gertler, General Business Manager, Health Information Systems, Western Europe, on innovation, leadership and on the investment of people and technology


With more than 100 years’ experience and more than 90,000 people to draw upon, 3M remains as a company that has never forgotten how it all began – with a culture of perseverance, ingenuity and dedication to innovative thinking. Innovation is key in driving 3M to multifaceted successes in the past years. The organization’s 46 different technology platforms have transcended borders, connected, and synchronized businesses to foster new and exciting technologies, products and opportunities. 3M will continue to lead and create relevant and practical products that improve the present for a better future. Combined with a company culture that promotes initiative, 3M’s leadership in streamlined operations and commitment to quality are the reasons why 3M ranks amongst the most innovative and respected companies in the world today. This particular leadership is known as the 3M McKnight Management Principle, named after William L. McKnight, the chairman of the board from 1949 to 1966.



3M promotes a working environment where people are motivated to be creative and to explore. This requires a degree of tolerance towards different working methods and the occasional misstep. This principle gives researchers the opportunity to do their job and the freedom to explore far beyond any expectations – a concept that is vital to continual growth.

“Hire good people and leave them alone,” said William L. McKnight. “Delegate responsibility and encourage men and women to exercise their initiative. Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it’s essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.” 3M actively seeks to promote his principles in our ongoing efforts to solve tomorrow’s problems.

We value a unique career journey and want each employee to learn and grow in a challenging yet nurturing environment. We understand the important role that relationship-based development can play in helping employees navigate 3M culture, environment, opportunities and more. This helps to:

  • Support and accelerate development at 3M.
  • Improve job satisfaction and retention.
  • Facilitate knowledge sharing.
  • Provide opportunities to network and build relationships.

At 3M, wisdom is shared. We share and combine our knowledge through mentorship and storytelling. We define mentoring as a unique relationship in which a mentor (a more experienced person) helps a mentee (a less experienced person) with their development in a particular area. It starts with an idea, and then innovation brings forth that idea onto fruition, which helps the organization cope up with today’s digital era. People’s initiatives and digital capabilities are two key components for a successful organization.



Throughout 3M, our people are dedicated to improve the lives of individuals through our technologies and products. Our commitment to capturing the needs of customers and communities constitutes the essence of our creativity. It enables us to translate these needs into more than 55,000 innovative solutions touching virtually every aspect of modern life. Digitalization, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence are the megatrends in almost all businesses and will drive innovation. The speed will exponentially increase, and all of us need to be prepared. For the Health Care IT segment, the availability of data and the interpretation of information using semantic technologies will offer new opportunities. For example, interpreting structure and none-structured text out of the electronic patient records will help providers and service organizations identify gaps to improve the quality of care, and to ensure the right resource allocation. Data will remain the gold in healthcare. The technology seems to be having no borders, but for sure we have to see as well our responsibility to use them sensitive and ensure compliance and privacy.

Throughout 3M, our people are encouraged to stretch their imagination and apply innovative ideas from other business applications. It is a daily task to continuously innovate and aim for greater goals. The challenge is to never go plateau after a successful venture.



Learning is a continuous process. Always look forward and stay close to customers and universities, where the next generation of high skilled people is educated. Research and Development is the heartbeat of 3M. We invest about 5.4% of our sales back into the science that makes 3M strong. That investment helps produce more than 3,000 patents each year and a steady stream of unique products for customers.

Building value for our customers is our central goal. Contributing to their success is the way we do business. Operational excellence fuelled by 3M Lean Six Sigma makes it all possible. 3M Lean Six Sigma helps us deliver with value built in – to every product, transaction and interaction along the way.



The next challenge for leaders at 3M is the unique 15% Culture, which encourages employees to set aside a portion of their work time to proactively cultivate and pursue innovative ideas that excite them. Coordinating day-to-day responsibilities versus offering the space to try something new and different, think creatively and challenge the status quo is key to keep the organization innovative.

3M will be attending IndustryForum Healthcare in Germany on the 20th and 21st of November 2018