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3M's Post-it Flag Highlighter

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3M researcher David Windorski worked with a team of local university students to find new applications for Post-it® Flags in their studying activities. Student suggestions reinforced some ideas Windorski had been working on in his lab. Students said that combining Post-it® Flags with colored felt-tip highlighters could be used as bookmarks on key pages in their textbooks that they highlighted. Windorski and the team worked on a few different prototypes: Post-it® Flags on top, on the side, and so on. He knew the basic idea was sound, but the designs were not. Windorski then hit on his breakthrough idea: Put small Post-it® Flags inside pens and highlighters that students use! After much engineering, consumer testing, and evaluation, the result was the launch of 3M’s Post-it® Flag Highlighter and Post-it® Flag Pen in June 2003—a credit to global cross-functional collaboration among research, manufacturing and marketing. In these two 3M products, the pen and highlighter components were sourced worldwide. The new product development team then coordinated the commercialization for a global introduction.

The final, marketable Post-it® Flag Highlighter version is shown in the photo below.


But earlier prototypes were first mocked up in cardboard, then modeling clay, then components screwed together—a far cry from the final product you probably see in your student bookstore. By the end of 2004, 3M had sold over a million units of the two new products. Companies can learn from 3M about Idea generation. Business researchers now emphasize that firms must actively involve customers and suppliers in the product development process. This often means focusing on what the new product will actually do for them rather than simply what they want.

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YouSigma. (2008). "3M's Post-it Flag Highlighter." From

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