In a stagnant economy, it’s risky to do nothing, so innovation becomes more important than ever. “The only way you’re going to get out of this funk is to out-innovate and outcompete everyone else,” says Stanford business school professor Jeffrey Pfeffer. But it’s not enough just to innovate—these days you have to innovate quickly. Consider the case of 3M, long known as one of the most innovative companies in the world. More than a year ago, it launched a program designed to fast-track good ideas. “The idea is to make investments appropriate to the likely return on those investments,” says 3M project manager Steve Saxe. A rule of thumb he uses is “2x/3x”—two times the idea velocity at three times the commercial success. “The key word is velocity. It’s not just speed but speed with direction.”

Fast Company May 2003