Reward the right things

Of all the myths about innovation – and there are countless bookshelves and blogs on the subject – one of the biggies is that you ‘make’ it happen. That’s why so many organisations, big and small, founder on the path to an ‘innovation culture’. “You don’t create a culture. It happens,” say Rework authors Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. “Culture is the by-product of consistent behaviour. If you encourage people to share, then sharing will be built into your culture. If you reward trust, then trust will be built in. If you treat customers right, then treating customers right becomes your culture.” What about ideas, then? How to encourage people to unleash their creativity at work? Whatever you do, don’t pay for them, argues innovation expert, Matt May. Too many organisations “reward the wrong thing in the wrong way,” he adds, citing a study finding that the average number of ideas submitted per employee annually is 100 times greater in Japanese companies than in US companies. Yet the average reward in Japanese companies is hardly five dollars, and it’s not given in cash but as a small gift or recognition. Contrast that with US companies, where the average reward for an accepted idea is nearly $500. Western companies have it backwards. “The research is clear that payment for ideas defeats the purpose, which should be as it is in a start-up: participation by everyone in the company,” May says. “But once a company gets beyond a certain size, the pay-for-ideas mindset kicks in.”



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