INNOVATION CULTURE: THE RIGHT WAY TO REWARD AND PUNISH

scott-anthonyBy Scott Anthony

One of the most common complaints of executives inside large companies is the challenge of recognizing and rewarding successful innovators. It seems like a Herculean task, as the best innovators can choose to work for startups and receive unbounded rewards. How can a large company–especially a publicly traded one–compete? The key is to thoughtfully blend the unique rewards at their disposal with a failure-tolerant culture.

People who have chosen to work for larger, more established companies have already chosen to trade off financial upside for stability and the opportunity to work with a larger group. Provide other incentives that give people a sense of autonomy, allow them to master their trade, and give them a sense of purpose.

Maybe someone who brings a great idea forward can stick with it as it winds through the organization. Or get a chance to work on an exciting new product launch. Public recognition matters, too. One media company holds an innovation awards ceremony that they treat as seriously as the Oscars–people get decked out and fete internal success stories. Winning is a big deal. It’s just one way for companies to shine a spotlight on success.

Encouraging innovation isn’t just about what companies reward–it is what they choose to punish.Companies need to be more tolerant of failure. The most successful businesses come out of a process of trial-and-error experimentation. Failure and false steps are natural parts of that process. What kind of message does it send if you punish people who take well-thought-out risks that don’t pan out?

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