A Kudos Culture

28 05 2009

People want to be recognized and rewarded for their thoughts, ideas, and contributions.” Few statements will garner less argument than that. Yet, when we think about “rewarding collaboration“, people tend to gravitate only to material rewards, which most of us don’t have a whole lot of power to change. However, when participating in collaborative environments, it is especially important to remember that psychological rewards are often just as powerful and behavior-re-enforcing as a restaurant gift card or a cash bonus.

People like to feel appreciated

At the risk of noting the most obvious observation ever written, I will go out on a limb and say that people like to feel important. Thinking back to sociology/psychology class, Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs hits on the people’s desire to reach levels of satisfaction beyond material reward to self-actualization. Similarly, Frederick Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory argues that job satisfaction is most closely tied to “motivating” factors like recognition, personal growth, and challenging work (as opposed to “hygiene factors” such as salary and company policy, which contribute more to dissatisfaction, but do not give positive satisfaction).

Getting out of the realm of theory, it is my experience that recognizing people’s contributions, even peer-level recognition, is a great way to reinforce and encourage collaborative participation. Just knowing that our work is useful/interesting/helpful for our peers in many cases is enough to encourage sharing inside of organizations. In environments where it’s difficult to know if people are actually deriving value from work–i.e. most knowledge-creation jobs–positive recognition of utility and value is an important thing.

In particular, I want to call out two groups of people to get more in the habit of recognizing valuable contributions:

  • Lurkers: The lurker is a much-maligned creature. Even the name rings of someone stalking from the shadows. Forget the Paredo Princple/80-20 rule for a moment: if there were no lurkers, there’d be no audience! The lurker is an under-appreciated being (I suspect most so in environments without adequate metrics: imagine if newspapers couldn’t detect the number of subscribers and instead calculated readership based on the number of letters to the editor that they received). But in order to encourage people to continue providing information/content, sometimes the lurker has to leave the shadows. Lurkers should realize that there is value in simply thanking a poster if they find information/insight that is useful, even if the lurker doesn’t think he has something substantive to contribute.
  • I see you lurkin;...with your lurkin self

    I see you lurkin'...with your lurkin' self

  • Question-askers: Readers of this blog know that I am a fan of telling people what you want from them. I am a strong believer that asking the question that you want to have answered is the best way to get the answer you want (this post is so full of the obvious, it’s ridiculous). But when we get responses, many times we don’t always take 15 seconds to thank people for their participation/contributions. This is absolutely critical to continued participation, especially in a professional environment.

Reinforcing collaboration

I think that it is important for organizations, in order to build a more collaborative culture, to build a “kudos culture”. People seek recognition and appreciation from collaboration and sharing: so thank people for contributions and reciprocate! Commenting, re-tweeting, sharing links, and answering questions are all valuable behaviors that demonstrate value and utility of information.



6 responses

28 05 2009
Ryan Buckner

Lurking 🙂

28 05 2009
Daron Unholz

Just an outstanding post, Justin. You did such a great job with it… the theme, the graphics employed, the judicially altered use of a great rap line from “Get Yo’ Weight Up.” I’m ecstatic with this deliverable. You deserve a gold star of some type.

29 05 2009
Dave Horn

Daron, overall that was an outstanding comment on an outstanding post. It could have used some visuals, but I realize that you were limited to ASCII so I understand why you went with this kind of presentation – letting the content shine through rather than the technical bells and whistles. While not the approach I personally would have gone with, you have some altogether solid results.

20 07 2009
David Friedman

I’m a new reader of your blog. Nice post!!

28 07 2009
Kate Crawshaw

From a much maligned lurker, thank you for contextualising the role in such a positive way. My brain is now spinning with possibilities on how to engage myself and others!

1 07 2011
Stuart Bailey

The way you talk about collaboration is fantastic. I’m launching a Collaboration tool in our business, but it’s proving very very difficult to get ‘buy in’ and contribution from higer level manages… Do you have any suggestions which could help me achieve faser adoption? Or do I just keep on at them? lol



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