Ralf HallerRalf Haller May 6, 2011

For best results forget the bonus in any idea management program

I am still puzzled to experience in practically all meetings where we talk about running idea management programs how deeply entrenched the common believe is that people need BONUSES to do anything good at all for the company or organization.

When I confront them with the fact that since now more than 40 years field research has shown and you can read in two dozen (by now probably three dozen) books that it has been scientifically proven that monetary incentives do not work and this is true in any circumstance mostly in areas where you look for creativity so in idea management projects, they have a hard time believing.

Alfie Kohn has already in 1992 summarized this nicely in the New York Times and also in a Harvard Business Review article¬†Why incentive plans cannot work. The German business management guru Rheinhard Sprenger just wrote about it in a bestselling book “Mythos Motivation” and copied Alfie Kohn’s article practically unchanged and word by word even (albeit in German). Even when you confront people with these facts they remain sceptical. This should not surprise me though thinking about it some more since entire companies are doing this bonus/incentive practice forever and being told that this does not work is hard to believe for them as it turns their common thinking upside down.

Now one can make mistakes, many of them if you try out lots of new things frequently, that is normal and even good as we learn from mistakes the most. But to continue with something that cannot work and that you were told so is for sure wrong should have in my opinion consequences for the people still doing this or not changing anything at all about it. By closing your eyes you approve that this is done wrong and make yourself responsible as well.