Sharing is Winning: the guts of a successful knowledge-sharing recognition program

I’m a big fan of collaborative games, games where you need to work together to achieve a goal. I play a couple on my iPhone and the best of them combine individual rewards and community involvement. If I contribute 10 archers to the next battle, I get an individual medal and my team captures the Black Knight’s castle. I love that I am being recognized and that the team benefits.I haven’t always been a fan of recognition programs for knowledge-sharing practices. I believe that sharing knowledge requires a change to behaviors. That change is only sustainable in the long-term if team members understand how sharing knowledge benefits them, their customers and the organization.

But I have come around. I now believe that recognition programs can help kick-start the behavioral change, as long as they come with a comprehensive approach to communications, training and measures. So, in the spirit of collaborative game designers everywhere, here’s a successful recognition program and how it works effectively.

The article of the week

Team members suggest an article of the week: the one that was most helpful, best written, easiest to reuse. The managers take the top 5 and have the team vote on the best. Winners receive an gift card. No one can win the article of the week more than once per month and the program ends in 6 months.

Here’s why it’s effective:

  1. It’s almost impossible to game this program. Team members have to nominate each other’s articles and then the process goes through two more selection steps. One person can’t affect the outcome on their own.
  2. The same people don’t win every time. Repeat winners can kill a recognition program. You don’t want your program to remind the team of school when someone was the teacher’s pet.
  3. There’s a defined end point. Recognition programs often fail when they become the “new normal.” Taco Tuesday might originally have been done in recognition of 75% or better article quality scores for the whole team, but the team loses sight of the accomplishment after a while. If the team doesn’t make the grade and tacos are mysteriously absent on Tuesday, the team might not make the connection to the quality score.
  4. The reward is fun and flexible. Not everyone drinks coffee, so a gift card to Starbucks might not be for everyone. At the same time, cash often gets used for something practical and you want to encourage team members to use their reward as a reward.

So, try a collaborative recognition program for your knowledge-sharing program. It can help kick start (or restart) the team’s embrace of the key behaviors for sharing knowledge.

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