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If traditional incentives can have a negative impact, what's the workaround?

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 11 January 2010



If traditional incentives can have a negative impact, what's the workaround?
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 115
Posted DateMonday 11 January 2010 11:41 GMT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen
CategoriesMeasures, Targets and Rewards

Video: David Gurteen on Incentivizing Knowledge Management

David Gurteen on Incentivizing Knowledge Management: David Gurteen talks on how incentivizing knowledge management kills intrinsic motivation and negatively affects true value of the practice. This interview was conducted by Alakh Asthana of eClerx Services at KM India 2009 in Chennai.

Media Information: Image

In this interview at KM India, I was asked for my views on "Incentivizing Knowledge Management". Well I explained the reasons for not doing it but did not suggest an alternative approach which was picked up in one of the comments by "firetangent". Here is my response.

So if traditional incentives can have a negative impact, what's the workaround?

First stop using them; they don't work and do great harm.

The problem with traditional incentives, rewards and talk of motivating people, engaging and empowering them etc. is that this approaches the situation from a mindset of "doing things to people". It says "they are lazy people; we know best and we will find ways of manipulating them to do what we would like them to do".

People see through this; they resist; they become cynical and it actually makes matters worse!

Here is my answer "Stop doing things to people and start to work with them!" Rather than "Hello I am here to help you!" (Oh yea!) Take the attitude "Hello, lets talk and see how we can better work together."

Its that simple!

But there is secondary issue here. Asking "how do we incentivise people" - makes the big assumption that they need to be incentivised. Yes, they may not be doing what you would like them to be doing but how do you know that the reason is lack of motivation. You don't. If there are problems then you will only find them out by sitting down and talking with them!

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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