An Absurd Reward

Dr. Robert Maurer wrote a powerful book entitled, One Small Step Can Change Your Life. The primary focus of the book is to offer insights on how individuals and organizations should place an intense focus on achieving small goals-not just trying to make major wholesale changes. Large goals can seem overwhelming and defeating while taking small steps is more manageable and also easier to quickly reward.

In his book he references Toyota’s "employee suggestion" program. According to Maurer, Toyota receives over 1.5 million suggestions each year from employees and holds an annual program to award the person who provided the single best suggestion. Their reward? A pen. No, not a gold-plated or diamond studded writing instrument-just a pen. Why on earth would people be willing to share their ideas to win a pen? Maybe it's not about the pen-maybe it's the fact that these same employees know that Toyota really believes in their ability to see what needs to happen in the organization for improvement. Maybe they have actually seen some of their suggestions implemented in some area of the company. They trust that the time spent sending in their suggestion is worth the effort.

The "nugget" for organizations is to remember that when managers, supervisors and other leaders within the organization let others know their input is needed and valued, employees will often respond with ideas that can really work-if the workable ideas are put into practice. And rewarding them in some small is merely icing on the cake-or should we say ink in the pen. 1.5 million suggestions can't be wrong.