Martin Belam Space shuttles and parrots: Providing incentives for collaboration and knowledge sharing
Jinfo Blog

Tuesday, 20th March 2012

By Martin Belam


Can prizes encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing on the corporate intranet? ConocoPhillips and BP Amoco seem to think so.


There is a lovely social media programme running in the US at the moment. NASA are inviting 30 of their social media followers to go to a NASA Social, which is “an informal meeting of people who engage with NASA social media accounts. Socials provide NASA followers with the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at NASA facilities and events and speak with scientists, engineers, astronauts and managers”.

This particular meet-up is to greet the arrival of the retired space shuttle Discovery at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. It got me thinking about how you could use social inside and outside the organisation to encourage participation.

OK, we don’t all have a space shuttle arriving as an incentive, but lots of us have access to behind-the-scenes information and exclusive access that could be attractive to users. Can you use social competitions to bring outsiders in – offering tours or discounts or special access. Within the business, can you encourage uptake of your information service by offering usage-based prizes?

ConocoPhillips have gone even further with their intranet – linking bonuses to the ability to collaborate on the intranet. According to Matt Wilson at, the company prioritises rewarding people based on their ability to share answers and ask questions on the intranet, rather than the ability to horde knowledge.

The Knowledge Management for Legal Professionals group on LinkedIn have also recently been discussing this approach, with Brian Bawden asking about whether collaboration can be encouraged by giving badges or emblems to users on the corporate intranet.

One of the replies pointed to this lovely story told by Chris Collison about BP Amoco. There a reward scheme called "steal with pride" gave the monthly winner a real life badge – a soft toy parrot. It sparked conversation sitting on the winner's desk and was awarded for taking a business idea from one area of the enterprise and applying it to your own to improve performance. There was a cash incentive too, but it sounds like a fascinating way to socialise rewarding collaboration.

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