But doesn’t the widespread use of rewards suggest… that they work? Why would a failed strategy be preferred?… The negative effects appear over a longer period of time, and by then their connection to the reward may not be at all obvious. The result is that rewards keep getting used.

—Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards1

Whenever managers begin seeking ideas from their employees, the issue of rewards inevitably pops up. The natural, and seemingly the fairest, thing to do is to reward each idea according to its value. This makes eminent sense to everyone and is, in fact, what many organizations end up doing. The most common schemes offer a percentage—usually between 5 and 25 percent—of the first year’s savings or ...

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