Friday 11 June 2010

Playing games with KM incentives

Originally uploaded by gabork

Incentivising KM is a tricky thing. It is very tempting to define the behaviour you would like to see, and give people incentives to demonstrate that behaviour. But however you set up incentives, someone will find a way round them.

Take the company who set each business unit a target number of Best Practices to be submitted every year, in an attempt to overcome intra-company rivalry. And saw a burst of Best Practices, most of them very poor, submitted immediately before the annual deadline (the business units having held them back for the previous months, in case they give away any internal competitive advantage).

Or the company that decided to give a monetary award to the person who's contributions to a knowledge base were most highly rated, which sparked various lobbying campaigns as people mobilised their friends to "vote for them".

Or the company that decided to give a substantial monetary award to anyone who's "best practice" was re-used by another business unit, which prompted a number of cases where the supplier of the best practice colluded with someone who would claim to have reused it, and would subsequently split the award between the two of them.

There are ways to play games with most incentive schemes, and even the egalitarian ones such as Siemens' "ShareMiles" scheme have their drawback, as Siemens found when they withdrew the incentives when they thought the sharing habit had been embedded, only to find that sharing instantly fell away. In a future post I will explain one or two of the schemes that really do work, but most of the others can be "gamed" by intelligent players.

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