Fame Envy

Natalie Portman with the Oscar statue. Photo Credit: US Army
Natalie Portman with the Oscar statue. Photo Credit: US Army

It is said that everybody is searching for its fifteen minutes of fame. It can be true. This is a psychological matter. People have a need of recognizing from their friends and colleagues. Providing some minutes of fame can be a good driver to promote innovation because this is gratifying for the people. Some years ago, I was a member of a committee to select the best ideas of the employees in a large corporation with the aim to give public acknowledgment to people that went farther than their job position duties offering their best ideas to improve the organization.

One of the main things that I learnt with that task was that it is very easy to reward a good idea however it is very hard to discard any idea, either good or bad. This is well known in Hollywood. That is the reason why the academy changed the formula to announce the Oscars “And the Winner is” by a more politically correct one: “And the Oscar goes to”.

To justify a prize is easy; however, a discard must be very well justified. This is not a problem in the case of the Oscars because a high number of members of the academy vote without a required justification. The virtues and vices of democracy are supported by this simple fact. While a judge must justify a decision, the decision of a majority never needed to be justified.

Although innovation must be a matter of the whole staff, innovation promotion is a matter of leadership instead of a matter of people. The directorate has the responsibility to drive the business to certain strategic positioning, and this cannot be in the hands of the staff. To decide which idea fits better the development of the company is a matter of strategic thinking instead of a matter of wide voting. This fact implies that a decision of directorate could be driven understanding the situation of the company in its environment, with independence of the quality of ideas.

This situation can produce a conflict between two aims of the action: one of them is to take advantage of the ideas that fit better the needs of the company and another one is to increase the motivation of people to participate in the innovation activity. People can think that their ideas has higher quality than the selected one, because they are far from high level management and they do not know the strategic vision of the board of directors.

How can we solve this situation? Some people defend that employees should receive some kind of explanation about why their ideas were discarded. Personally, I prefer the solution with political correctness chosen by the Oscar Awards academy. It is better no explanation and to transmit the idea to the people that the quality of their ideas was not evaluated. There is not a winner. There is only someone that have reached the public acknowledge this year. The evaluated thing was the benefits for the company that the idea can provide and it is nothing to do with its creativity. They can reach their public acknowledgement in the next years. The justification must be done, and it must be very precise, but it is only for the senior directorate that supervises the work of the evaluators, instead of the staff.

When there is a winner there can be envy destroying the process of motivation. When the Oscar goes to somebody the envy is more limited. Actors and actresses have an ego excessively large in order to be damage with a healthy competition and, which employee does not want to be like a movie star?


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