Reward & Reputation – Part 2

30 04 2007

In our last post we explored the underlying motivational differences of many people today in volunteer work and the importance of classifying your stakeholder volunteers by motivation type in order to ensure the most appropriate reward and reputation system for your product or service co-creation process. This post will outline a plan for further defining an R&R system.


Note: If you have not reviewed the earlier postings on the “product co-creation process,” please locate the two postings via the search function to the right. This post series will assume you are already familiar with it.


Defining Volunteer Roles, Responsibilities & Benefits

A typical product or service co-creation development team will include the following volunteer participants:

Product idea leader – this individual could be the “idea champion” (who submitted the original product or service concept) works with staff to ensure the project team members complete their assignments according to an approved project plan

  • Possible recognition: product or service concept credit (e.g. could include an attribution of product idea with or without a share in product/service revenue, points toward satisfying or maintaining a professional credential), award from appropriate management (based on market success of product or service) with special recognition presented to the member’s supervisors

Project task participants – these individuals volunteer in areas where they have specific functional experience and expertise to deliver a component (e.g. design, content development, production, marketing/promotion)

  • Possible recognition: highlight noteworthy submissions each month/quarter/year via all forms of communication (web, print,etc), thank you notes for contribution, small gifts, credit toward completion of professional credential or other attribute

Subject matter experts – typically professionals from the sponsoring associations volunteer leadership who have specific expertise and experience to assist through advise or in review of material submitted at key decision “gates” along the product development process

  • Possible recognition: via existing association volunteer leadership incentives



These roles should have clear job descriptions and should be posted with R&R benefits highlighted at the registration point in product phase 2 development.

Creating System Measurements & Metrics to Gauge Contributions & Success

It is important to design a system that assesses both the quantity and quality of contributions of the participants that permits assessment of the initial idea, the work needed to turn it into a deliverable, the individual impact a person made in terms of knowledge, collaboration, or contributed expertise, leadership, and impact to product or service success.

Type of contribution measures might include:

  • Contribution of product or service concept (e.g. resource saving, best practice, etc.)
  • Sharing of knowledge in creation of a product or service (e.g. peer assessment of practical knowledge shared)
  • Impact of one’s contribution (e.g. timeliness, quality and type of contribution)
  • Helpfulness to others (e.g. provide support, advice, etc)
  • Degree to which they met or exceeded their project responsibilities (based on job roles)
  • Degree of success in which the product or service benefit was reused by consumers via post sale evaluation (e.g. time saved, improved quality of a deliverable or product, new solutions or innovations, etc)

Completing such measurements can be designed within the project group or the community via a “peer review” or 360 feedback mechanism.

Collaborative software tools are increasingly adding stronger and more adaptive recognition features into their products as market demands and collaboration success demonstrate the need for such capability. Making peer evaluation easy and fun to do is critical as this must occur at the point of need and not at an arbitrary point in the future when most surveys occur.

One need only recall your last visit to Amazon or Netflix to appreciate the impact that instantaneous “peer review” can have on the customer experience and the ability to collect useful information on important metrics for assessing product or contribution quality.

Note: In 2005, F. Maxwell Harper, Joseph A. Konstan, Xin Li, Yan Chen of the University of Minnesota, USA found in their work “User Motivations and Incentive Structures in an Online Recommender System” that users are motivated to rate by different factors. Some rate to improve their recommendations; others rate because it is fun. However, the results reveal that the implicit fun of rating and list-keeping is a powerful motivator for users to contribute to a system.

Julita Vassileva of the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, Computer Science Department published a research paper on “Adaptive Incentive Mechanism for Sustainable Online Community” in 2005. As part of their research they discovered that offering incentives through a virtual currency called “c-points” (a number of c-points are awarded to a user for rating papers, depending on her reputation of giving high-quality ratings). The c-points can be used to increase the initial visibility of the users’ postings in the search result list. The main incentive mechanism for participation was based on group status hierarchy (gold, silver, and bronze), which was awarded to users depending on the number of their contributions: number of shared links, number of ratings given to these links, number of comments given, and number of reads of the links shared by others.


Requirements Definition


Here are some suggestions on developing a set of requirements for creating a Reward and Reputation system:

  • Define the type of contributions and the underlying participant motivations
  • Collect registered volunteer data that captures their needs and interests
  • Map their motivations to construct groupings that reflect in the reward system
  • Create specific roles and responsibilities for team participants
  • Use the right technology that permits collaboration and manage the means of measuring “peer-reviewed” contributions in the proper context of where and when a participant desires to rate something
  • Provide easy to follow training with regular communication on the value of “peer review”
  • Follow through to ensure project participants are meeting their evaluation requirements

In the last post of this series, we shall examine the phenomenon of financial reward sharing as part of product co-creation.



Compelling Storytelling through Design

27 04 2007

Elegant yet powerful in its ability to present public information, graphically illustrates the value of design to help people care about information that might be otherwise hard to understand – the impact of global climate change on all of us.

It is also an excellent example of how a profession (in this case graphic designers) can get together to use their talent to help motivate people to action.

Reward & Reputation – The Currency of Customer Involvement in Product Co-Creation – Part 1

26 04 2007

The rising trend chart above is a real-time traffic report on the use of the term “co-create” by bloggers over the past 360 days from Technorati.

While product and service co-creation practices are in the “early adopter” acceptance stage among organizations seeking to improve the customer experience, it would be useful to examine a critical component of success that makes this approach work as an “open source” strategy, namely designing a good reward and reputation system for your participants.

Note: If you have not reviewed the earlier postings on the “product co-creation process,” please locate the two postings via the search function to the right. This post series will assume you are already familiar with it.

Appreciating Motivational Differences Among Stakeholders

As we progress through our own professional development we learn that each of us have different personality profiles and learning styles. So it should come as no surprise that we are all motivated differently to share our time, energy and other resources on projects coordinated by others. We need to understand very clearly the needs, expectations and outcomes of the target audience we hope to engage in the product co-creation process with appropriate rewards and means of managing reputation that supports the diversity of motives specified.

What are the possible motivations for people to contribute as volunteers? Does it change among generations?

One of the biggest misnomers is that the era of the volunteer has ended (The Bowling Alone premise that the sense of community and participation is over.)

This is only partially true. What is important to remember is that it isn’t that people are less interested in volunteerism, rather it is the construction of the opportunity to participate that has changed. This also addresses the question of generational differences.

I am part of the US Boomer generation (with ego in check). Professionals in this cohort have engaged in the traditional model of volunteerism and in many cases devised a blizzard of policies, procedures and rules of engagement that bred a uniquely closed culture of “follow along to get along.” As the following studies will show, this whole model of engagement must change. The process must become more open and transparent to the members at large or risk losing the NetGeneration (aka Millenials) who (to put it mildly) chafe at this model.

What must be understood is that traditional “closed, command structures” of engagement (top-down) is being replaced or at least modified to become more of an “open, distributed structure” (bottom-up). The former is more rigid and slow to adapt. The latter more flexible and responsive. The latter is also far better at understanding the customer because they are actually engaged in product or service development.

In 2002, the Boston Consulting Group completed a study on open source software hackers to learn their motivations behind the tremendous amount of time and resources they devote to volunteering to write software for free. Here is what BCG learned:

  • Average age was 34 (this number is surely to become lower as Millenials join in larger numbers) and respondents were from around the world
  • They volunteered significant personal time
  • Central premise to be creative
  • Motivators ranged from personal enjoyment, apply and improve their professional skills, freedom, further the movement and/or profession
  • Of no importance was to attack proprietary software companies (a big surprise)
  • Strong identification with the process and engagement of open systems and working in collaborative teams online

BCG created a audience segmentation from the survey based on these motivations which is a good model to consider as you determine your own stakeholder need profile:

  • Believers represented 33% – motivated behind the cause of open source software
  • Fun Seekers made up 25% – motivated because it was their avocation or intellectual stimulation
  • Skill Enhancers composed 22% – motivated as a means of improving their professional abilities
  • Professionals totaled 22% – motivated by work-related project deliverables

These results (along with the research conducted by author and speaker Don Tapscott and others which maps out the needs and expectations of the NetGeneration/Millenials) suggest the construction of a reward and reputation (R&R) system that can fulfill these needs. For example, you’ll need to consider whether you need:

  • Different rewards for each audience type.
    • Believers – R&R should be cause-oriented (intrinsic motivators are big with this group and include the project itself with cause-focused considerations made throughout the product or service design process)
    • Fun Seekers – R&R should permit this group to engage their personal abilities at the right point in the product or service development process (e.g. if I like to blog and am good at it maybe I can help develop the promotion plan to create buzz around the product or service launch)
    • Skill Developers – R&R can be the same as the previous group but most importantly provide means to enhance “professional” status (e.g. formal recognitions, opportunity to list their work as a professional credit,etc)
    • Professionals – R&R must offer clear and direct results-orientation to “their work issues and needs” (e.g. end product or service or through the collaborative process of product or service design they benefit in a direct and measurable way)
  • When to capture this information – (e.g. by asking them which stakeholder group they might most identify during the sign up phase) will help you determine how many of what group motivator type you have.
  • Different roles require different R&R – you’ll likely have product idea leaders, project team leaders, project participants, subject matter expert so plan on richer rewards or recognition based on time and resource expended

In our next post in this series on Reward & Recognition we’ll examine suggestions for creating such a plan and also explore some additional research findings in this area.

MIT Sloan – “Products Often Ignore Customer Needs”

20 04 2007

This story helps to explain why you get 400 cable channels when all you really want is ten… and it confirms the research study by Bain & Company from our earlier post which indicated that business executives felt they didn’t know enough about their own customers needs.

Now we learn why…

MIT’s Sloan School of Management’s business journal says “knowing what consumers want from a product – is often ignored.” Businesses focus on product designs that are irrelevant to customer buying decisions leading to situations in the words of the late Peter Drucker, “the customer rarely buys what the business thinks it sells them.”

Just another argument for involving your customer and member throughout the product or service development process.

Cradle to Cradle – Intelligent Product Design Explored

19 04 2007


As we discussed in an earlier post, Cradle to Cradle is all about “intelligent product design” where product value and production complements the ecosystem.

This link outlines five separate case studies presented by Bill McDonough covering the following industries and companies:

  • Carpet: BASF, USA
  • Textile: Victor Innovatex, Canada
  • Automotive: Ford Motor Company, USA
  • Office Furniture: Herman Miller, USA
  • Activewear: Nike, USA

Business 3.0 – Examples of Efforts Underway

19 04 2007

Steelcase’s Answer product line received Cradle to Cradle certification and was included as a Fast Company “Fast 50” profit making solutions designed with sustainable business in mind.

Comprehensive article titled “Business 3.0” in last month’s Fast Company along with this year’s Top 50 Business Ideas.

Kudos to FC for letting their own readers create and vote on their own innovations list.

The Importance of Good Design

18 04 2007

Bill McDonough, FAIA presented at TED (video) to explain the groundbreaking work his company MBDC is performing that may help us redesign our businesses to work more efficiently, productively and profitably with Nature. You can read more about Bill and his firms in the links to the right under social responsibility.



Run, do not walk to the store and buy his book “Cradle to Cradle.” It may be the most important thing you do for yourself this year.

The book is a manifesto calling for the transformation of industry through ecologically intelligent design. McDonough and his co-author Michael Braungart (founder of the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency in Hamburg) make the case that an industrial system that “takes, makes and wastes” can become a creator of goods and services that generate ecological, social and economic value.

They argue that the conflict between industry and the environment is not an indictment of commerce but an outgrowth of purely opportunistic design. When designers employ the intelligence of natural systems—the effectiveness of nutrient cycling, the abundance of the sun’s energy—they can create products, industrial systems, buildings, even regional plans that allow nature and commerce to fruitfully co-exist.

You may be surprised to learn that the Chinese government recently signed an agreement to adopt these methods throughout China and hired McDonough’s firm to help them (re)design their cities as well as learn to apply C2C in their future products and services.

The good news is that we can stop worrying about China as a future resource plunderer and polluter. The bad news, of course, is that the cost efficiencies, productivity and brand value their future carbon neutral industries generate will put the US economy on its ear. Because the Chinese (or any company who employ Cradle to Cradle design) will generate better products with fewer externality costs which will increase future production costs which will be passed on to the consumer due to impending carbon cap penalties.

So here we are talking about carbon caps which simply make us less competitive under the old business models that ignore good design, while others around the world (Europe too) have embraced the challenge of “good business design” that will support profits and ecology simultaneously.

Does that make good business sense?