Catalyze Innovation that Advances Health

Recognition: Research

Martins and Terblanche (2003) describe how organizational policies and practices such as recognition systems reflect on organization’s overall ethos and values, and help to legitimize and promote opportunities for innovation. They note that when creative behavior is rewarded, it shows that it is valued by the organization and a model of optimal behavior thus emerges.

Recognition does not necessarily need to be monetary. Dombrowski and colleagues’ (2007) research suggested that monetary incentives for innovation are on the decline. Indeed, there is increasing evidence that performance related pay is not a primary driver, and might even act as a disincentive, for innovation (Kerr 1995; Dokin 1998; Day et al., 2002; and Beugelsdijik 2008). One of the findings from a 2008 Harvard University colloquium of innovation leaders and experts was the observation that “asking questions about a project and providing even a word of sincere recognition can be more motivating than money” (Amabile and Khaire, 2008). A Cabinet Office study (Mulgan and Albury, 2003) concluded that

“…additional monetary reward is less powerful as a motivator for innovation in the public sector; recognition, especially by peers, is more effective”.

Hornsby, Kuratko and Zahra (2002) reviewed a range of research suggesting, among other things, that recognition should clearly tie to organizational goals in order to effectively encourage collective activity. However, if leaders desire innovation, recognition cannot be only about achieving organizational targets set by others external to the organization. Research conducted by Henley Management College (Higgs and Hender, 2004) confirmed previous findings that creative managers are intrinsically motivated, whereas non-creative managers are more motivated by extrinsic factors.

Through her research on creativity in high-tech firms in the US, Amabile (1998) identified the “Intrinsic Motivation Principle of Creativity: people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself-and not by external pressures.” Kohn’s (1990) extensive review of the literature came to a similar conclusion. Hornsby and colleagues (2002) highlight the importance of intrinsic rewards, which they consider to be primarily orchestrated by middle managers. These might include increased autonomy and opportunities for personal and professional development that support the innovation process.

The University of Birmingham’s Health Services Management Centre (Williams, de Silva and Ham, 2008) concluded that innovators in the NHS appreciated both recognition and practical support for continuing their efforts (e.g., opportunities to take part in national and international innovation networks or visit examples of innovation elsewhere). They also noted that most NHS staff has an intrinsic desire to be seen as “on the leading edge of performance” and suggested that “the NHS could do more to appeal to this desire”.


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NOTE: All of the information on the Elements of a Culture of Innovation, Assessment, and Tips for Leaders were adapted from Maher, Lynne, Paul Plsek, Jenny Price, and Mark Mugglestone, (2010), “Creating the Culture for Innovation: A Practical Guide for Leaders” published by the National Health Service (NHS) Institute for Innovation and Improvement in the United Kingdom