Managerial Recognition as an Incentive for Innovation Platform Engagement: A Field Experiment and Interview Study at NASA

Posted: 19 Nov 2019 Last revised: 1 Dec 2019

See all articles by Jana Gallus

Jana Gallus

UCLA Anderson

Olivia Jung

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Karim R. Lakhani

Harvard Business School - Technology and Operations Management Group; Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science; Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Date Written: November 12, 2019

Abstract

Incentivizing employees to engage with novel innovation mechanisms and contribute to collective problem-solving can be difficult. We run a field experiment with NASA (N=11,192) to study two widely used classes of non-financial incentives: recognition (of managers, peers, online platform participants), and the prospect of advancing the organizational mission. Our analysis shows that managerial recognition has a significant positive effect on employees’ engagement with the problem-solving platform. The other incentives are not found to be effective. A follow-up interview study suggests that (1) managerial recognition works through signaling the platform’s legitimacy in a context of uncertainty, as well as through offering managerial attention and appreciation; (2) recognition interacts with workers’ job proximity to the organization’s mission and can be particularly motivating for workers with distant job functions; (3) organizations where the appeal of the organizational mission is already strong may face difficulties in using the mission as an instrumental incentive.

Suggested Citation

Gallus, Jana and Jung, Olivia and Lakhani, Karim R., Managerial Recognition as an Incentive for Innovation Platform Engagement: A Field Experiment and Interview Study at NASA (November 12, 2019). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 20-059. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3487992 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3487992

Jana Gallus

UCLA Anderson ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.janagallus.com/

Olivia Jung

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Karim R. Lakhani (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School - Technology and Operations Management Group ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6741 (Phone)

Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science ( email )

1737 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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