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Agree that new ideas and revolutionary concepts rarely originate at big employers. They usually are deeply invested in traditional precedent and exhibit "lemmingitis" at best. In bureaucracies where office politics thrive, innovations are threats that can disrupt career advancement. Only after small agile shops succeed dramatically after taking such risks do the dinosaurs scramble to play catch-up with slam-dunk implementation efforts to emulate the new leaders.

Examples abound, such as Prof. Dan Ariely's utter failure to persuade a giant financial institution to relocate honesty pledge signatures from the bottom of their form to the top. His extensive experiments proved that the psychological commitment increased by orders of magnitude when "I'll be honest" decision points appear at the top of the form. But it was new and different...

Something new and different might begin at a start-up, especially if there is no HR person on board. However, even then the founders may want to use plans/programs they are used to from working at their former employers.

Have some innovative comp and benefit ideas
come from the outside? Not sure if I know of any. I've worked for a very big company that looked for innovative ideas. Hard to generalize.


Dan Ariely's example does make an intriguing point about the difficulty of doing "new and different" in a large organization. Not to say it doesn't happen - just that it doesn't typically happen easily.


Agree that what you often run into at start-ups and emerging organization is an interesting hybrid of something new/different with an element of a plan from past experience. Sometimes these "mash-ups" reflect an important stepping stone along the path to new ways of doing things.


Fair point - that there's peril in generalizations, and there are certainly exceptions to the point I make here.

Ideas from the "outside"? As one example, look at all the experimentation with pay transparency that is happening in newer/emerging companies where the founders are committed to doing things differently. The bleeding edge of pay transparency is happening at young organizations who don't have the "albatross" of a long compensation history hanging about their necks.

Thanks all for the comments and observations!

Pay transparency (salaries are public information) has been in existence for many years (over 10 years at least in Michigan) in state universities in several states. I don't think they qualify as "newer/emerging companies." No original thought there with this idea. Perhaps you have other cutting edge ideas, rather than recycled old ones.

Totally right, Blaine. Public sector salaries have been public information for longer than that. I was referring (but wasn't being specific) to the private sector. Many of my colleagues and friends who work in large publicly traded companies are watching what is happening in emerging companies like SumAll (which, along with others like it, has been written about here) to see what lessons they can take from these "upstarts" to help them on their journey toward more pay transparency.

We've written about a number of upstarts here at the Café, trying out new approaches and methods. Many of these, for those of us who've been in the trenches for a long time, do appear to be new versions of ideas and practices that have been around for decades - but have fallen out of favor or faded away. Sometimes innovation - I think - comes from reimagining how we can apply old principles in fresh new ways. I can also appreciate how this would appear to be "recycled" old stuff to many.

I appreciate your interest and passion in debating this. Part of our mission here is to put out a provocative idea or point - and see how it holds up to debate with our fellow professionals. Often this leads to a guest post by a reader who has an opposing viewpoint that they'd like to share with Café readers. Would you consider a guest post challenging my assertion about innovation coming from outside the profession? I'm betting that there are some strong cases of big company innovation that could serve as a compelling counterpoint to my post!

Ann and others. Great topic! Innovations that I am hoping for (that can come from the outside in) involve applying current social science research to our compensation practices. The example that I like to use is the findings on gaming that apply to equity. Participants are not motivated by a long term long shot like equity, as much as by the payoff, when it comes. Then they feel they've been given a gift, and owe the gift giver (their company) their gratitude.

Findings like this, and there are many, should influence our plan design and messaging, but they haven't yet. Shame on us, because there's lots of solid findings out there that we should be discussing and using to innovate (with research to back it up).


Thanks for the great observation! We could certainly do much better in applying current social science research findings and lessons to our work. Part of the challenge - I think and as I've noted here before - may be that few of us are confident in our ability to accurately decipher research papers and journal articles in order to extract the "real world" insights that can help us do our jobs better. We could benefit by better direction and guidance to know where to find and how to apply those lessons!

...and this gets us back to the middle of ... The Hairball!

Habits die hard, change is difficult and is only achieved through doing things differently.

Perhaps we need to make a concerted effort to "Start with the end in mind," commit to breaking away from the Hairball on a regular basis and pop our heads up to see what's happening outside the box....


Great observations and advice for all of us - thanks!

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