Winning Best New Mistake is a signal distinction at SurePayroll, a $23 million online payroll-processing company based in Glenview, Illinois. The company, which was recently acquired by Paychex, celebrates the end of its busy season with a ceremony called the SureChoice Awards, of which Best New Mistake is the breathlessly awaited culmination. Employees nominate themselves; management receives about 40 proud admissions of error each year. There are three winners (gold, silver, and bronze), and the perpetrator of the gold gaffe receives $400—twice as much as do winners of the company’s other, more traditional, awards.
"We underline the new part," says SurePayroll’s president, Michael Alter. "There’s no award for making the same mistake twice." Last year’s winner tried to streamline a process for customers and ended up frustrating them instead.
Alter dreamed up Best New Mistake to remind staff that, in a culture of innovation, failure is always an option. "If you don’t encourage people to take risks, then you end up with incrementalism forever," says Alter. "Mistakes are the tuition you pay for success."
The article relates to corporate awards, but the passage above is what got my attention. Here is a company that offers to reward earnest mistakes, risks and actions taken with the best intention that resulted in disaster. It creates an interesting dialogue between employees and management in which they can be honest about their mistakes. In rewarding company oriented risk taking, employees can focus their creative energies without fearing reprisals.
How can libraries reward risk taking in their employees? Do we have a culture of innovation? If so, how? If not, why not?