• Michael Hughes

The Robin Hood Award

Create a Rapid-Reapplication Culture where Egos are Checked at the Door


As I worked through the leadership ranks in a multi-national company, I had the privilege of traveling to over 30 factories around the world. Many of these factories produced identical or very similar products and therefore faced almost the exact same challenges. It always blew my mind when I visited a factory that had already solved a problem that may have plagued us for years, yet we hadn't heard about the solution or taken the time to ask our sister plants for help.

Our hyper-competitive corporate cultures appear to have put blinders on our key problem solvers, and especially in the U.S., encouraged us to heroically solve every problem independently. I picked up on a fear of copying others in case your "career competitor" (who typically worked in the same company as you), got credit after you copied their ideas.

On the other hand, I noticed that in some geographies, particularly in Asia, the willingness to reapply other's ideas was far stronger and for the most part, these organizations excelled at a faster rate. Based on these learnings, when I had the opportunity to run a company with multiple divisions, I implemented the most prestigious award in our organization:

The Robin Hood Award

Awarded to whichever team or individual steals shamelessly from the other division and implements their idea quickly, without trying to re-invent the wheel!

Cultural Impact

This award has been a game-changer in our company. In a world of mergers and acquisitions, it is not uncommon for acquired organizations to dig their heels in. It is also not unusual for the acquiring or parent organization to assume that they "know best", that their systems or tools must be superior. In my experience, there are always nuggets of best practices and amazing innovation in every organization (they wouldn't be acquired otherwise). The Robin Hood Award is a great equalizer. It is a way of eliminating sacred cows and encouraging everyone to truly open their eyes and seek out kaizens or improvements that can be quickly copied. In our organization, the biggest value prize goes to the "stealer", with a smaller prize going to the "giver" of the idea. On every tour I have of each organization, our teams are eager to show me how they "Robin Hooded" a particular concept....it literally has become a verb!

One other benefit, is that this model helps drive rapid convergence to best practices, something our customers appreciate as they receive the exact same service, documents and procedures, no matter which division they operate with. It can be a fun way to encourage collaboration, build internal relationships and move your company's culture in the right direction!