Waffling about prizes

The concept of prizes is becoming more and more recognised in having a role in incentivising new ideas or positive behaviour, particularly with its success in social-based challenges. But you don’t necessarily need either big money or big programmes to use prizes to stimulate behaviour change as I found out when I became a bank manager…

Being a “bank manager” wouldn’t normally have impressed me. Living opposite Canary Wharf witnessing the bonuses being spent every Friday night and pay day lenders sharking powerless families on dizzy interest rates, the role of telling people they have no money but could gamble on getting into deeper debt has never set my heart racing.

But the waffle bank is different. The only bonus you get as a bank manager is to see the smile on someone’s face who feels valued. The only interest rates are the levels of curiosity rising as they see someone giving the “customer” a cheque for waffles. The only similarities with sharks are the white teeth getting stuck into a waffle.

A waffle bank, created through the Micronomics project, is a space and technique where two people come together and share a conversation about what they value in the person opposite them. This doesn’t mean a directive question and answer asking people to tell them what their skills are, as this can end up meaninglessly to pigeon hole skills into boxes, let alone the fact that many people aren’t confident or fluent enough to describe what they’re good at, or even confident enough to show someone else how to do. And at the end of the conversation, you give them a cheque with a credit for a waffle when they’ve exchanged their skill with someone ;) In a 24/7 society, we spend to save time. So why not spend time to save money?

Is a waffle an incentive? Perhaps, but it’s also a way to make the experience fun and exciting. Would getting vouchers have the same effect if it took you outside the space you were sharing your skills in and where you couldn’t interact with the person who’d made the gift? So what else could a waffle bank be used for?

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