Later, Amazon thoroughly embraced the reckless passion of innovation. "Just do it" became a rallying cry.
In typical display of Bezos silliness, "just do it" was codified in the "Just do it" awards. Recipients were brought up in front of the entire company and given an old, used Nike shoe.
I got a couple of these -- including one for shopping cart recommendations -- but, after moving to Stanford and back to Seattle, the old, stinky, mismatched shoes have long been lost.
What was not lost was the sense of pride. I was proud to have gotten that crappy old shoe.
Of course, it was not the prize itself that mattered. It was the recognition. It was that someone had noticed and said thanks. That was what I wanted.
Recently, I have had some interesting debates about management goo with a couple different friends who work at two large, well-known Internet companies. One thing we were talking about was compensation strategies.
My opinion has swung 180 degrees on compensation in the last few years. I used to be a huge fan of pay for performance. Salaries, I thought, should be varied by how well you do and what you have done.
Now, I believe that pay and perks should be high but basically flat; exceptional work should be recognized in other ways.
What changed my mind?
While merit pay sounds like a great idea in theory, it seems it never works in any large organization. It appears to be impossible to do fairly -- politics and favoritism always enter the mix -- and, even if it could be done fairly, it never makes people happy.
A recent example of this is the news about poor morale at Microsoft because of their elaborate performance review and merit pay system. It is seen as unfair. It makes everyone unhappy. It just does not work.
Instead, compensation should be high but basically flat. Merit rewards should focus on non-monetary compensation. Maybe even an stinky old shoe.
That used shoe was worth far more than it might appear. It was a thank you. It was recognition. These are things valued by many, but offered far too rarely.