How Paying It Forward Can Help Your Company

July 7, 2014

Inc. | Will Yakowicz

Wayne E. Baker, professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, and Nathaniel Bulkley, who consults on organizational effectiveness issues for Innovation Places, have done research that proves the success of using two types of generalized reciprocity at work to create a cooperative culture. “Pay it forward, where someone helps another person and that person assists a third, and reputation rewarding, where a person who is known to pitch in receives more from co-workers than less helpful colleagues.” They conducted this research on MBA students, and found that after the initial required assigned to “pay it forward” and help fellow students, along with asking their own questions, the students continued to use this practice. “Over time, rewarding reputation and paying it forward may have created a virtuous cycle of cooperation,” the two write. Many other companies have also started to use this strategy, and the results show nothing but success.