I often tell this story (complete with the parrot and gold doubloons!) when engaging leaders in thinking about practical steps thay can take to demonstrate their commitment to learning from others.
To summarise – and for those of you for whom YouTube is still a corporate no-go area:
A business unit leader in Amoco recognized that insular “not-invented-here” behaviour was limiting the potential of his business, which existed within a group of around 100 business units in the newly-merged BP Amoco. He wanted to create a culture of curiosity, encouraging his staff to look beyond the boundaries of their own business unit. He decided to create a simple monthly recognition scheme, under the banner of “steal with pride”.
The award was given to a member of staff who could demonstrate that they had found a good practice from a different business unit, applied it, and created value. Each story would be celebrated on the intranet, and the winner received an award in the form of a cuddly parrot, which would sit on the desk of the winner for a month (prompting questions from passers-by), before moving onto the next winner, and leaving in its place, a solid gold “pirate” doubloon worth several hundred dollars – which was theirs to keep.
I think that the parrot worked particularly well as a recognition scheme because it was visible, lighthearted, symbolic (“steal with pride” – giving permission to look outside), frequently awarded, and both clearly supported – and initiated – by that business unit leader.
Ironically, the “steal with pride” award scheme wasn’t replicated by the leaders of the other 99 business units. Perhaps they had their own personal struggles with “not invented here”….