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Apparently, Condé Nast has put out a suggestion box for its employees, inviting ideas on how to improve the company. Oh yeah, and as an incentive, it’s promised $10,000 to the employee who comes up with the best idea.

The company has vowed to cough up $10,000 each quarter to the contest winners—a piddly sum, when you consider that one of the publishing giant’s flagship magazines, Vogue, spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on photo shoots every month that it ends up killing, anyways.

But why didn’t Condé Nast think of this sooner? Just a few months ago, it paid millions for an outside consulting group to make recommendations on what it could do to fix the company’s cash flow problem. Compared to the fee paid to McKinsey consulting, $40,000 seems like chump change.

Then again, since when did employees require cash incentives to give feedback anyways? Isn’t that part of the job description? Maybe the heads at Condé Nast should’ve taken a page from Toyota’s kaizen approach—meaning ‘incremental improvement’—documented last year in detail in the company’s own publication, the New Yorker, and found ways to encourage employee feedback all along.

Plus, as the Atlantic points out, not only does the move reek of desperation, but often the best and most useful ideas aren’t the revolutionary ones anyways. Usually the simplest changes (the ones without the ‘wow’ factor necessary for winning awards—tweaking publications’ websites, switching to thinner paper, etc.) are the most effective ones.

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About the author

Ann Hui was the Online Editor for the Spring 2010 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism.

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