Part of an ongoing “Hack Series” — simple, actionable, replicable hacks that have helped foster high-performance collaboration in real-life situations.

Last week, I shared Yammer’s “Big Board” hack, which gives the entire company transparency on who’s working on what. This week, I want to share another Yammer hack: a peer appreciation wall.

As Yammer’s Director of User Experience, Cindy Alvarez, explains in the two-minute video above, the hack is simple: Give people an easy, low-tech way to record and share things they appreciate about their peers.

As with its Big Board hack, Yammer leverages physical space so that people see these appreciations all the time. The person who came up with this hack originally thought she needed to offer an external incentive (fresh popcorn) to encourage people to share, only to discover that people found the act of sharing these appreciations rewarding in and of itself.

At my previous company, we invented a game that evolved into a wonderful way to express how much we appreciated each other. Hacks like these simply surface what’s already there. They’re simple, but powerful.

As 2013 comes to a close, I would encourage all of you to find a simple way to express your appreciation of a peer. It could be as simple as dropping him or her a short email. As always when it comes to feedback, be specific!

Happy Holidays, thank you all for being part of my community, and see you in the New Year!


  1. Great to hear about this Eugene! By reflecting on others’ contributions we can build environments of greater support and efficacy, and counter some of the workplace dissatisfaction as organizations scale up and people feel they’re being hired to be cogs in a machine .

    I thought I’d point out that the Wikipedia community’s evolved practice of giving “barnstars” — little tokens of appreciation — appears to be very similar in spirit. See

    One of the aspects of these practices of public appreciation that I’ve found interesting is that we can learn from the reflections of other people about what is valued, both in aggregation across an organization as well as individuals seeking to play meaningful roles. I haven’t decided yet if this is a trite observation…but that didn’t stop us from publishing a paper about barnstars from this vantage point, using barnstars as a means to do qualitative and quantitative analysis of the nature of the work that the Wikipedia community as a whole appears to value. See 🙂

    Have you found any other examples of this kind of appreciation practice in organizations? Is there potential for it outside of a single organization, such as in facilitated environments where there is some history of antagonism between participants, or would that come off as too top down and artificial?

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Travis Kriplean! You’re absolutely right. Barnstars are a perfect example of this. I didn’t know about the research you had done on this; thank you for sharing that as well!

      I think that these kinds of appreciative practices are absolutely a pattern in high-performance groups. One of my prized possessions is a shovel from the CIA. It was inspired by barnstars to reward “gardening” on Intellipedia. I was the first person outside of the intelligence community to receive one!

      I also think that you can bring this to groups with a history of antagonism. In the following blog post, I talk about barnstars and also techniques we used to heighten a sense of appreciation among a group with a very toxic history:

      I have several exercises that I use in multiday, facilitated meetings for situations like this. One of my favorite is a peer appreciation exercise, where I have people draw names out of a hat, then make a point to observe that person over the course of the meeting. At the end of the last day, everyone shares an appreciation about the person they observed. It is incredibly powerful. My colleague, Dana Reynolds, used this exercise at a retreat recently. Maybe she can share her thoughts on it. It’s probably worth a blog post of its own.

      Finally, there’s appreciative inquiry (which you may already know about):

      1. I used Eugene’s peer appreciation exercise at a two day Strategy retreat that included meeting goals of celebrating past accomplishments and fostering relationships among staff. A lot of people at this retreat were new to the organization and didn’t know each other very well. We set up the peer appreciation exercise in the morning of the first day. Everyone picked a name out of a hat, and I gave simple instructions: over the next two days observe this person, at the end of day two you will share an observation and appreciation about this person. I gave them reminders at the end of day one and in the morning of day two to observe their peer. At the end of day two we shared our appreciations. It was really nice to hear the staff recognize qualities in their person that they saw over the past two days and occasionally they shared how it comes out in their organization as well. The exercise is not only thoughtful but it’s fun because you don’t know who’s been watching you so it adds to the suspense (sometimes people have funny things to say about something you did).

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