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Pay Gratitude Forward

A pay-it-forward model that spreads gratitude in personal, incremental steps.

Photo of Naman Mandhan
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The idea uses a pay-it-forward model to spread gratitude within the workplace by creating a gratitude chain that has the potential to spread to employees across organizations.


The initiator of the chain uses a template like the one above to express their gratitude to someone on a Post-It note. The receiver takes off the note and adds a new one inside the box, puts a tally mark in the box on the right as a means of showing how many people have become a part of this gratitude chain, and passes the page on to someone else in or outside their team!

Idea Title

Pay Gratitude Forward

How the Idea will inspire the experience and expression of gratitude within an organization.

The idea established interpersonal connections between co-workers by providing them with an outlet to express gratitude in a way that allows them to do so personally, while at the same time knowing that there are others who have done it before them.

Who are you innovating for?

Individuals who see gratitude as a sign of weakness within cutthroat corporate culture. By presenting them with a low barrier to participation and showing them that there are others who are participating in this expression of gratitude, this idea hopes to cultivate a culture shift that leverages the power of community.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

This idea could, in theory, work well for both small organizations and larger, international organizations. However, prototyping this idea across different cultures and with smaller groups within larger organizations would provide some insight into the scalability of this idea.

How you envision the Idea being introduced to your selected organization?

Working for a large organization with over 80,000 employees, this idea would be introduced within smaller teams (25-50) people as a means of prototyping the idea. After collecting user feedback and conducting design iterations, managers across different groups would be introduced to this concept and asked to start pay-it-forward chains within their groups.

What obstacles, if any, do you foresee in implementing this Idea, and how would they be overcome?

The biggest obstacle I foresee having to overcome is breaking of the gratitude chain because an individual does not believe this to be a worthwhile use of their time. If the expresser of gratitude is not able to identify a receiver who will pass the page on, how do we continue the chain? Can there be constant reminders that get people to keep circulating the notes of gratitude?

How will you test and prototype your solution?

I would start by anonymously placing the pages on to the desks of people I wish to thank, keeping a good mix of personalities and group dynamics that they are a part of. Using a unique code for each sheet, I would identify which sheet corresponds to which individual, and ask that the sheets be returned to a certain location by a certain time. I would then send out a survey to gather feedback, and use the codes to identify patterns based on who was given the sheet.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Prototyping: You have conducted some small tests or experiments with prospective users and will continue developing idea through these tests.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

A group brainstorm at my company as part of the Chief Gratitude Officers initiative!

Tell us about yourself

A Design Engineer by profession, I use design thinking methods and innovation tools to design products for the automotive industry, and help train and recruit professionals to do the same. I also help lead the OpenIDEO Detroit Chapter.

Where are you / your team located?

Auburn Hills, Michigan

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Photo of Nick
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I think this kind of idea is where you can really drive ground up gratitude culture - would love to hear how it goes. Very similar ideas came up in discussion in our team in our company so will likely pilot something similar! Great work.