And the award goes to…

There are two reasons why an award is coveted. Scarcity and Visibility.

Creator of an award, especially if it is a professional award, is faced with a dilemma. More or few. That is, create the award such that more people receive it or less. The former builds up a community quicker – and leads to greater adoption of the philosophy (or commerce) behind the idea of the award. It is a bit like the high school sports event where most kids got selected for some award or the other. That ensured the parents showed up for the event and collections at the gate were healthy. It is counterintuitive to think of designing the award such that it goes to only a few. However, scarcity is that what creates an aura around the award and makes it coveted. Think of the Nobel Prize, for example and that there isn’t one each for theoretical physics and applied physics

It is no good if the award does not result in visibility for the recipient. In fact, in a way, this follows from the scarce bit. The award should farther the cause or the profession of the recipient by putting him under the spotlight. Get called for a TV show, ask to chair an important debate, speak at a fundraiser, deliver the keynote address at an industry event – and so on. The designer of the award must cater to this by getting the community to display this generosity (genuine generosity).

It is easy to throw money and resources in an effort at making an award a success – in fact that often is the first instinctive reaction (lay out the thickest red carpet and they’ll all come). And you may be fooled into a short term success. However, without Scarcity and Visibility you severely restrict your chances of winning the long haul.

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