At the management consulting firm IdeaScope Associates, top performers get more than a pat on the back. They may be rewarded, for example, with a certificate for art supplies, a party for the office, or skydiving lessons. Employees purchase various perks with play money that they earn when coworkers recognize them for doing outstanding work.

Criteria for awards are based on five factors key to the company's success, such as delivering excellent consulting and reaching the company's profit goals. Every month, says the president, Bob Krinsky, nominated employees each receive $25 to $100 in "IdeaScope Dollars" to use toward more than 60 possible prizes. A list of nominees is e-mailed to all 25 employees at IdeaScope's two locations in San Francisco and Boston. Each time an employee is nominated, he or she wins an award.

Many of the gifts, notes Krinsky, "provide people with experiences that give them a refreshing outlook on life and stimulate creativity." That fits nicely with IdeaScope's corporate mission, which is to help clients focus on strategic innovation and growth.

In real money, the company invests from $5,000 to $10,000 in the program each year. Krinsky thinks that's money well spent. "We value teamwork, shared risk taking, and experimentation," he says.

Vice president Kim Kelley notes an unexpected benefit: The IdeaScope Dollars program has helped strengthen relationships among employees in the company's two offices, which are separated by an entire continent. The recognition program, Kelley observes, has served as "a mechanism that helps us think of ourselves as one organization that happens to have two locations."