O.C. Tanner | appreciate® | Great Work O.C. Tanner | appreciate® | Great Work

Great Work lives
inside all of us

We’ve long been told making improvements is the privilege of a select few: Inventors. Innovators. Leaders. Great Work turns that conventional thinking on its head to reveal how innovation can come from anyone, anywhere.

With insights from the largest-ever study of award-winning work, and stories about real people in real jobs, Great Work is a rally cry to transform your daily grind into a series of meaningful accomplishments; to consider the differences only you can make; and to write your own page in the book of human progress.

There’s great work only you can do.
This book will help you get it done.

Endorsements of Great Work

When you have a feeling something at work could be improved upon, pay close attention. The door to your own great work quest is about to swing wide open.


Sneak Peek

Get a sneak peek

When we look purposefully at our work, when we look for ways to delight others, amazing things happen.

Download a sneak preview of Great Work

The largest ever study of
award-winning work


Whereas most research about success in the workplace studies personality traits, the O.C. Tanner Institute took a different approach. It studied Great Work itself—under what conditions it happens, and what people are doing when they produce it. We found that virtually anyone, in any position, can innovate in the job they have. You don’t need to wait for the perfect job or the perfect project to come along. You can begin today. There are great work ideas only you will think of. And differences only you can make.

Great Work Study had 4 key components:

  1. 1The Executive Omnibus Survey

    A diverse group of Harris Panel participants—302 senior executives from Fortune 100 companies—were asked to provide their perspectives on great work and give examples of great work in their organizations.

  2. 2The O.C. Tanner Study of Award-Winning Work

    Research and a database analysis of 1.7 million instances of award-winning work in corporations worldwide reveals the five most important skills that affect great work and how the skills work together.

  3. 3The Forbes Insights Study

    Forbes asked 1,013 “employees,” “supervisors,” and “beneficiaries” to answer questions about specific projects delivered in the previous three months. The goal was to add clarity to an understanding of “great work” and to gather input about what causes it from a variety of relevant points of view.

  4. 4One-On-One Interviews

    Qualitative research for Great Work consisting of more than 200 one-on-one interviews with people who were involved in great work that made a difference that was formally recognized.

The insights from The Great Work Study can help anyone become a difference maker and/or lead a difference-making team. They are organized in two categories: how difference makers think and what difference makers do.


Reframe Your Role

Do you know how to think beyond your daily to-do list? To shift your mindset from seeing yourself as someone with an assignment to crank out, to seeing yourself as someone with a difference to make?

Work With What You’ve Got

Do you know how to work with the limitations inherent in any project? To see them as a starting point, and as building blocks upon which good can be transformed into something great?

makers do

Ask The Right Question


Do you know how to pause at the beginning of a project to consider the people your work serves (whether coworkers, leaders, or customers)? And then to ask yourself what difference those people might love?

Ask The Right Question


Do you know how to get out there and see your work from a variety of perspectives to discover improvements worth making? To open your eyes to fresh thinking and novel solutions?

Ask The Right Question


Do you know how to have conversations with people you don’t usually talk to about your work? To challenge your thinking, make new connections, and generate ideas you might not have had on your own?

Ask The Right Question


Do you know how to preview the potential impact of your difference-making idea? To sketch it out, play with it, fine-tune it, and perfect it before delivering it to your team, customers, company, or the world?

Ask The Right Question


Do you know how to stick with your difference-making idea beyond the moment of delivery? To experience it, gain insight, learn what worked, what didn’t, and why, and to tweak your idea until a difference is made?


The Great Work Model

The Great Work Model shows how all five difference-making skills work together to create new and unexpected value.

Asking the Right Question sets our purpose squarely on making a difference people love. The next two skills help us discover new solutions. Improving the Mix is for imagining the value of potential improvements before we make them. And Delivering the Difference is where we stay with our work, learning and refining until people love the result.

The team behind
Great Work

David Sturt is an Executive Vice President of the O.C. Tanner Company. His career began in market research, where he analyzed the impact of recognition on people and their work. In the two decades since, he has developed products and services that engage employees, inspire contribution, and reward outstanding results in organizations around the world. He regularly consults with Fortune 1000 leaders and speaks to audiences worldwide. He has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, Human Capital, and is a guest contributor for Forbes.com.

The O.C. Tanner Institute is committed to researching and sharing insights that help organizations inspire and appreciate great work. The institute provides a global forum for exchanging ideas about recognition, engagement, leadership, culture, human values, and sound business principles.

Think about how your work affects others, look at the larger purpose of your work and who it benefits, and see yourself as a potential difference-maker.


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