And the winner is…

Published on 21 October 2022 by Adam Leigh

I am livid.

I have not won The Booker Prize this year and I don’t quite know how this has happened. My novel, ‘The Curious Rise of Alex Lazarus’ which came out last year has a 4.8 rating on Amazon from 89 reviews. The winner, ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’ by Shehan Karunatilaka, has currently got a 4.3 rating on Amazon from 158 reviews. I mean you don’t have to be Einstein to realise that whilst he is 1.77 times more frequently reviewed, my score is 10% higher than his which means it a travesty of unfathomable injustice that I did not get to collect my cheque from Queen Camilla and Dua Lipa on Monday night.

This is not the first literary snub I have received. As a first-time novelist, I have been lucky enough to receive great reviews from friends, family, and random strangers to whom I sent a Harrods hamper. I entered some pretty prestigious awards from Macclesfield to Montenegro, but the response was a deafening silence from those bastard judges. Nada. Not even a £5 book token and a Highly Commended badge for my anorak.

My literary failure reflects my long career in advertising, an industry built on the veneration of a gold awards statue. Agencies divide into two categories: those that proclaim indifference to an award win because all they care about is their client’s business success (i.e not that creative so never won any) and those who feel creative ambition is crucial for an agency to keep its talent motivated even if the ad doesn’t sell any more tins of dog food.

However, it is not just advertising narcissists that get recognised as there is an available award to validate any professional existence. According to the there are over 4000 different awards schemes you can enter. I found 20 for Supply Chain (the ‘Institute of Supply Management 30 under 30’is only weeks away so get voting) and when it comes to Hospitality, I found 91, including ‘The Serviced Apartment Awards’, ‘The Staff Canteen Awards’ and ‘The Pride of Table Tennis Awards’. Indeed, the only award missing was ‘The Awards Industry Awards for the best Awards’. Having attended some incredible evenings over the years, I can attest to the excitement they generate, not to mention the attendant glamour. My dinner suit still has an irremovable mushrooms vol-au-vent stain from the IFA awards of 2003.

The volume of awards suggests that approbation, approval, and validation are three very human needs along with breathing and eating. According to scientists, praise at work can have a tangible commercial benefit as compliments light up the same part of the brain that gets activated when you receive a monetary reward. This is because both compliments and money fulfil basic human needs — compliments serve as a social reward that fulfils our emotional need to be recognised and accepted by society. Monetary rewards, on the other hand, are classified as non-social awards that satisfy our desire for security and safety. 

2012 study from Japan revealed that receiving compliments can help improve motivation and performance. 48 adults were asked to learn and perform specific finger patterns, which involved pushing keys on a keyboard in a particular sequence, while their performance was timed. After they repeated the finger exercises the following day, the group who received direct compliments from an evaluator performed better than the other participants. The researchers concluded that receiving compliments can serve as a social reward while encouraging other participants to perform better.

Of course, an everyday compliment is very different to receiving an award, but it does reveal a key question that underpins corporate progress. How do we motivate people with positivity that reflects everyday performance and how can we modify our behaviour in order to do so?

Impatience and intolerance prevail in most situations these days – we complain continually about the state of the world on social media and consequently those starting out their careers express their unhappiness through a willingness to try something else if feeling unloved.  Collective dissatisfaction is growing like an unwelcome oil slick and cannot be healed through an expensive trophy and an embossed certificate. There is fortunately an old-fashioned alternative.


I am continually surprised how simple expressions of positivity have been forgotten in our collective rush. When did you last use two or three of these phrases in a sentence:  nice to meet you, how refreshing, well done, that was interesting, you must have put a lot of work into that, I appreciate your effort, that must have been difficult, that is so helpful, what a good initiative, great thinking, I really enjoyed meeting you, you have gone the extra mile, you clearly care about what you do, how refreshing to see such enthusiasm etc etc.

Positive endorsement coupled with a bit of contemporary politeness is so much more effective and acknowledges that business transactions are also human interactions. Making someone feel good about what they have achieved does not need to relegate to the formality of an appraisal or the external recognition of an award. This is not intended to be a trite piece of advice but a rallying cry for us all to create an environment of endorsement not indifference.

In that spirit, well done everyone for reading this far. You have all worked very hard to absorb this important message in praise of praise. I am so impressed. Thank you. God Bless each and every one of you. 

And as for my book, I don’t mind not winning the Booker this year even though most people agree I was robbed. I am trying to be objectively calm given it was clearly a conspiracy of the Illuminati and Russian hackers denying me such deserved glory. These things happen.

The award-free, internationally unrecognised ‘The Curious Rise of Alex Lazarus’ is available at