"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done by Ian Ayres

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Summary: Why Americans can only delay gratification for so long, and the benefits of the author's website - StickK.com.

The best way to reach your goal is to risk a significant amount of money that will go to a cause or program that disgusts or offends you. There's no need for a 200 page book, when the book can be distilled to this concept.

And that's where the author's website http://www.stickk.com/ comes into play. Post your goal, put up some money, assign a referee, and decide who gets your money if you don't meet your goal every week or at the end of your assigned time period.

While I appreciate the author's enthusiastic attempt to promote his website - admittedly one I had never heard of before - it got tiresome. The entire book could have been one interesting article in The Washington Post, which I would read and re-post on Facebook.  But as a book? Ehh.

My favorite part of the book concerned incentives for employees to remain tobacco free. Apparently smoking is one of the most significant causes of dental decay. In order to reduce the dental bills, certain companies actually administered urine tests to penalize employees who smoked. There is so much social pressure to conform to employees' bad habits that companies have to incentivize good behavior rather than punish bad behavior. I hope companies move towards this trend, but as someone who's married to a labor and employment attorney, I foresee a law suit or two about this issue in the future.

The early parts of the book deal with the psychology of delayed gratification and reasonable goal setting. You have to put up enough money that the failure actually hurts more than success feels great.

Mildly interesting book, once you get past the constant self-promotion.

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