Weekly Review: January 8th to January 14th

Not much to say today that isn’t in the two articles below. They summarize much of my life right now.

These Things Caught My Eye

Sorry, I think I nodded off there…

When I begin to run a sleep deficit, I feel as if my mind begins to fall apart. After hearing Sacha Pfeiffer’s article on WBUR, I think that perhaps my neurons are suffering and perhaps starting to break down.

I’m starting to realize that at this rate, not sleeping enough is going to develop into a common theme here.

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No more carrots, thanks.

If I were to tell you that there was an area of human motivation that has been studied for about four decades, that has gotten consistent results within the social sciences, and is being completely ignored today, would you believe me?

If you’ve been reading my blog since the beginning, maybe you would. One of first essays written in August 2009 was about rewards and punishments. In one Weekly Review in the middle of December, I wrote On Whose Merit? because that week a lot of people discussed merit pay and included a TED Lecture by Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation.

And there was a lot in the news today and this week about the bonuses being paid to bankers. But I don’t want to give that more attention than I just have.

Neither carrots nor sticks work to get people to do better. Throughout all the studies of motivation, incentives, the so-called carrots, and punishments, the so-called sticks, only work to get humans to do simple, straightforward tasks faster. If the tasks require any amount of thought or if the tasks have any ambiguous components, the incentives actually hinder performance. Incentives inspire cheating and shortcuts in order to earn the reward. If you want people to do the minimum necessary and have them dissatisfied with the job, then by all means institute an incentive plan.

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