Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Incentivizing Work

I read an article by Joel Spolsky in which he was talking about gaming incentive plans. If you haven’t read it, go and check it out.

Joel was looking at one side of the incentive problem: If you try and get a result by incenting people, they’ll learn how to get the incentives, regardless of whether they’ve actually produced the result—they learn to game the system. But what about the other side: What if people didn’t game the system? What if they really did try to produce the result you were looking for? And what if you promised them that the quicker you produced it, the higher the reward? That is essentially the free market system in action, right?

Actually, it turns out that doesn’t work anyway. It’s not just that people will game the system and work around the incentive model you’re creating, it’s worse than that: the incentive model doesn’t work in the first place. Hence a talk by a guy named Daniel H. Pink. I found out about him from a post on Coding Horror; if you head on over to that post, you’ll see two videos from Daniel:

  1. The first one is from TED, and is longer, but more informative.
    • As a side note, I just recently heard about TED, and I’ve found a lot of interesting talks on a variety of topics. After you’ve seen one or both of these Daniel H. Pink videos, feel free to browse around the TED website for other talks. I’m sure you’ll find something interesting.
  2. The second is a shortened version, which is sort of a summary of the things said in the first one (but has prettier pictures).