Cover image for Carrots and sticks : unlock the power of incentives to get things done
Carrots and sticks : unlock the power of incentives to get things done
Ayres, Ian.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Bantam Books, [2010]

Physical Description:
xx, 218 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
The part-owner of uses research into incentives and punishments to introduce the concept of "commitment contracts, " an easy strategy for setting and achieving goals that is already in use by successful companies and individuals across America.
Thaler's apples -- Incentives versus commitments -- Losses loom large -- That nagging feeling -- Maintenance and mindfulness -- What commitments say about you -- Antonio's problems -- A commitment store.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF619 .A97 2010 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Could you lose weight if you put $20,000 at risk? Would you finally set up your billing software if it meant that your favorite charity would earn a new contribution? If you've ever tried to meet a goal and came up short, the problem may not have been that the goal was too difficult or that you lacked the discipline to succeed. From giving up cigarettes to increasing your productivity at work, you may simply have neglected to give yourself the proper incentives.

In Carrot and Sticks , Ian Ayres, the New York Times bestselling author of Super Crunchers , applies the lessons learned from behavioral economics--the fascinating new science of rewards and punishments--to introduce readers to the concept of "commitment contracts": an easy but high-powered strategy for setting and achieving goals already in use by successful companies and individuals across America. As co-founder of the website (where people have entered into their own "commitment contracts" and collectively put more than $3 million on the line), Ayres has developed contracts--including the one he honored with himself to lose more than twenty pounds in one year--that have already helped many find the best way to help themselves at work or home. Now he reveals the strategies that can give you the impetus to meet your personal and professional goals, including how to
* motivate your employees
* create a monthly budget 
* set and meet deadlines
* improve your diet
* learn a foreign language
* finish a report or project you've been putting off
* clear your desk
Ayres shares engaging, often astounding, real-life stories that show the carrot-and-stick principle in action, from the compulsive sneezer who needed a "stick" (the potential loss of $50 per week to a charity he didn't like) to those who need a carrot with their stick (the New York Times columnist who quit smoking by pledging a friend $5,000 per smoke . . . if she would do the same for him). You'll learn why you might want to hire a "professional nagger" whom you'll do anything to avoid--no, your spouse won't do!--and how you can "hand-tie" your future self to accomplish what you want done now. You'll find out how a New Zealand ad exec successfully "sold his smoking addiction," and why Zappos offered new employees $2,000 to quit cigarettes. 

As fascinating as it is practical, as much about human behavior as about how to change it , Carrots and Sticks is sure to be one of the most talked-about books of the year.

Author Notes

Ian Ayres is an economist and lawyer who is the William K. Townsend Professor at Yale Law School and a professor at Yale's School of Management. He is a columnist for Forbes magazine and a regular contributor to the New York Times Freakanomics blog. He served for seven years as the editor of the Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization , and in 2006 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has previously written ten books, including Super Crunchers , which was a New York Times business bestseller and named one the Best Economics and Business Books of the Year by The Economist . He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Need to lose weight and keep it off, stop smoking, or overcome procrastination or any other personal difficulty or character flaw? Behavioral economics might hold the answer. Drawing on ongoing reasearch in that field, New York Times best-selling author Ayres (Super Crunchers) here details commitment contracts of incentives based on a system of personally chosen punishments and rewards, using anecdotes to illustrate practical examples. Actor/narrator John H. Mayer adeptly and engagingly presents the material. Recommended for anyone seeking further insight into successfully changing human behavior on the personal or organizational level.-M. Gail Preslar, Eastman Chemical Co. Business Lib., Kingsport, TN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One Thaler's Apples The behavioral revolution in economics began in 1981 when Richard Thaler published a seven-page letter in a somewhat obscure economics journal. Richard is now a stocky sixty-three-year-old with unruly gray hair who looks more like a bartender than one of the world's leading economists. But back then, a thirty-five-year-old Richard posed a pretty simple choice about apples. Which would you prefer: (A) One apple in one year or (B) Two apples in one year plus one day? This is a strange hypothetical-why would you have to wait a year to receive an apple? But choosing is not very difficult; most people would choose to wait an extra day to double the size of their gift. Thaler went on, however, to pose a second apple choice. Which would you prefer: (C) One apple today or (D) Two apples tomorrow? What's interesting is that many people give a different, seemingly inconsistent answer to this second question. Many of the same people who are patient when asked to consider this choice a year in advance turn around and become impatient when the choice has immediate consequences-they prefer C over D. When it comes to apples, Adam and Eve aren't alone in being impatient when presented with an immediate temptation. The inconsistency in these answers puzzled Thaler. Richard has an incredible eye for anomalies. While many economists ignore or paper over deviations from rationality, Thaler is drawn to them. He's made a career of trying to understand them, and he even writes down algebraic formulas to capture their essence. Why would he mow his own lawn to save $15 but wouldn't be willing to cut his neighbor's lawn even for $25? Why would his decision about whether to drive through a snowstorm to see a basketball game turn on whether he paid for or was given the ticket? Thaler's obsession with the failure of traditional economics may end up earning him the Nobel Prize. By integrating psychology into economic theory, Thaler and a cadre of other behavioral economists have remade the landscape of economic thinking. Today the defenders of the faith in economic rationality are still dominant in economic departments across the country, but they are increasingly acknowledging the power of behavioral predictions. While economists have traditionally focused on information and incentives as the core levers of human behavior, Thaler often thinks about what he calls "choice architecture." Simply and slightly reframing the context in which decisions are made can have big effects on people's behavior and happiness. Thaler is even willing to reengineer the rules of golf. Cade Massey, a Yale business professor, played golf with Thaler soon after Thaler had taken up the game. "Dick suggested that we play with a different scoring rule," he recalls. "You'd get one point for every hole that you parred and nothing for every other hole, regardless of how badly you did. The winner was the person with the most points. This simple rule change really improved my enjoyment. The problem with traditional scoring for a golfer like me is that I could screw up a decent round with a bad score on a single hole." Richard's method allowed Cade to focus more on his successes than his failures. The story also shows how Thaler is constantly trying to use what he knows about how our minds work to increase people's happiness. The golf purists out there will resist the idea that a scoring change could make golf more enjoyable. Or they might insist that it wouldn't be golf anymore. But Thaler has gone after much larger fish. His impulse to tinker with the rules of the game led him to champion the Save More Tomorrow program. Thaler saw that lots of people were having trouble taking advantage of their companies' 401(k) plans-even when their employers were willing to match their contributions dollar for dollar. It just hurts too much to see your curre Excerpted from Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done by Ian Ayres All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. xi
Introduction: Sneezep. xiii
1 Thaler's Applesp. 3
2 Incentives Versus Commitmentsp. 22
3 Losses Loom Largep. 45
4 That Nagging Feelingp. 72
5 Maintenance and Mindfulnessp. 100
6 What Commitments Say About Youp. 122
7 Antonio's Problemsp. 145
8 A Commitment Storep. 166
Acknowledgements: Assisted Livingp. 191
Notesp. 193
Indexp. 213