How Incentives Really Work
by Uri Gneezy
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Pub Date 21 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 06 Apr 2023
“Getting [an] incentives balance right can be complicated. But Gneezy hopes his book provides insights that help people feel prepared to take on the concept and design better incentives.”—Financial Times
“If you think you understand how incentives work, think again. A pioneering behavioral economist reveals how we can create reward systems that minimize unintended consequences and maximize happiness, health, wealth, and success.”—Adam Grant, Granted (blog)
Incentives send powerful signals that aim to influence behavior. But often there is a conflict between what we say and what we do in response to these incentives. The result: mixed signals.
Consider the CEO who urges teamwork but designs incentives for individual success, who invites innovation but punishes failure, who emphasizes quality but pays for quantity. Employing real-world scenarios just like this to illustrate this everyday phenomenon, behavioral economist Uri Gneezy explains why incentives often fail and demonstrates how the right incentives can change behavior by aligning with signals for better results.
Drawing on behavioral economics, game theory, psychology, and fieldwork, Gneezy outlines how to be incentive smart, designing rewards that are simple and effective. He highlights how the right combination of economic and psychological incentives can encourage people to drive more fuel-efficient cars, be more innovative at work, and even get to the gym. “Incentives send a signal,” Gneezy writes, “and your objective is to make sure this signal is aligned with your goals.”
“Mixed Signals humanizes economics. It describes people as constantly signaling—to themselves, and to others—their good intentions. In his usual style, Gneezy’s examples are important, fascinating, and fun.”—George A. Akerlof, winner of Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences
“A well of information and inspiration drawing on research from around the world, Mixed Signals is an incredible resource for anyone who has to motivate people to get things done the right way.”—Iris Bohnet, author of What Works: Gender Equality by Design
“Incentives are everywhere and yet commonly misunderstood. In this instant classic, Uri Gneezy explains why all incentives are, in essence, signals—and how to make sure we're sending them correctly. I can't remember the last time I read something so practical, thoroughly researched, and yet funny and personable. Required reading for anyone who is hoping to change behavior for the better.”—Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
“With unparalleled genius, Uri Gneezy masterfully unlocks the hidden motives underlying our behaviors, providing a secret playbook to anyone who wants to change the world.”—John A. List, author of The Voltage Effect: How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale
“With cartoons, engaging stories from his own life, and tales of managerial brilliance and failure, Gneezy explains why incentives often have unintended consequences and shows how they can be designed to accomplish the goals they are intended to serve.”—George Loewenstein, Herbert A. Simon Professor of Economics and Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University