January 16, 2008

all about the benjamins! er... eh... incentives?

After 4 chapters, I found myself saying, “This book is all about incentives!”

It’s in the title, duh!

It’s hard to pick one highlight in this first half of the book. I found myself personally relating to at least one thing in every chapter. For example, I have more trouble balancing my budget of time, than I do balancing my finances. I usually set down to fill out a spreadsheet of what to do, when to do it just to find myself feeling like I’ve got plenty of time to get it all done. The sad truth is that I don’t know how to budget goof-off time, or waste-able time, or just sit and relax time. I’ve tried to budget in, during the day, time for this, but I often just don’t want to break from what I’m doing, either that, or I’ll hit a spell of lethargy or distraction from what I had budgeted for something productively specific!

I think that the highlight for me is the emphasis on how to motivate through means other than money. This highlight is woven through-out all of the first half of the book, from examples of the failure of the Soviet Union that had “less play” regarding the rules (which were governed by incentives and disincentives) to something that hits home for me, the allocation of time to commit to things like dvds and enjoying art. As well, there is the human aspect of people indirectly expressing likes and dislikes (18) and thus are sometimes better motivated through non-monetary means. I know that there have been times in my life where I liked one job more than another that paid more, because of the enjoyment I found in doing the lesser-paying job. I also correlate this to specific roommates I’ve had in my life who were slobs, but worked hard. Motivating them to clean was as simple as ‘hanging out’ with them and talking to them while they worked on something to tidy up the joint! In a way I was exerting power of him; however, I was also relating to him and treating him less like a rent-contributing, body walking around making messes and more like a human being. Perhaps the Soviet Union’s system didn’t take into account that people like to feel like they’re in control, and thus didn’t respond well to being controlled.

I think that people have an innate understanding of incentives. I think that one way to understand people is to study psychology and then to do experimentation. But, I think a better way to understand people is to apply economic principles of incentives (what do you want from them, and what can you offer them that would allow them to give it to you) to each and every person. Perhaps what this entire book is about is this method of understanding people… maybe it’s more about simply relating to people… Who needs to understand, when incentives can give you a simpler and more specific example of what people want and are about? So, definitively, the highlight for the book is the understanding of incentives and realizing that both power and humanity are outgrowths of incentives!

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