Thinking About Incentives
It’s counterproductive to threaten someone until you determine their incentives to refuse compliance.
In other words, what do I gain by refusing to remove them? Nothing. In fact, it’s in my readers’ best interest to make it accurate or remove it. Threatening me with Darth Vader-speak like “compel compliance with [our] demand” just pisses people off, and I could have still been a strong proponent of theirs. Too bad –
How Not to Use a Lawyer, by Tim Ferriss
Tim is really a genius at boiling complicated things down to their core and then leveraging that knowledge to do something he wants. What he’s saying here about incentives though, I think, is really important. I’ve been very lucky in that for a long time people have let me shadow them without having the responsibility of having doing what they do.
They’d go Ryan, why is ____ doing that? What makes him act like _____ in meetings? What do you think about _____? And then usually I’d answer incorrectly and they’d explain it from some point of view that I hadn’t thought of. Very slowly, I realized they were giving me an eye for incentives. Tim’s example is exactly the reason why that’s so important.
Cesar Millan does this very well with dogs. First, he wants you to realize that there is no such thing as a dog having a barking problem – dogs bark, you just don’t want them to. So then you figure out why the dog is doing it and then decide what you’d rather them do instead and what you have to motivate them to do that. What he does, basically, is take the energy that’s causing the first problem and turn it into the means for accomplishing an alternative.
Recently, I’ve been working on solving a Google Image Search problem – a search for the company/person negatively affects the company’s image which in turn trickles down into all aspects of the business profile. Because of problems in the past, the results show bad, outdated photos or worse, ones that are inaccurate. How do you change that?
First, you figure out what’s causing the problem. Why are people linking and using bad photos and why does Google favor them? Then, you decide which ones you’d rather show up. Shooting new photos and replacements and a new protocol. Lastly, you create a convincing reason for that new direction. How do you make it easier than using the old photos? And in this case you also have to decide how to get people to change out the old ones, so you start the cycle over again. Why did they choose the photo they did? How can it disappear? How can I make that want to do that?
Yesterday for the first time, a news reporter wrote a negative hack piece about the company, not even knowing that they were using the exact new photo I’d baited them into to taking. Energy, used against itself.
Not understanding incentives is to be worse than Sisyphus. It is a constant steam of failure, of turning blue in the in the face, of extra, unnecessary work. Then you die. When you’re trying to accomplish something that is dependent on other people’s actions, the only solution is to examine their incentives. Step back and examine what makes them act the way they do. Figure out their self-interest and many times, you won’t even need to do anything but explain how what you want is exactly that.
So think about incentives. Always. Your own. Theirs. Ours.
I’ve read “The Four Hour Work Week” a couple times through. Do you actually use it in your own life? If so, how so? Please let me know. Thank you very much.
This is just my opinion, but I feel like with this post, you’ve jumped the shark.
Gawd, Ryan, Google images.. you are a GENIUS.
Figure out how something works so you can use it for your own purpose.
Do I use the book? Or have I been influenced by the thinking?
I don’t outsource my administrative stuff to India if that’s what you’re asking but Tim has profoundly changed out I think about work and people. I saw him last week and we talked about a lot of his stuff actually.
I spend time writing comments here because it distracts me from the slow, crushing realization that outside of my own head, nobody cares what I think. The more I try to be articulate and deep, the more people think I’m a crackpot. I get angry sometimes, but bingeing until it goes black tends to help. When that doesn’t work, I like marijuana because I can beat people over the head with obscure arguments about hemp. I fire off ranting emails like Ted Kaczynski, hoping that somewhere, somehow, I’ll goad the right person into validating me by getting upset. Then I’ll know they care – that I’m important enough to waste time on. Until then, I’ll just keep trying to chip away at you, pretending to be incisive when really I’m just lamely flailing from one spot to the next looking for sensitivity.
One of the ten principles of economics (econ 101): People Respond to incentives.
Here is a basic guide: http://www.basiceconomics.info/index.php
I think being honest or much more open about my own incentives lets me home in on other people’s much faster.
This kind of touches on what you talked about before: making semi-broken systems work for you, instead of pulling it down and erecting new ones. Getting things that need other people to be done is much easier when they do most of the heavy lifting themselves.
And that was glorious destruction of Ted there.