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  • Dan Connors


Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations , By Dan Ariely

**** Four stars

This little 100 page book packs a powerful punch. Produced by TED, I'm surprised that their book series isn't better known. TED talks, as you may know, are limited to 20 minutes or less, mainly because human attention spans start drifting at the 20 minute mark. This book is short enough to read in one try, which is great for someone looking for a quick payoff in an hour's time. This mini-book can't be compared to Ariely's longer titles, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do. Payoff is about motivation, and in four chapters Ariely condenses work from his TED talk and other books to give us a different view of what truly motivates us. Money, according to the author, is a poor motivator, and actually can be demotivating when bonuses are infrequently offered. More important in motivating people are softer things like trust, goodwill, long- term thinking, and intrinsic value of creating something meaningful. He details an experiment in which workers at a company were offered one of three options for enhanced productivity- a cash bonus, free pizza, or a compliment from the boss. While all three options increased productivity, it was the pizza that was the most effective, followed by the compliment. The cash bonus actually lowered productivity once the workers were no longer given the option of getting one, while the pizza and compliment left goodwill that lasted well beyond the first day. We all want to feel like our lives matter, that our work matters. Adam Smith, the guiding force behind much of the managerial theory today, saw workers as replaceable cogs in a machine, motivated solely by money and status. While that is partially correct, the reality as shown by Ariely and his research is much more complex. Once motivation is dead and hope is killed, work becomes a drudgery, soon to be forgotten. This book points to a better way.

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