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Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done [Hardcover]

Ian Ayres
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Sep 2010
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.

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Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done + Willpower: Why Self-Control is the Secret of Success
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Dell Publishing Group, Div of Random House, Inc (21 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553807633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553807639
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 17 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 641,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars an advert for his company 24 Dec 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It seems the writer has an internet company 'stick to it'or something.People make commitments on the site and sometimes it helps them stick to it. The book is a long eulogy to this one idea and gets a bit repetitive. Incentives like this sometimes work and sometimes fail miserably.'Will power' by Baumeister is probably a better book if you do want to make any behavioural changes and is a bit more interesting.If you want to know about the contracts you could just check out his web site.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
Have you been making the same resolutions over and over - about losing weight or stopping smoking - without success? If so, a "commitment contract" can help. In his entertaining new book, lawyer, economist and author Ian Ayres shows how pledging yourself to a reward (a "carrot") or a punishment (a "stick") can be a forceful motivator. Ayres describes commitment contracts in a conversational, anecdotal style. getAstract recommends this book to anyone interested in human behavior. It can help you reach that elusive personal or professional goal - if you're ready to put your money where your mouth is.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very innovative book in the field of motivation/commitment 6 Jan 2011
By Ralu Cat - Published on
I am very surprised at the 2-star reviews that I just read... I have a degree in cognitive psychology and have always been fascinated by commitment and the illusive "motivation" (I also work in training) and I must say this book presents some of the most innovative, practical and new ideas I've seen in the field in some time. The book is much better written than a self-help book (which I really appreciated as someone familiar with the field) but it has practical suggestions and comparisons every other paragraph! Yes, it does "advertise" (co-developed by the author) but that's a free site as long as you STICK to your commitments...And you can do it solo if you are as good at organizing your contingencies like the book describes instead of using this tool. But as we are all human, I don't think it will work for many of us... This is one of the main lessons of the book - we're not very good with commitment and we do need lots of help and awareness to stick to them. This book is not only great at pointing the pitfalls of our human nature, but actually gives clear advice on how to counteract all of them.
I assume part of the cause for the poorer reviews is the fact that yes, commitment sucks and yes, it takes a lot of work (including reading the whole book). No, it doesn't contain a 1 page/phrase magical mantra. But it's still a very practical and very accessible book. It's just very blunt about how tough commitment is and if you can't accept that you will really hate the whole idea no matter the author :)
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What's your motivation? 2 Feb 2012
By Deb - Published on
I feel like this review should start with a clarification of the book's subtitle of: "Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done." In the context of this book, the "power of incentives" translates to using the author's website of to become financially committed to your goals. Sure, this extrinsically motivational web-based approach has worked for many (the author does not hold back on sharing the details about his company), but it's not an approach that promotes deeper psychological growth.

The author is an economist and a lawyer, and the book's content reflects just that. So, if you're looking for a self-help book on becoming more internally motivated or a fascinating exploration of the human behavior side of behavioral economics, you might feel disappointed by this book. But, if you're a hard-core economist and get excited by legal contracts and commitments, you'll likely love this book.

Just know what you're getting into before committing yourself to this book---otherwise you might need to employ your own set of carrots and sticks to get through it.
35 of 46 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Title, useless book 3 Oct 2010
By Robert Haberer - Published on
This is much more of an academic book than a helpful one. Mr. Ayres cites study after study with virtually no practical advice. While that in itself is not a sin, Carrots and Sticks is marketed as a self help book, so to me, I feel he and/or the publisher is being deceptive. The line above the title reads, "Unlock the Power of Incenctives to Get Things Done". That line on the cover is selling it as a practical, how-to book. On the front, inside book jacket, it goes on and on about how this book can help you make dramatic changes in your life, but, alas, the inner content offers few (really no) strategies for doing so. Just more studies cited. But don't take my word for it. Open the book to any page, start reading, and you'll see.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to behavioral economics 17 Aug 2011
By Leah NYC - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a former economics major, econ theory has always interested me, especially when it's presented in an way that makes it relevant to everyday life. Many of the other reviewers have pointed out that this book doesn't give you specific advice on how to change your life - and I agree - but I see that as a positive. There is no magic universal solution for the perfect life, and hoping to find one is asking to be either disappointed or lied to. Everyone is unique, and our eccentricities make it impossible for cookie-cutter advice to fit every individual.

In Carrots and Sticks, Ayres instead offers a recommended approach to addressing your personal challenges, and takes the time to show you why the approach will work. The references to studies are described in an easy to follow style and illustrate the basic principles of incentives and how they can be used effectively. By showing examples and truly teaching you the basics, you'll be best able to decide for yourself how you can apply the theory to your own life. And yes, examples of practical applications are provided - and they're quite convincing.

This book is great if you want to take a closer look at your own life and the way the world works. If you want some quick rules to follow blindly, this one ain't for you.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great overview of the psychology of commitment and will power 29 Sep 2010
By Johnxkenny - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Why does what we do today, so frequently disappoint our future self? Ayres does a nice job of summarizing how we can make 'commitment contracts" that our future self can enforce on our current self. If it sounds demanding its not, the book itself is very readable, amusing and insightful. If you enjoy books like Freakonomics, Nudge or Predictably Irrational, you'll really enjoy this too (and probably recognize some of the better known experiments from behavioral economics) but Ayres perspective is unique, and many of his examples are fascinating.
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