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Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done Hardcover – 21 Sep 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Dell Publishing Group, Div of Random House, Inc (21 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553807633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553807639
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.3 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 558,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By books on 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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Format: Kindle Edition
Review courtesy of is a website designed to help you achieve your goals. You pick a goal or activity you want to do, pick a referee to check to make sure you did it, and then put up a stake you’ll sacrifice if you don’t follow through: the money can go to a charity or, for the truly motivated, an anti-charity, such as the Bush Presidential Library if you’re left wing, or the Obamacare support fund (not a real thing) if you’re right wing.

It was set up by Ian Ayres, a contract lawyer and behavioural economist, and he’s now written a book to explain the ideas behind it. The idea is pretty simple, and so the book focuses largely on a multitude of examples, from drugs that make you throw up when you drink alcohol or ingest too much fat, to signs in US National Parks that said that so many guests were stealing petrified wood they were running out, which actually increased total theft. In Israel, so-called ‘kosher phones’ were even set up by the Rabbinic council in Israel to block numbers for escort services and charge more than $2/minute for calls on the Sabbath!

The book got a little wearing for me in the middle: it felt a bit like a long list of examples, with ads for the website mixed in. The end picked up again, though, first with a chapter on diets (if you want to keep weight off, weigh yourself regularly: it correlates highly with persistence in weight loss. Equally, if you’re on a strict diet, careful you don’t substitute to other activities: 20-30% of bariatric surgery patients pick up another vice, such as gambling, smoking, or drinking), and then a chapter on public policy helping people commit to desirable activities, such as reduce energy use. Overall, worth the read. Interesting, entertaining, and if a little slow in the middle, still informative.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 25 July 2011
Format: Hardcover
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) 16 reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Very innovative book in the field of motivation/commitment 6 Jan. 2011
By Ralu Cat - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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 :)
38 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Great Title, useless book 3 Oct. 2010
By Robert Haberer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
What's your motivation? 2 Feb. 2012
By Deb - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
What's the story? 5 Jan. 2012
By what do i know - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
the conclusion i noted down for myself (coming from the perspective to finding out what actually motivates people in a more general matter) in the cover page is: "pretty weak book - mainly to promote his website stikK." And actually, that is about what i took from the book. There is tons of interesting studies that are cited, but overall i miss the 'story' and hard facts that offer added value. I sure hope there is something more to say about incentives than what i have read in 'Carrots and Sticks.'
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
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.
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