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JTFRA Guiding Principles

January 21, 2014 by Steven D. Brewer

The Joint Task Force for Resource Allocation at UMass created a draft set of guiding principles that included language about incentivizing. This is my reply:

I read the JTFRA draft guiding principles with interest and would like to offer one recommendation: reword to avoid creating incentives.

Creating incentives is always a mistake. There is extensive research that shows that rewards don't work -- See Alfie Kohn's "Punished by Rewards" and Daniel Pink's "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" for two recent examples.

Incentives try to shape behavior by encouraging people to aim for the reward rather than to do what they think is right. It's worth thinking about that. How much time do we want people to spend trying to get rewards rather than trying to do their job as well as they can?

Using rewards and incentives also encourages perverse behavior. It undermines honesty and candor because people try to manipulate the data and appearances to increase the likelihood of receiving the reward -- and to undermine people around them, with whom they are competing.

Finally, the statement "incentivize excellence" is meaningless. What does "incentivize excellence" even mean? Only do things we can do excellently? Just as "something worth doing is worth doing well", it is equally true that "something worth doing is worth doing badly". It's often better to do something badly than not to do it at all.

Ask. Create opportunities. Invest. Don't incentivize.



February 1, 2014 by Steven D. Brewer, 1 year 11 weeks ago
Comment: 1561

I was pleased to see at the most recent Faculty Senate meeting that they've fixed this. Thank you!


burĝonoj krevas… preskaŭ eblas envidi sed ankoraŭ ne #hajko #esperanto / buds are splitting… you can almost see inside, but not yet #haiku3 hours 11 sec ago
mankas koheran kosmovidon / tends to vacillate between speaking #Esperanto and being an esperantist. — 7 hours 3 min ago
RT @BikeErie: Check out this @NYTimes article on biking from PGH to DC Great work @GAP_Trail &...… — 7 hours 21 min ago
was charmed to have a @umassamherst student shoot a video of his poster printing on the poster printer / vere priĝojas siajn studentojn. — 9 hours 27 min ago
had to walk over to another building because the regular guy who runs the cafe is out and the sub can't make anything work / Sacrebleu! — 9 hours 34 min ago
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