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Carrots and Sticks Has Landed—A Commentary by Ian Ayres ’86

The following commentary was posted on newyorktimes.com on September 22, 2010.

Carrots and Sticks Has Landed
By Ian Ayres ’86

My eleventh book, Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done, has just been published. It is centrally about how to craft incentives and commitments to help you and others accomplish your goals. My central claim is simple:

Structuring the right incentive is more than just setting the right price. Other people matter. Mindfulness matters. And, participation matters.

Even casual readers of this blog will know that I am not a neutral bystander on these questions. I care passionately about the benefits of commitment contracts and have already put that passion into action. Together with Yale economist Dean Karlan and Yale business student Jordan Goldberg, I co-founded a service, www.stickK.com, that lets people put their money where their mouths are. To date, our users have put close to $5 million at stake.

I’m committed to the value of stickK as more than just a business idea. Like the President of Hair Club for Men I’m not just a co-founder of the company; I am also one of its clients. In 2007, I used a commitment contract to lose 25 pounds, and I have kept it off now for more than three years. (You can keep track of how I’m doing on my maintenance contract here. This morning I weighed 179.8 pounds.)

But Carrots and Sticks is not an extended advertisement for stickK.com or for the value of commitment contracts. It explores not only how best to pick the right commitment tool, but also when it’s best to keep that tool in the box. All in all, I’ve tried to write a book that introduces you to dozens of stories of incentive devices in action — in academic experiments, in business and at home. My hope is to provide you with news you can use — a new way of thinking about how best to change behavior.

You can read an excerpt from the first chapter here.
http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780553807639&view=excerpt