One, as long as the task involved only mechanical skill, bonuses worked as they would be expected, the higher the pay the better their performance. Okay, that makes sense. But here’s what happens. But once the task called for even rudimentary cognitive skill a larger reward led to poorer performance. Now this is strange - a larger reward led to poorer performance - how can that possibly be? Now what’s interesting about this is that these folks here who did this are all economists; two at MIT, one at the University of Chicago, one at Carnegie Mellon - top tier of the economics profession. And they’re reaching this conclusion that seems contrary to what a lot of us learned in economics, which is that the higher the reward the better the performance and they’re saying that once you get above rudimentary cognitive skill it’s the other way around, which seems like this kind of… the idea that these rewards don’t work that way. It seems vaguely left wing and socialist doesn’t it? It’s this kind of weird socialist conspiracy.

Read the entire unedited transcript of Dan Pink’s talk here courtesy of RSA Events.

  1. Learn more about the speaker, Dan Pink here.
  2. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink.