In an ideal world, nobody's work would be just about the money. People could pursue excellence in what they do, take pride in achievement, and derive meaning from knowing that their work improved the lives of others.
Everybody makes money for a living, but most of us actually do something that has a point, in addition to just making money. We examine and treat patients, we teach students, we draw up contracts and wills, we write for newspapers, magazines, and web sites, we clean floors, or we serve meals.
When you rely on incentives, you undermine virtues. Then when you discover that you actually need people who want to do the right thing, those people don't exist because you've crushed anyone's desire to do the right thing with all these incentives.
Too little attention is paid to the dark side of incentives. They are anything but a magic bullet. Psychologists have known this for years, but it seems largely hidden from the world of commerce.
Of course, bankers were always interested in making money. But when bankers had clients, they bore some responsibility for the clients' welfare.
Practical wisdom is what's called for in situations that have a moral dimension to them.
Years of research in psychology has shown that rewards and punishments can be very effective in changing behavior. But, at the same time, they can create an addiction to rewards and punishments.
What I look for in any book is an argument, based on evidence, that changes the way I think about something important.
How much does it really matter whether your child will soon be enjoying a first year at Harvard or Yale or will instead end up at her third or fourth or fifth choice? Probably much less than you think.
I don't really read 'business books,' and I didn't think 'The Paradox of Choice' was a business book. I'm very surprised and gratified that the business world thought it was one.
People who work in financial services don't have one shred of concern about the well-being of the people they serve. They're only interested in themselves.
I start with an idea that is no more than a paragraph long, and expand it slowly into an outline. But I'm always surprised by the directions things take when I actually start writing.
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