Carrots and Sticks Has Landed


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,?, 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 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.

Michael F. Martin

That cover looks so familiar...

I guess it's scenes a faire for economists.

Dan Fonseca

Read the preview and I can't wait to check it out! It should be really eye opening...

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

How about an Alternative Title: Chocolate Cake and Cattle Prod

Katie Cunningham

Are you going to favor us with a Kindle version? If you had one now, I'd be reading it this second :)

Harrison B

Well you had to lose the weight. Not only was the money you committed at risk, but your entire business plan :)


Think the author knows the stick is to hold the carrot and not a tool for punishment?


typo: it should read "to date, our users have put close to $5 million at stickK"


Briefly perused StickK, and I was underwhelmed. Mr. Ayres, you must be familiar with Freakonomics, since you're using its forum to hawk your book and website. Show us the numbers!! Users may have put upwards of five million at stake, but how much money was actually given up as a result of missed goals? Can you give me hard data on how many customers with goals actually achieved success? How many customers with "custom" goals achieved success? I predict that certain goals that are desperately needed now, such as lowering debt, would fail miserably in your system. In those cases, putting up money is not only counterintuitive, but announcing that they are in debt risks a person's reputation before they start. Maybe a different system would help, but in just about every case the only way to eliminate debt would be to endure some hardship without short term benefit. It could even be stated that in the case of debt reduction the benefit - getting material goods or other services before having to pay for them later - means that the carrot is long since gone. All that is left is the stick to hit with.



Do you really have H&R Block do your taxes?