The Upside of Irrationality, The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home, is the sequel to Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, which I discussed in June.
I have to say, I enjoyed Dan’s first book enough that I had pretty high hopes for the sequel, and I was not disappointed. Similar to Predictably Irrational, we are walked through a series of experiments that offer a view as to how we approach certain decisions and how we are motivated.
One experiment we are offered is to try to understand the connection between payment and performance. The assumption of “pay for performance” may be more theory than reality it would seem, as one experiment which upped the ante on some simple tasks to a level of three weeks pay for only an hour’s work showed that the pressure of higher potential earnings actually decreased performance. As budgets for academic studies of this nature tend to be limited, this experiment was conducted in India, where the wages were lower than in the US.
In another example, we are introduced to the demotivation that follows work that’s discarded. For the experiment, people are paid to assemble a lego structure, one after the next. The demotivation came as for one group of builders, their structure was taken apart right in front of them. For those who saw their creation kept in tact, they worked longer and were happier doing so. This may seem ridiculous, but I’ve witnessed real life examples. Engineers whose designs were completed, on time, under budget, fully functional, yet, for whatever reason, found their project canceled. Such engineers don’t last long at companies that don’t value their work.
These two examples I offered are also discussed in an interview with NPR’s Robert Siegel in his interview with Dan Ariely, Exploring The ‘Upside Of Irrationality‘. You can listen to the interview or read the transcript, as you wish.
I’d also like to mention that Dan Ariely has a blog in which he stays pretty active, conducts experiments, and offers links to his videos. A great site to explore the topics introduced by these books.
FTC disclaimer – I borrowed this book from my library and was not compensated for this article.