Here’s how he describes it in his newsletter (which you can subscribe to here):
“Crowd Control” is unlike any other program on TV. We take on problems — from significant ones like airline safety to less significant ones like double-dipping guacamole. Then, using principles of behavioral science, along with some cool design and technology, we go out into the world and try to solve them. In all, we’ve done more than 40 experiments across America — some of which have worked spectacularly, others of which, uh, have not.
For example, in our first 12 episodes, we’ve:
reconfigured a stretch of Route 66 in New Mexico so that the road plays a song when people drive the speed limit;
created a high-tech photo booth to scare sun-loving Jersey shore vacationers into using sun screen;
cleaned up Bourbon Street with a giant trivia game;
designed a robotic dog to make a New York airport’s baggage claim more tolerable;
People are probably familiar with Dan Pink’s “TED Talk” which is one of their most popular of all time, and some are familiar with the RSA Animation of another one of his talks on motivation (I’ve embedded both below).
A few days ago RSA posted another animation of a talk he gave on his most recent book (by the way, for what it’s worth, Dan interviewed both my wife and me for it). I’ve embedded this new video first, followed by the other older two.
Some school reformers and researchers have suggested that providing merit pay for entire schools is an alternative, though I’m not a supporter of those kinds of group incentives for similar reasons why I’m opposed to individual merit pay.
What’s your take on the whole idea of group versus individual incentives?
To me, the difference is less about groups versus individuals than about other, deeper factors. For instance, the big problem with “if-then” rewards isn’t the rewards but the “if-then,” the contingency. Those types of mechanisms are forms of control. Control can be effective for simple, algorithmic tasks — but a disaster for more complex, creative, conceptual ones. So the real issue here is whether the rewards are controlling — or whether they’re operating as forms of feedback and information. Also, a big problem with contingent rewards are that people can game the system. Individual rewards are much harder to game than group ones. For example, I can cut corners and shift around orders in order to make my own monthly sales look good. But it’s tough for one person to singlehandedly manipulate and distort company profits. One reason that group incentives can sometimes work better than individual ones is that they’re harder to game — so people end up just doing their jobs.
Do you share a concern about its “workability” in a school situation and, to make the question even broader, do you have any thoughts about a general criteria to apply or thoughts to keep in mind to distinguish between incentive ideas and strategies that might be appropriate for businesses but not in schools? This is of particular concern to many of us in education who find ourselves dealing with some efforts to “run schools more like businesses.”
Absolutely. Here’s what people never seem to realize: Schools aren’t businesses. Even people who think schools are businesses can never tell me whether students are the product or the customer. But most parents don’t want their kids to be either products or customers. They want them to be human beings who learn and grow. The idea that we can accomplish that singlehandedly through teacher or school bonuses is silly.
What are your thoughts on the use of group incentives in education and Daniel Pink’s other comments?
It’s ninety-minutes long, and I’ve only had a chance to watch/listen to the first thirty minutes. So far, I would especially recommend the section from about the ten minute mark to the 25 minute mark. I’ll be listening to the rest of it later tonight.
As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of Daniel Pink’s work. Tonight, there was an #HRBookchat with him, and I created a “Storify” highlighting what I thought were key comments that were made (of course, it was particularly nice that he encouraged people to read my post in The New York Times today 🙂 ).
Daniel Pink was recently interviewed on a local Washington, D.C. television show along with a local university official. You watch it all here, but I thought the few minutes he spent discussing the role of grades, autonomy and inquiry in education to be particularly thought-provoking. I used Tube Chop to “chop” those two brief segments and have them embedded below. I don’t know if they will come through on an RSS Readers, so you might have to click through to my blog in order to view them.