It’s the incentives, stupid!

I’m not sure, and I think someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to recall it was Ronald Reagan who said “It’s the economy, stupid” (yes I’m too lazy this morning to google it….). Reagan’s point from my perspective, was that it was so blindingly obvious that the financial situation matters that it was worth calling people stupid if they weren’t understanding it. Basically, it meant that people who didn’t get it, would say they did, just to not get called stupid.

Yesterday afternoon I was struck that in my workplace it’s about incentives. Some wonderful people in my workplace are being told they aren’t good enough because they haven’t met the perverse markers in the performance structure because they publish in books not journals, or the edit journals and books instead of authoring or they contribute actively to the community around them with their research instead of the formalised educational structures. They are also innovative teachers. So, they are basically being punished for not being in an ivory tower and being innovative teachers.

People talk about incentives for workforces all the time, and yet, they do not understand the behaviour it engenders. They are stupid pretending to understand so as not to be left out. But seriously, when effective staff members start to leave in droves, all I can say is, “It’s the incentives, stupid.”

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2 comments
  1. Andrew Blair Duncan said:

    You probably know now that it was President Clinton’s staff that had the mantra “its the economy, stupid”. However, I do like your focus on incentives. My favourite commentator at the moment says “An incentive is a bullet, a key: an often tiny object with astonishing power to change a situation” (Steven D. Levitt, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything). A disincentive can be just as effective (and destructive) as you note. I think you are right to think subversively and try to establish an way for those who have an interest in teaching quality to communicate with each other and ignore the hierarchy.

    • I didn’t know it was Clinton! It’s been a while since I looked at this post but it’s timely as I’m back into subversion. Thanks for the correction.

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