Carrots and Sticks Book Summary - Carrots and Sticks Book explained in key points
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Carrots and Sticks summary

Ian Ayres

Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done

4 (36 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

Carrots and Sticks by Ian Ayres is a book that explores the power of incentives in our lives. It argues that rewarding desired behavior and punishing undesirable behavior can be effective in shaping our habits and decisions.

Table of Contents

    Carrots and Sticks
    Summary of 8 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 8

    We tend to favor small, immediate rewards over bigger, long-term ones. The future is too uncertain!

    How many people do you know who binge on candy even though they’re trying to lose weight? Or perhaps you’ve a friend who smokes yet wants to quit, but can’t seem to give it up.

    What is it about bad habits that are so hard to break?

    It’s part of human nature to forgo long-term benefits for immediate rewards. For instance, if you asked a group of friends about their personal goals, many would probably talk about things like staying healthy or saving for retirement.

    But when it comes right down to it, most of us forget our goals the moment we grab a candy bar or splurge on a fancy new gadget.

    This is particularly evident in the behavior of drug addicts. After all, drug addicts do themselves serious physical harm in exchange for the immediate pleasure of a drug high.

    Most addicts know this, but still can’t kick the habit. But we’re all not so different, really – many of us have vices to which we give in, in one part of life or another.

    The bottom line is that we’re all addicted to now, and can easily postpone long-term goals to indulge in the present.

    In general, people tend to reach for smaller but certain rewards over bigger, uncertain ones.

    Economist Richard Thaler asked participants in a study to choose between either receiving one apple in one year, or two apples in one year and one day. Participants gladly waited the extra day to get both apples.

    Yet our logic appears to change when faced with decisions affecting the nearer future. People offered one apple today or two tomorrow invariably chose the single apple – or immediate satisfaction.

    Thaler’s findings point to a greater phenomenon, in that when an immediate reward is available, any bigger rewards for which we have to wait lose their attraction. Why? Because having to wait for something throws into question the certainty that it’ll occur at all.

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    What is Carrots and Sticks about?

    Carrots and Sticks (2010) is the bible of behavior, incentives and self-control. These blinks will explain how you can swap out bad habits with rewards, punishments and formal commitments to yourself. You’ll gain the skills necessary to tackle challenges such as losing weight, quitting smoking and saving for retirement.

    Carrots and Sticks Review

    Carrots and Sticks (2010) by Ian Ayres explores the power of incentives in shaping our behavior and influencing our decisions. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It provides a unique perspective on the role of incentives in our daily lives, making us reconsider our behaviors and motivations.
    • Ayres presents compelling case studies and examples, demonstrating the effectiveness of incentives in various contexts like healthcare, education, and the workplace.
    • The book offers practical tips and strategies for designing and implementing effective incentive programs, providing readers with actionable insights to apply in their own lives.

    Who should read Carrots and Sticks?

    • People trying to quit smoking, lose weight or make exercise a habit
    • Psychologists, behavioral therapists, coaches and personal trainers
    • Managers or business owners looking to motivate employees

    About the Author

    Ian Ayres is an American lawyer and economist who teaches at both Yale Law School and Yale School of Management. In addition to cofounding the commitment contract website StickK.com, he has authored several books including Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is The New Way to Be Smart.

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    Carrots and Sticks FAQs 

    What is the main message of Carrots and Sticks?

    The main message of Carrots and Sticks is that incentives influence behavior, and understanding this can help us make better choices.

    How long does it take to read Carrots and Sticks?

    The reading time for Carrots and Sticks varies, but it will take several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Carrots and Sticks a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Carrots and Sticks is worth reading as it provides insights into how incentives shape our decisions and behavior, helping us make more informed choices.

    Who is the author of Carrots and Sticks?

    The author of Carrots and Sticks is Ian Ayres.

    What to read after Carrots and Sticks?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Carrots and Sticks, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Marshmallow Test by Walter Mischel
    • Get It Done by Ayelet Fishbach
    • No Excuses! by Brian Tracy
    • The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
    • The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner
    • The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
    • Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg
    • Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney
    • The Now Habit by Neil Fiore
    • Think Remarkable by Guy Kawasaki & Madisun Nuismer