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Incentive Programs and Building an Amateur Airplane


Wylecoyote How many of you understand gravity?  Most of you know if something weighs more than air it falls.  And the more it weighs – the harder it falls.  So you know gravity.  

How many of you know how an airplane stays in the air?  Most of you do I’m sure.  You know that air going over the wing is faster than air going under the wing so it creates more pressure under the wing and therefore you get lift (Bernoulli Principle) – and with this principle a big, heavy, huge, object will for all intents and purposes, defeat gravity.

I’m also guessing that most of you know that in order for a plane to get airborne you need to have the wings moving fast enough to create that lift.

So… the vast majority of you know enough to build an airplane right?  It's simple…

  1. Have a wing that creates lift by making the air go faster over the top than the bottom
  2. Have an engine that gets the thing moving so the air goes over the wings

Ta Da!  You’re an aeronautical engineer!

I’m kidding of course.  

My point is this – no one would assume they can build a safe and effective airplane with that amount of knowledge.  That’s why we like to have people who went to school and learned the formulas, weight, lift, drag, power, etc.  We want people to design airplanes that work and work well.

Incentive Programs Are The Same

Unfortunately, most incentive programs are put together like an amateur plane.  I’ll walk you through the logic:

  1. I sometimes don’t like to do something.
  2. If someone offers me a reward for doing something I usually do it.
  3. I like money, and Godiva chocolate as rewards
  4. I have people working for me that aren’t doing something
  5. Therefore, it must be because they don’t like it and they don’t have enough money or chocolate
  6. I will run an incentive program that offers them money and chocolate

It Doesn't Work That Way

While some may argue that building an airplane is tough – I'd argue that understanding why people do things is just as tough (probably tougher since there are no "laws of behavior" – guidelines maybe but no laws.)

So for 2010 – take this HUGE piece of advice:

Don’t assume that because you have some basic knowledge of how people are influenced by rewards and the fact you are a person, lead you to believe you have the appropriate knowledge needed to design and run an effective incentive program.

Take a lesson from these guys (email subscribers click through for video) – having basic knowledge is a sure path to poor outcomes!

Video Clips Of Early Flight Attempts.More amazing video clips are a click away

Originally posted on on Incentive Intelligence

4 Responses to “Incentive Programs and Building an Amateur Airplane”

  1. Frank Roche says:

    Paul, that’s another great article by you. Thanks for the good thoughts and the very comical video. (I loved when they threw snow on the guy’s burning trousers.)
    Your writing is always in my “Must Read” category. That’s a very small list. Cheers to a great year ahead.

  2. Paul Hebert says:

    Thanks Frank – high praise coming from you! Sounds like you are off to a great year and I wish you continued success!
    I am keeping my fingers crossed for a client in Philly this year so I can drop by and see your new digs!

  3. Excellent post, Paul, especially your advice for 2010. As you point out, limited knowledge only limits you. Let yourself be guided by the experts who can walk you through the complexities of global cultures, international laws and regulations, reward choice, goals and outcomes of recognition and incentives, equivalency of incentive or reward across widely varied standards of living, and numerous other factors that we live and breathe every day.

  4. Paul Hebert says:

    You got it – to keep the metaphor going – we’re birds of a feather. Too often a little knowledge is worse than none at all. Happy New Year Derek!

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