Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

Why even bother showing up?

Posted by Ron Coleman on January 24, 2008

Joel Waldfogel explains how Tiger Woods is so good, other golfers hardly even bother trying.

What does this mean for the nongolfing world? It’s generally agreed that people work harder when they are paid for performance. Anyone who has ever languished in a Paris cafe—where service compris translates roughly as “the Republic of France mandates a minimum 15 percent tip regardless of service quality”—can appreciate the power of incentives. But the effects of incentives appear to be muted when the incentives are based on relative performance and the competition is tough. We’re taught that quitters never win, but if the evidence from golf is any indication, it might be more accurate, if less pithy, to say that expected losers are more likely to quit, or at least not perform as well. If you’re running a business, and you have the opportunity to hire the Tiger Woods of office work, you’re not going to pass up the chance. But Brown’s study suggests you might want to consider its effect on your other workers’ performance. Steak knives might not cut it as second prize.

Everybody has to feel he’s got a fighting chance.


One Response to “Why even bother showing up?”

  1. jan said

    I’d play just to be in competition with myself: How much better than last time can I do? However, I’m one of those wicked narcissistic individualists (gasp!) so my opinion is probably suspect.

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