Karl Drucker a psychologist from the early 20th century is best known for his experiment The Candle problem. It’s an experiment where people are given some tacks, a candle and a book of matches. The goal: You need to stick the candle to the wall and light it without the wax dripping on the table. How long does it take you to figure out the solution?
The solution is achieved by dumping the tacks out, tacking the box to the wall, putting the candle in the box and lighting the candle. It took most people who weren’t incentivized 5 – 10 minutes before they discover the solution. When incentives were offered for the fastest times – it took people on average three and a half minutes longer!
In Drive Daniel Pink says “Rewards, by their very nature, narrow our focus. That’s helpful when there’s a clear path to a solution. They help us stare ahead and race faster. But “if-then” motivators are terrible for challenges like the candle problem.”
When challenging others to do creative work – do not incentivize them. You cannot pay people more to think laterally or creatively, you just need to be able to facilitate that growth.