I’m Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. I’m on a mission to make you remarkable.

Helping me in this episode is the remarkable Ayelet Fishbach. She is an expert in motivation and decision-making.

More precisely, Ayelet is a Behavioral Science and Marketing professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

She is also the former president of the Society for the Study of Motivation. She has served as an Associate Editor on several journals, including Psychological Science and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

She earned her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and a Ph.D. in psychology from Tel Aviv University.

Today we will discuss her new book, GET IT DONE: Surprising Lessons from the Science of Motivation. In it, she provides a powerful new framework for self-motivated action.

Here’s what Angela Duckworth says about Ayelet, “I don’t know anyone, scientist or otherwise, who knows more than Ayelet Fishbach about the psychology of goals.”

If you enjoyed this episode of the Remarkable People podcast, please leave a rating, write a review, and subscribe. Thank you!

Transcript of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People podcast with Ayelet Fishbach:

Guy Kawasaki:
I'm Guy Kawasaki and this is Remarkable People. I'm on a mission to make you remarkable.
Helping me in this episode is the remarkable Ayelet Fishbach. She's an expert in motivation and decision making.
More precisely, Ayelet is a professor of behavioral science and marketing at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business.
She's also the former president of the Society for the Study of Motivation.
She has served as an associate editor of several journals, including Psychological Science and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
She earned her bachelor's degree, master's degree, and a PhD in psychology from Tel Aviv University.
Today, we're going to discuss her new book, Get It Done, Surprising Lessons From The Science of Motivation. In this book, she provides a powerful new framework for self-motivated action.
Here's what Angela Duckworth has to say about Ayelet. “I don't know anyone, scientists or otherwise who knows more than Ayelet Fishbach about the psychology of goals.”
I'm Guy Kawasaki. This is Remarkable People. And now here's the remarkable Ayelet Fishbach.
I would like your take on the concept of involuntary service in Israel.
Ayelet Fishbach:
That's a difficult question. This is the first, like you don't want to like ease in with, how are you? What's the weather in Chicago?
Guy Kawasaki:
I want to know what you think of involuntary service in Israel. It's one of the few countries that does that.
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yes. And I didn't like it when I had to do it. This would be an understatement. I really didn't like it. I ended up meeting my husband there, so it ended up working just fine.
But I would say that the best solution for a society is probably to have some requirement to give back, but it should not be restricted to military service. Some people can contribute their talents in different ways. You can put young people to work in hospitals. They might be more useful there as teachers. They might be able to support education.
Contributing through the military, that's just one way and probably not my personally favorite way of giving back to society.
Guy Kawasaki:
So you clearly weren't in unit 8,200 and started a billion dollar tech company, right? That wasn't the path.
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yeah. Some people are allowed to go to academia from that unit. So I was on this path. Yeah.
Guy Kawasaki:
Ayelet Fishbach:
You did your homework. It is the unit in Israel that feeds the high tech and bunch of academia.
Guy Kawasaki:
I thought that Venture Capitalist has funded that unit, but that's a side question.
Ayelet Fishbach:
When I was there it was still a secret, you were not allowed to say the number.
Guy Kawasaki:
Oh, oh really?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Guy Kawasaki:
Excuse me. Now, the Mossad is going to come after me.
Oh no. I think the Mossad is busy with Russia right now. So I think I'm low on the totem pole for them. In the book, you discuss this concept of a glass half full or half empty and whether it marks an optimist being half full or a pessimist half empty.
And I just want to tell you a story that may influence how you use this metaphor in the future. And the story is that about a month ago, I interviewed Neil deGrasse Tyson and I don't know how we got on the subject of a glass half empty or full, but he explains that a glass half empty or full is determined by what you are trying to do.
So if you're trying to fill up the glass, it's half full. And if you're trying to empty the glass, it's half empty. So that may influence whether someone is an optimist or a pessimist. You have to know what they were trying to do in order to make that judgment.
Ayelet Fishbach:
This is interesting. You see, you take some saying and you can use it in so many different ways.
I use it in a way that's not that. And also not being an optimist versus pessimist. It's basically how you monitor your progress toward a goal.
So I think that you are referring to an approach goal in which case you are filling up your glass or an avoidance goal in which, where you are trying to move away from something, you are trying to empty this bad stuff.
I think about it in terms of getting somewhere, let's say that you are pursuing a college degree, or you are saving for a down payment, you want to be somewhere, sometime.
And now as you make your progress, you can look back and you can look ahead.
As it turns out, looking at the right direction will affect your motivation such that if you look back at the beginning, your progress will seem faster than if you look ahead.
Let me give an example, if you are thinking about a four-year college degree and you are finishing your first year, then you are already one year into it, which seems to have greater impact on the goal than if you think that you still have three years to go.
Now, move to after you already completed three years and now you can either say, I only have one year left or I've completed three years. And at that point, the one year will be more motivating than the three years.
So you can be strategic in how you monitor your progress.
Guy Kawasaki:
So if we combine your concept and Neil deGrasse Tyson's concept, if the task was to drink all the water in the glass, when the glass is half empty, you have made progress towards that goal. So you should be positively reinforced, right?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yes. My mind is like blown away by drinking the water in the glass. The metaphor is that you are accumulating water in the glass. But you are right. Yes.
I think that you have done half of the work. Let me tell you that an experiment of the branding, more than ten years ago in which we basically ran a charity campaign in South Korea. And we started collecting donations when we were actually halfway through the campaign.
We needed half the money, which is pretty typical for organizations. And we told some people that we have half of the money and we actually presented this nice figure in which they could see that this is our goal and we are halfway.
We filled it and we told the other half that we are still missing half of the money. And what we found is that for regular donors, people that we're giving to this organization all the time, they were more motivated by thinking about that glass half empty, by thinking about all the money that we still need.
They are contributing efforts when others are not doing enough. Then new donors, the people that never gave money, they were more likely to give when they got information that other people are giving, that the glass is half full. We already have half of the donation.
So this framings matter, they influence our motivation.
Guy Kawasaki:
So if you're running a direct mail campaign, if you were really sophisticated, you would cross reference your campaign to, is this a past donor or a new donor? And then they would get different kinds of appeals.
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yes. We already give people different kind of appeals. So you don't need to be super sophisticated. Everybody does that. And this is one way in which appeals are being tailored, whether we tell you that things are going well, that many people are helping versus we really need your help.
Not enough people are helping, depends on who you are.
Guy Kawasaki:
Moving on from the glass, let us now go to the bagel.
So, if I read this right, if you made progress in the line at Einstein's Bagel, is it Einstein or Einstein?
Ayelet Fishbach:
I'm from Israel. You decide. I think Einstein. I think it's Einstein Bagel, but this is how I would say that.
Guy Kawasaki:
So if you've made a lot of progress in the bagel line to avoid that question, then the thinking is that you anticipate that the bagel will taste better if you haven't made a lot of progress.
So you're at the back of the line, you think that the bagel may not be as good? Did I get that right?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yes. Although, I don't think that you decrease your expectations from the bagel. It's mainly that as you're going to get your bagel sandwich, you have certain expectations.
And then as you wait in line and more people are behind you, then you feel like you've invested efforts. You feel like this must be an amazing bagel because I'm making progress and I'm investing in it, must be a really good lunch.
Guy Kawasaki:
So how about an alternate explanation? So let's say I get in the line and now I'm near the front and I look behind me and there's a long line. So one interpretation is what you said. How about another interpretation is, I look at all the people behind and I think, I've made a good choice.
This is the wisdom of the crowd. They all think it's a good bagel place. So that's why my expectation of the taste of the bagel is higher. Not because of progress, but because of the wisdom and confirmation of the crowd.
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yeah. So this is what Bob Cialdini refers to as social proof. And if there was line, if people are there, that's a signal that it's good. It is often why stores would like to have a line. They would like you to wait a little bit so that you will make this inference, that this is a worthwhile product.
But what we did in our studies is comparing the number of people that are behind you to the number of people that are ahead of you. So we are actually holding the length of the line, constant.
We are either serving the people that are already getting to the cashier and the people that just joined the line. And the people that are already at the cashier, they invest in personal efforts.
So everybody has the same information, which is valuable, which has some effect.
Now we are looking on top of it, what is the effect of you personally invested in it, or you think that you invested in it? In some studies we just had people look back or look ahead and we pour the number of people in line and we see the same effect where when you look back, you think, okay, I guess I really want that. I've been standing here for a while. When you look ahead, you are not quite making the same influence.
Guy Kawasaki:
So if I'm a bagel retailer, I should have a long line that moves fast. And that way it would encompass both theories.
Ayelet Fishbach:
Exactly. And you can also be sophisticated and give people information about the number of people that are behind them. And here, I'm thinking more about lines where you know which number is being served or which number has joined the line.
So you might not be actually standing there, but you know how many callers are behind you. And knowing that there are twenty callers behind you is more likely to keep you on the call than knowing that there are twenty people ahead.
So you can be sophisticated in how you monitor lines to get people to appreciate what they're waiting for.
Guy Kawasaki:
Now we've covered glasses and bagels. And now I want to ask you about the difference on videos of likes versus views, which is a more powerful number?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yes. So this is interesting because you could predict that what should matter with the number of views.
What should matter is what people do, not so much what they say. We often say that the actions speak louder than words, but not.
What we find is that people are more responsive to likes or to stars rating, to information about what other people are doing, what they're buying, what they are viewing, what they are listening to.
We care about other’s valuations, which is interesting. I can explain why that happens and which also inform us who is the best role model.
Guy Kawasaki:
But then I would say that YouTube is doing this exactly wrong because if you look at the YouTube page where multiple videos are listed, the number they provide is the number of views, not the number of thumbs up.
The number of thumbs up is on the next screen and that screen is a very busy screen. It has all kinds of mute, unmute, thumbs up, share, download. It's got like sixteen equal icons.
So would you advise YouTube to maybe put both on the first view of all the possible videos you might click on?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yeah, they're doing it wrong in the sense that they might not be giving people the information that they want. And definitely Amazon gives people stars rating. It's actually really hard to find information on how many people got the product and you can somehow get to like how popular the product is, but you never quite get the number.
So Amazon definitely gives you information on likes and not on what people actually do. I don't know what YouTube is trying to maximize with their system. Maybe they want you to watch what everybody else is watching.
And in that case, they are pushing that information on you. They don't choice architecture, they are giving you information that influences you in a certain way. If they gave both to people, they would watch what others like. We are less interested in what other people do, we want to know what they value.
Guy Kawasaki:
Although, as I think about it, I could make the case that if you provide both pieces of information, number of views and number of likes, there may be an unanticipated effect that there's millions of views, but only hundreds of likes, which would tell you that many people started this, but they didn't like it.
So I shouldn't waste my time looking at it at all.
Ayelet Fishbach:
I agree. I absolutely agree, but I'm not sure what is the correct thing to look at.
And I tend to think that actions provide better information than likes, mainly because views or that people who bought the product, everybody participates in this count. Everybody that viewed the video is part of the count on how many people watch that. Likes, people self-select themselves to be reviewers.
And we know that reviewers are not randomly selected from the population. People self-select to view product either because they loved it or they hated it. You might respond to the video because it's your favorite or because you hate it, or because you're just a person that likes to talk about stuff. Whereas I'm a person who's choosing what to watch, might want to know what many people found interesting that...
Guy Kawasaki:
Just want clarification, maybe I misheard it. So what's your dichotomy? It's actions versus...
Ayelet Fishbach:
Actions versus how people evaluate the thing it's like, what do they do versus what they say, what they value.
Guy Kawasaki:
A like is an action?
Ayelet Fishbach:
No, like is a review.
Guy Kawasaki:
Ayelet Fishbach:
Maybe I was confusing. So let me explain.
Action is whether a person was watching the video and you get information on how many people were watching that video. Like is a review, is what the person thought about the video. And some people participate in this review process, so they either give summed up or summed down, but not everybody. So everybody gives you information in watching their behavior. And some people also add the information about whether they liked what they were watching or not.
Guy Kawasaki:
And so you're saying the action of watching is more important?
Ayelet Fishbach:
I say that it's unclear and I tend to think that probably if I had both types of information, I know most people would follow the likes.
I think that I would trust the behavior of watching more than the liking. I want to read the book that many people read. I want to know what it's about.
Then I have less of a clear signal in their reviews because their reviews are mainly from people who had strong views about this book, or just have strong views about everything.
But let me explain a bit. The thing is that when we conform to what we think others believe in, like we want to be like others in a way that our behavior will conform with what they feel is the right thing to do, is the right way to think. We often see that when someone does something, we don't actually want to do that.
So if we are both go to a party, we might make sure that we don't wear the same shirt. This is kind of a trivial example, but I can think of one study in which people either heard that the product is good and I'm getting it, or that I like this product, but I'm not getting it.
And when they heard the product, whether it's like a mug or like any other item in the store, when they heard that the product is good, they like it, that it's a great design, they wanted to buy it when they heard that it's... I like it's a great design and I'm getting it. I'm buying it for myself.
They didn't want to buy it the same way that they don't want to wear the same thing as another person to the party. We feel that if our friends, if the people around us are already doing something we don't need to do that, we don't need to repeat, but if they value something, then we want to follow this signal.
We want to learn from what people value, not necessarily from what they do.
Guy Kawasaki:
So the bottom line for YouTube displaying the number of views is still questionable?
Ayelet Fishbach:
I think I know what was confusing. I think that personally as me, that the number of views is better information for me. I know based on my studies, that it's not the information that people are using.
Guy Kawasaki:
Ayelet Fishbach:
I was trying to separate the psychology from what is objectively a better signal of value.
Guy Kawasaki:
So now we're going to move from YouTube to the Olympics. And I have a theoretical question.
So the concept of social facilitation at the most recent Olympics, there was limited social facilitation.
So has anybody done a study that performing to a lack of crowds led to fewer records or better or worse performance?
Ayelet Fishbach:
That is a great question. That definitely was the fear we predict, controlling for all other variables. Okay. Yeah. I don't know.
There were a few other things that are happening in the world over the last couple of years.
Guy Kawasaki:
Yeah. Yes. There's that.
Ayelet Fishbach:
Maybe athletes were not getting the training that they used to get before the COVID pandemic. So we don't know, but I will look at it after we finish talking.
Guy Kawasaki:
But conceptually, if everything else were the same and for some bizarre reason, the Olympics was held not in front of a live audience, the expectation is that they would not perform as well.
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yes. And there is plenty of evidence that athletes don't perform as well when they are not in front of live audience. So live audience in general facilitates athletic performance and any other performance of experts.
Guy Kawasaki:
Now we're going to move on to COVID. I think in the United States to a large degree, the avoidance goal of avoiding COVID did not work for many people. And do you have an explanation why the avoidance goal didn't work?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Well, avoidance goals are not great to begin with. And avoidance goals are not great, whether it's avoiding eating certain things or thinking certain things, avoidance goals don't work very well because they bring to mind a thing that we are trying to avoid.
So I'm trying to avoid whatever I'm trying to avoid, red meat. And how do I know that I avoided red meat? I ask myself, are you avoiding it? And by that, bring it back to mind. And we also rebel and we are all rebels, adolescent more than adults, but we never quite outgrow the rebellions phase.
And we covered with a lot of that. I want to do something just because you told me not to, I want to take off my mask just because you told me that I should not take off my mask.
So when avoidance goals are good, when they convey urgency and like using my red meat example, if I tell you that you should stop eating red meat, then you think that you should probably stop eating it today.
If I tell you that you should eat more vegetables than you think I can probably do it like in a week or so, it doesn't seem so urgent.
Now we take COVID and the avoidance score was working very well when it was urgent. In March 2020, we were all very cautious for a couple of weeks. Maybe not all of us, but many people around the country washed their hands, their veggies and didn't touch their mouth.
We did everything that we thought we were supposed to do when it was urgent. Then it became the way we live our lives and that meant approach goals, that approaching health is much more motivating in the long run than avoiding sickness.
Guy Kawasaki:
So now for a more generalized question, which is, so basically, what are the qualities of a good goal?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Oh, there are many. Try to summarize, what makes a goal good.
Let's first define good in terms of motivating, because good can also mean that it's good for you. So hopefully you chose a goal that is good for you that will not involve like extreme sports that causes injury. You're not risking your life. It's not like unhealthy diet. It's something that's good for you and then we are trying to create a goal that is motivating.
And that goal should probably be an end state that you want to achieve and not the means to get there.
So it's a destination. It's what do you want to achieve. It is a goal that has a number attached to it, usually how much and how soon. It is a goal that has divide incentives. It is a goal that is intrinsically motivating that while you know exactly where you are going, get value from doing it, from going there.
And in my book, I give that as an example, that the goal of getting the summit of Mount Everest, which by the way, is not always a good goal. Some people are trying to get the summit of Mount Everest when the weather is bad. Yeah. I don't recommend that goal for everybody and in every condition, but it's very motivating goal because if you want to get to the summit of Mount Everest, you're not doing it because you're trying to like train for another mountain, okay.
That's the thing itself. The target is very clear. There is a very specific spot that if you were standing there, then you achieved that goal. They are great incentives. People will admire you even more than they are now.
You would be yet even more remarkable and you are probably intrinsically motivated, that is, you get value from doing it and not just from achieving it. And each of these elements is something that we can think of.
We can value it when we set a government and understand where there we did it right, whether it's motivating for us.
Guy Kawasaki:
And you would also throw into this qualities of a goal that it is an approach goal, as opposed to an avoidance goal?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yes. Yeah. I don't know how you would even think about it's an avoidance goal, like avoiding not climbing Mount Everest, avoiding walking on flat services. It's the thing that you want to achieve.
In general, avoidance goals, we see them mainly with eating, with diseases. I mean, smoking, alcohol, the main things that people want to avoid. And it's better if they can think about what they want to approach instead.
I don't like diets. I don't like diets because first, because I like food. But second, because they're often like framed in terms of removing items from your menu and not doing certain things.
And I think that it's much easier to follow a regimen of doing something that is exciting. That's fun. That's getting you there than we are moving parts of your life.
Guy Kawasaki:
But let's take a health goal. So you said put a number on it. So are you saying my goal is to have such and such a level of cholesterol versus my abstract goal is to be healthy.
So which one would be a better goal or does it depend on who you are?
Ayelet Fishbach:
They both sound bad.
Guy Kawasaki:
What should I tell my patient who is grossly overweight and about to have a heart attack?
Ayelet Fishbach:
If someone is about to have a heart attack, then this is urgent. Okay.
And this is when you can say like something has to change immediately and let's work on that because your life is at risk.
But many people, probably most of us need to eat healthier food. So let's think about what that means. That certainly means that some foods need to get off our plate and others need to get on our plate and it's better to think about this in terms of what you do need to eat, what should go on your plate, what would make your next meal fun and exciting and experience that you will enjoy and will nevertheless be healthy.
It's a very epic American Western idea that taste and health are conflicting goals. It's part of our culture. It's not in the food. Like it's certainly not in our evolution. We are supposed to be attracted to foods that are good for us.
So it's a learning and this person needs to learn to enjoy healthy diet.
Guy Kawasaki:
Okay. So how do I verbalize this? Do I tell them to get your cholesterol to a certain number, to get a certain BMI, to get a certain body weight, or to eat more healthily, more carrots? What's the goal? What should I tell my patient?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yeah. So I hear your struggle and you're trying to put number. So the target is the number.
The goal is to eat healthy diet, the target is the numbers that we are going to use. And I hear your struggle because the numbers that we are using are very not actionable. When you talk about counting calories or BMI or cholesterol, this is really hard to monitor.
When I look at the cake, I don't see cholesterol and I don't see calories and I don't see BMI. So I'm expected to monitor my consumption based on something that I don't see there. Think about the goal, the daily goal of walking a certain number of steps.
This is easy because when I walk, I can see that I make steps. It's very easy to intuitively understand what it is.
So now we are in a place where we don't have great targets when it gets to food, but we are working on it. One thing that we see now is the red light, green light system and having apps or stores or restaurants that would provide this ranking that would tell you whether that the food is green or red.
Green light means you can eat it, red light, you should try to minimize that. In Israel, actually, they had a law of it. I wonder it might still be there. But certain foods have a red tag on them that you cannot buy it without the red tag that says, “This is not good for you.”
Guy Kawasaki:
And it worked?
Ayelet Fishbach:
I believe so. I don't really have the data in front of me. But let's say I... It's hard to ignore.
The package tells you that this is something that you should consume in moderation.
Guy Kawasaki:
Well, people still smoke. But let's say I am a huge food manufacturer, why would I make anything that has a red tag unless I believe that there's some segment of the population who's going to eat it because it is red tagged.
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yeah. So a few things, your first people smoke much less in the U.S. Smoking is really interesting because if we think about a successful change, successful behavioral change in the world, we definitely reduce the smoking in the U.S. Other successful behavioral changes, we definitely increased vaccination.
People did not use to get vaccinated, people are now vaccinated. Hand washing was introduced sometimes at the beginning of the 20th century and definitely caught up. So there are behavioral changes, okay, seat belts, we see people are doing.
But this was not your question. Your question was, why would you mark your product with a sign that says you should not eat it, you probably only going to do it if you are required by law, but that creates the incentive for you to make product that are healthy for people.
So find a way to make money from desserts that are not going to kill us.
Guy Kawasaki:
That's a worthy…talk about an avoidance goal. Okay.
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yep, sorry.
Guy Kawasaki:
So it seems to me that if you watch what politicians do, the overarching goal is, get reelected. That's the goal, as opposed to dent the universe, make the world a better place, create a personal history that you can be proud of, et cetera, et cetera.
So is getting reelected a good goal?
Ayelet Fishbach:
It's good for whom?
Guy Kawasaki:
Good for the politician, but good for society, both because the two are different. Right?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Exactly. So you ask for whom that's good. And I think that what you are pointing out is that often the incentives are not the same and that they're not aligned.
And that's a problem because what's good for politicians as people is not what's good for the people who elect them. They want to be reelected, they want to have some impact that will be shown in the next two years or maybe four years.
So where there is a serious underinvestment in anything that will materialize like ten years from now or twenty years from now. So why invest in roads or education when it will take so long to see the effect, if you are just trying to maximize your selfish motive, which is getting elected again in a couple of years.
When incentives are not aligned, people are pursuing the personal interest. They don't align with what's great for the group.
Guy Kawasaki:
How would you change systemic goals where a large group of people share a goal?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yeah. So it's a difficult question and it's an important question because the goals that are important are often not individuals goals. There are very few goals that we pursue as individuals say, maybe I want an academic degree, or I want to get a job.
Important goals are something that we are doing with other people that we might work in a company, we might start a family, we might work as a society to make sure that this is a healthier place, that it's a cleaner place.
And then you know that they're really difficult goals, which involve a very large group of people, such as environmental goals and taking care of the planet, which is where we are truly struggling.
To get a group to work together you need to overcome social loafing. So this is the tendency to work less hard when other people are working. Free riding, which is just the extreme version of that.
Free riders feel that they don't need to contribute anything because others are doing the work.
You need people to see themselves as part of the group. So group cohesiveness is really critical. And to the extent you are part of a neighborhood or society where you feel that this is part of who you are.
Chicago and for me, that you are a member of the University of Chicago and you want to be part of this community. You want this community to thrive. You identify with that. And it is easier to get people to help in the group.
One thing that I will mention that really matters is how much your actions are identifiable, how much each group member contributed. We see the big social loafing effects, the big effects where people are not doing because other people are doing when individual contribution is drop in the bucket and no one will see that.
So it's taking long showers and wasting a lot of water. I don't know how long your shower is. No one knows. Okay. So it's a private behavior.
And so this is much harder than getting people in public to recycle because if you are putting your trash somewhere in front of many people, then it's more identifiable.
Going back to my donation studies, when people sign their name, they are giving more.
And if you think about this it's pretty trivial, when your name is attached to it, and then you want to give, you want people to know that Guy is a generous guy. If it's anonymous, it's tempting not to help.
Guy Kawasaki:
But how do you thread the needle between Cialdini and Fishbach? So Fishbach is concerned about social loafing and Cialdini is concerned about social proof.
So Guy gave money, that's social proof. Guy gave money, I don't have to give money cause Guy gave money.
How do you thread that needle?
Ayelet Fishbach:
This is again where we get to whether you should tell people that other people are doing or that other people are and not doing. If other people are doing, this is social proof. What that tells you is that this goal is worth pursuing.
It's mainly going to be effective if you don't already know that the goal is worth pursuing. If you're not committed and then everybody’s like doing something and you get this information, everybody's doing, you say, I guess that's important.
Everybody recycles, I guess that's important. Everybody's giving money, the guy gave money to do like this cause, I guess the cause is important. If you are already committed, if you already know that this is important, this is when your motivation is more affected by what's missing, by what other people are, are not doing.
So let me give you what I think is an intuitive example. If you are in a new environment and you don't really know whether people in your new office, whether they keep it clean or whether it's very messy, you follow what other people are doing.
If they live a mess in the sink, then you don't wash yours either. Just a messy environment. Okay?
If everybody's super clean, then you make sure not to leave coffee stains anywhere. If it's your home, your family, the group to which you are more committed to than any other group in the world, now we see that you coordinate with those.
If they're already doing the dishes, then you can check off tonight. If no one is volunteering, then you will do the work. You compensate in your behavior to what other people are doing. If my spouse is already making dinner, then I don't make dinner. I will read a book.
If he reads a book, then I will step in. You see this coordination that it is less Cialdini's social proof and more of me talking about how we coordinate efforts with others.
Guy Kawasaki:
Somebody should tell teenage kids, because so far social proof of me doing dishes hasn't worked, and me not doing dishes and assuming coordination has not worked.
So how do you get that done?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yeah. So this is interesting. So there is a work on financial goals in couples that comes to mind by John List and sorry, John Lynch, John List is another person, John Lynch.
So John Lynch does financial decision making. And what he finds, which is really interesting is that couples tend to divide the financial responsibility such as one person is doing the finance and another person doesn't know anything.
And then that means that the longer they've been together, the more the person that's responsible for the finance becomes more financially knowledgeable. And the more the person that's not doing the finance becomes financial dummy.
And so couples that were together for ten years, you see this huge disparity. One person knows lot, the other person knows nothing. Couples that were only together for a couple of years, they are pretty similar in how much they know.
Why am I telling you about that? Because I think that with our kids, there is often this pattern where if you are doing the dishes and bringing the food and doing the laundry and provide all the services, the more you provide the service, the less they even develop their abilities to do that.
They are just in this ecosystem where someone else is serving their needs. And then we are in a system where... I have a friend that once told that raising children is like running a hotel that's about to lose a star every day.
The food that you made is not good enough. The soap that you provided does not like smell good enough. You have clients and you need to sell them. And this is because you kind of divided the work such as someone is doing all the work and the other person, the adolescent is the customer.
So you need to change that. I need to change that for my household.
Guy Kawasaki:
So how is it on a kibbutz then?
Ayelet Fishbach:
The kibbutz that I grew up on is very different than the kibbutz right now.
The kibbutz where I grew up, I was completely socialist, there was no private property. I didn't own my clothes. I didn't have my own shower, all the kids were like showering together until third grade. Very different in how I live now.
Now I get the best shower in the world, I believe like that. It's big, it has like several shower heads. Now I really overcompensated.
But anyways, it was a different system where we did not have private property and we are very much responsible for knowing how to work and make our food. And we were pretty independent, definitely compared with my own children.
Guy Kawasaki:
And people live their whole lives this way or is this a thing that you just...
Ayelet Fishbach:
I guess my parents' generation lived most of their lives like this. So it's like their whole experiment did not hold for a long time. So my grandparents' generation, they started this whole kibbutz business. They grew up in their nonsocialist families.
And then they were the generation that started the experiment. My parents' generation live like that, most of their lives. And I guess that my generation was the generation that wounded.
Guy Kawasaki:
Now you got long showers. That's it.
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yeah. And I'm at the University of Chicago, which is the opposite.
Guy Kawasaki:
This story has nothing to do with anything but the first time I went to Israel, everybody in Israel has at least three cell phones. So there's all these cell phone conversations going on.
And I keep hearing people say, Ken, Ken, Ken, I'm thinking, how come so many people in Israel are named Ken. And if it took me quite a while to figure that out.
If you haven't been to Israel and you're wondering what the hell this story is about, you go figure it out. But anyway, that was my experience in Israel.
Ayelet Fishbach:
And you are not going to tell the listeners what Ken is?
Guy Kawasaki:
Nope, Nope. That's why God invented Google so they can go figure that out.
Now, what makes a good incentive?
Ayelet Fishbach:
What makes good incentive? Incentives are mini goals.
So presumably, you usually, when you motivate yourself at least, you don't work for the incentive, you work for something else. And the incentives is something that you get along the way. You want to go to the gym to be healthy and the incentive is that you'll get yourself some nice cup of coffee after the exercise.
Ideally the incentive is coming close to when you provide the action. So that often creates the intrinsic motivation that you enjoy what you're doing, because part of it is enjoying the incentive. So this is like listening to music or listening to your podcast while running, doing homework, while drinking a nice cup of something and really bringing the incentive to the activities that they are together.
If not like in proximity, the ideal incentive is probably just one incentive and not too many of them. Too many incentives can confuse us as to why we are doing this action in the first place.
They create what we refer to as either over justification or dilution of the connection between the activity and the original goal. You are not really sure why you do that?
The ideal incentive is not confusing you as to the purpose of doing what you're doing. And then the last thing is that it is probably a bit of an uncertain incentive.
So there is some excitement that comes from whether I will win it today, whether I will get a chance to get that incentive, whether I'm giving it to myself or I'm getting it from others. Like a bit of excitement about whether it will happen and the challenge of making it happen makes incentives and work better.
So I just gave you a lot of abstract information. I don't know if I should elaborate.
Guy Kawasaki:
One of your discussion points about the right kind of incentive is, if I may venture my understanding of it, is that something like cash is not necessarily a good incentive.
And I want to ask you a question since we've brought up his name already, it seems to me that John List did his study about educating poor people in Chicago and he found out that giving them cash to go to school actually worked and it was effective and useful. So cash or no cash.
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yeah. So the difficult thing with incentive is that often we don't know how they will work unless we try.
Policy makers don't like to hear that because your incentive might have the effect that you anticipate or the opposite and try and see what happens.
So, you can pay people to go to the gym either they will start going to the gym or that they will stop going to the gym, of course, once you remove the incentives. As long as you are paying people are going to do what you are paid to do, because this is how they make money.
But presumably are not going to pay people for education because you know, people pay for education, it's costly.
So you're not going to do it forever, you're just trying to introduce them to the activity or they pay to go to the gym so you introduce them to the activity and it might work, it might not.
Theoretically the incentive will work if it allows you to try something, it allows people to try something that they wouldn't try anyways.
So maybe it's at the gateway drug. Like it gets into education and then you will discover that, oh, I'm good at it and it opens doors and let's do it. It will backfire if you take something that a person is already doing and they enjoy doing and you confuse them as to why they're doing it, like paying kids to do something that they like doing, like drawing, or like playing an instrument.
If you pay them, you confuse them. They're trying to understand that. Why do I play the piano? Do I like playing the piano? Is this something that I'm required to do so that I can get the dessert? Or is it something that I'm required to do to make money?
And kids will get confused. Now, an adult that already knows if she likes playing the piano will not get confused, like a pianist when you pay her for her performance, doesn't think that she likes playing less because you paid her. She already knows that she likes playing and she want to make a living out of it.
And these people will actually play more if you pay them. So it's a bit of a long answer, but you will need to analyze what your incentive does in the context and then run the experiment.
Guy Kawasaki:
So let's suppose that Tim Cook calls you up and says, I am truly facing a great resignation, 10 percent of my workforce, now that I said, you have to come in one day a week and soon you'll be coming in three days, I am having a great resignation.
So help me solve this problem, how can I motivate this? How can I get this done? What kind of incentives? What kind of goals? What kind of targets? What do I do so that people aren't quitting Apple? What do you tell him?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yeah. When he calls me, this is what I'm supposed to say, that we talk every month or so. But I talk with other, many managers not him that are dealing with resignation.
And we are trying to understand what's going on. And whether the resignation is even healthy, maybe people were stuck in jobs that they didn't like that weren't good for them. And maybe we have a bit of a shift and some musical chair where people are going to find a better match.
Maybe some people discover that they don't like to work outdoors and other people discover that they only want to work outdoors and that people are just shifting and moving and that's good. We had this great disruption and we are repositioning ourselves.
When it gets to keeping your employees satisfied, we know that there are three basic needs that people are trying to satisfy at work.
They are trying to get money, they want salaries, they want perks, they want to do something that is interesting. They want to use their mind, or at least not to be too bored.
So they want to be interested and they want to make relationships. They want to make relationships with other workers, they want to maybe have power. They also get their status.
So their relationships with their neighbors depend on their job. If someone works for Google, then their family and neighbors might have different relationships with them because they can say that they are at Google. I would try to understand what is missing from their recipe for your employees.
And it sounds like one of the issues that high tech companies are strangling with is the interest, the growth, allowing people to do something meaningful and interesting.
And they're not necessarily struggling because they're worse than other companies, but because they're hiring people that really care about that. And so their employees are the people that on our service say they want to do something meaningful.
They want to make impact in the world. And when you are working for a giant, it's often hard to see that. And when you are working for a company that in the past, we're mainly focusing on the social aspect and making work fun and like food and clubs and whatever, and that was supposed to compensate.
So there were salaries were great and that the social aspect was fine. And that was supposed to compensate for maybe lack of interest. Now, the social aspect is less there, people are working from home. They want to know whether they make a difference in the world.
How can you help with that?
Guy Kawasaki:
But it's interesting, you didn't exactly say pay them more money, which seems to be kind of the knee jerk reaction.
Ayelet Fishbach:
The thing with paying more money is that usually everybody else matches so it doesn't quite... It just leads the industry to pay more money. You can pay more money for a specific employee that you are trying to keep, but if you are just like increasing the pay for everyone and then Facebook will have to do the same and it'll be good for the people for the high-tech employees.
So sure. But it's not going to create a competitive advantage for you, usually.
Guy Kawasaki:
I want you to talk about forming a good connection with your spouse using this concept of getting things done and goals and mutual goals and supporting your spouse's goals.
So pretend you're a marriage counselor right now. And let's bring in this topic of goals with your spouse.
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yes. Thanks for asking.
It's one of the new hot areas in motivation science and in studying relationships. We have more people that are studying the intersection and a greater understanding that relationships are built on supporting each other's goals.
That a relationship usually starts when you are helping each other. We often meet people around at doing something together. It could be like a hobby that we help each other with, it could be anything.
Certainly, when two people start family, then they are instrumental for each other. But also, I might help my partners educational goals.
They might help my financial goals. And this is really important for relationship maintenance. The relationship will stay strong and good as long as we are relevant for the other person's goals, that we are instrumental in a way. People that move a way that are no longer helping each other with their goals, their relationship tends to suffer.
What we also find is that we are all a little bit egocentric. And so we tend to focus too much on how much we are being helped by the relationship and ask too little of what makes us necessary for the other person.
And so my relationship satisfaction, and this is something that we find with some wisdom studies relationship satisfaction is a function of how much the relationship supports your goals. How much the other person knows who you are and less so by how much you know them, how much you support their goals.
However, it's mutual. If you support them and they support you then both parties are happy in their relationship.
I also want to say one more thing. Let me actually present this as a question.
I often ask people, would they ever ask someone to accept a pay cut or even quit their job so that they themselves will get a better position, just a stranger. Would you ask a stranger to quit a job so that you will have a better job?
And most people say, no, that sounds terribly selfish, but then you say it, what if that stranger is your spouse? And this is when people say, yeah I guess I will ask my spouse.
Guy Kawasaki:
Then this comes up when one of the spouses gets transferred or offered a job in another place?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Exactly. Yes. Yes.
So in the relocation, we are willing to be more selfish with the people that are close to us, because we see ourselves as part of one unit. Great. It's not like you versus me, it's us.
Be aware that in this us, there are two people and if one of them is not being saved by the relationship, if their goals are not supported, then this relationship is not going to work.
Guy Kawasaki:
Now, I just want to point out, or make an observation, and you tell me if I'm right or wrong. But this past discussion about spouses has been about supporting the other spouses goals. That's different than sharing goals.
My wife likes to hike, I like to surf. We don't share hiking or share surfing, but I should support her love of hiking and she should support my love of surfing. Is that what you're saying?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yes. Yes. And when you do something together, then it's very intuitive, when you are both on the kayak, then of course you are supporting each other's goals.
But it's not necessary. If your wife goes to school and you keep working to pay the bills, that's a very common way of supporting.
So most couples are not like, at least not all the time, working on the same thing. There is certainly some division of labor and like different interests and that's good. That makes the person interesting. You need to be useful for them.
Guy Kawasaki:
No, I just thought of one last question. I promise. This is my last question. I promise you.
Ayelet Fishbach:
Oh, I'm enjoying myself. Just don't ask about astrophysics.
Guy Kawasaki:
Probably most podcasts don't go this tactical and this specific. So we discussed spouses, what about kids? How do we help them set good goals? How do we help them get things done and make progress?
Ayelet Fishbach:
Yes. How do we help them? I think that a lot by example, by encouragement. A lot by supporting their intrinsic motivation.
One of the common mistakes that we observe is that parents rely on extrinsic motivation.
So you should eat that food because it's healthy, because it will make you bigger and then stronger and then smarter. Or you should study math because in a few years you will want to go to college. This is like telling an adult that like in a million years you'll want to do something and then for you to work now.
Why should it someone who's twelve-year-old, worry about college? Try to make the healthy food tasty, their homework fun. And that is engaging, that is something that maybe we do with the family. Maybe we do it while playing music.
With sports actually, often parents have the right intuition. That sports for children should be fun. It's not about running the treadmill, it's about playing something that they enjoy.
Help your child find their passion. Identifying the course that they enjoy pursuing that they're willing to be passionate about. And then lots of personal example, don't tell your kid to do something that you don't do.
Guy Kawasaki:
Like wash dishes? I wash dishes. I wash dishes. I swear I wash dishes.
Ayelet Fishbach:
I would say that, yes. Let me add that, tell your child to wash dishes, tell your child that the family is a group of people that is working together.
Guy Kawasaki:
I got it. I got it. It was very useful. And in my mind, you're in that category of Cialdini, Duckworth, Milkman, Acker.
Ayelet Fishbach:
Wow. I'm happy. They are good friends. They are inspiration. And maybe with your help, we could make the world a better place. We are counting on you because we don't talk to the public as much.
Guy Kawasaki:
And I look forward to the day when you win your MacArthur award, and I'll say I knew her before she won her MacArthur award. Okay.
Ayelet Fishbach:
That might as close as I'm going to get. But thank you Guy.
Guy Kawasaki:
Everybody needs goals. That's like climbing Mount Everest. Well, don't die trying to get a MacArthur award.
I hope you enjoyed this episode with Ayelet Fishbach.
If you want to be remarkable, you have to accomplish goals.
Ayelet Fishbach is truly an expert in this field.
My thanks to Jeff Sieh, Peg Fitzpatrick, Shannon Hernandez, Madisun Nuismer, Alexis Nishimura, and Luis Magana.
They help me accomplish my goals.
I'm Guy Kawasaki. This is Remarkable People, until next time, be safe, be healthy and remember vote as if your rights depend on it, because they do.