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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Is Pay-For-Performance Detrimental to Innovation?

  • Author(s): Ederer, Florian
  • Manso, Gustavo
  • et al.
Abstract

Previous research in economics shows that paying the agent based on performance induces the agent to exert more effort thereby enhancing productivity. On the other hand, research in psychology argues that performance-based financial incentives may inhibit creativity and innovation. In a controlled laboratory experiment, we provide evidence that the combination of tolerance for early failure and reward for long-term success is effective in motivating innovation. Subjects under such an incentive scheme explore more and are more likely to discover a novel business strategy than subjects under fixed-wage and standard pay-for-performance incentive schemes. We also find evidence that the threat of termination can undermine incentives for innovation, while golden parachutes can alleviate these innovation-reducing effects. Our results suggest that appropriately designed incentives are useful in motivating creativity and innovation.

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