Free Pizza Motivates People More Than Money (Says Ridiculous Study)

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Study says that employees respond better to pizza than money

People would rather have a slice of pizza than extra cash.

Do you like pizza? Of course, you do!

If someone helps you move, you give them pizza and beer for their trouble. Where do you go for kid's birthday parties or after their little league games? You go out to pizza. If you're having the gang over for the Super Bowel or the Academy Awards, often times you're going to serve pizza.

Pizza is a fairly cheap way to feed a lot of people, and pizzerias usually deliver, so you don't even have to go anywhere to get it. You can dress it up with fancy ingredients or just go with a plain cheese pizza. Either way, it's satisfying and delicious.

Pizza is great because you can eat it by yourself walking down the street or you can share it with a big group. But as good as pizza is, is it a great motivator when it comes to your job? 

Yes! According to Dan Ariely in his upcoming book, Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations, he refers to an experiment conducted at a semiconductor factory in India.

Pizza increased employee productivity by 6.7 percent. The second (coming in at 6.6 percent) most motivational thing were "compliments from the boss."

In the experiment, three-fourths of the factory's workers got one of three messages at the start of their work week promising a different reward if they completed their work (a certain number of computer chips per day). The rewards were a cash bonus, a rare compliment from the boss, and the third was a voucher for free pizza. The workers who didn't receive a message or offer of a bonus was Ariely's control group.

After the first day, pizza proved to be the top motivator with a compliment from the boss (a text saying, "Well done!") coming in at a close second. Surprisingly, the worst motivator was the cash bonus (which wasn't very large, only about $30) and only increased productivity by 4.9 percent when compared to the control group.

On the second day, those with the money bonus performed even worse (13.2 percent) than the control group. Things leveled out over the next few days, but for the week overall, the cash bonus ended up costing the company more and resulted in a 6.4 percent drop in productivity — not the results anyone in management was hoping for.

Even if the cash reward wasn't that much, couldn't they have purchased a number of pizzas for themselves? Does the thought of pizza take away people's skills of logic and reasoning?

Over the course of the week, the productivity of the pizza and compliments groups slowed down a little, and by the end of the week their productivity level was closer to the group with no incentive at all.

If the pizza reward hadn't been a voucher but a delivery to the worker's home, Ariely thinks the results would have been further skewed in favor of the pizza bonus. He says, "This way... we not only would give them a gift [pizza] but we would also make them heroes in the eyes of their families."

It would be an interesting study to do the same experiment but somewhere where pizza is a little more readily available, like New York. If you could literally walk out of your door and get a slice, would the promise of pizza really make you work harder?

No one will ever underestimate the power of pepperoni ever again.


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