Incentives that bite.


Richard Shotton introduced me to this fascinating story.

In an effort to rid Indian villages of dangerous snakes, the British Empire offered a reward for dead cobras.

So villagers started breeding them.

Of course, the British didn't want that, so they cancelled the reward... and all the kept snakes were just released.

Incentives are screwy that way: if we don't all want the same outcome, we'll just game the system.

Quarterly profit reports that create short-term thinking.

Lazy urban development that drives out the very subcultures that made an area desirable.

Uneven remuneration models that put work teams on a collision course.

Reward cobras, get cobras.