A great influence and incentive tool that is rarely used is something called “idiosyncratic fit.”

For those of you in Rio Linda that means the rules of the game favor my specific situation and skill set. Idiosyncratic means peculiar or individual. It means we feel something is designed especially for me – bespoke. It sounds way more complicated than it is.

What it means is if I think I have an advantage in a game and I want the award for winning I will work harder for it. I don’t consciously think or say that, but because deep down if I think the game is rigged in my favor I will put more effort into it.

How does this work in an incentive program?


Get people to set a goal THEY want – now they think it is worth it.

Then show them how the rules favor their historical performance levels. Show them they have easily hit that goals needed in the past (this also leverages commitment and consistency biases – but for another post.) Tell them how their particular situation makes them more likely to earn awards. If they see it as fitting their situation – they will go all in. 

You can download and read the research on this concept as it relates to consumer loyalty programs here. 

To make this real – tell your managers to communicate the incentive program rules in way that individual participants can see how the program favors their style, their history, their client base. They will more likely play the game if they see it being their kind of game. 

Reminds me of that oft-quoted saw from Einstein (though there is no substantive evidence connecting Einstein to the quotation):

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Everyone will try to earn awards in a program if they think they can. Period.

Convince them they can earn!