I was speaking with a behavioral economist recently about how feedback and incentives can alter behavior. I showed her the graph below and my question was quite simple: why does the spike on the right exist?

For context, the graph shows how many posts were created by a UK accountancy firm over time. There are three distinct sections. The flat bit to the left shows business-as-usual behavior. Then there is a bump - this ties with the firms KPI month where people who were required to post their year-end assessment suddenly create content; this represents hundreds if not thousands of pounds.

The spike on the right however was driven by a competition to win ruck sacks and a bottle of Champagne. Perhaps £100 at the most.

Clearly the Champagne out-performed the KPI as an incentive by several thousand times.

The reason for this apparently is because the feedback around the competition was delivered either daily or weekly whilst the KPI event is annual. It seems that we, as humans, struggle with long-term incentives because we're hard-wired to worry about food and water on a near-daily basis. As a result, our feedback and incentives should be short-term - daily or weekly.

Apparently annual KPI assessments would work well if we were alligators. They only eat once a year... But we're not.