Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Understanding Campbell's Law

Campbell's Law says that incentives corrupt. The more punishments and rewards that are attached to any measurement or test, the more people will game that measurement, either by focusing on it to the detriment of other useful activities or by outright cheating.

Update: I've actually seen this in play at my company's headquarters. When there was a policy that allocated landlord costs according to the square footage occupied by various departments, the managers reduced their budget by squeezing their staff into smaller and smaller offices. Eventually they ended up with everyone sufficiently crammed into one end of the building that they were able to rent out a portion of it to another company. Productivity and morale fell because people felt so overcrowded so eventually the policy was changed.

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