Why do psychologists spend so much time watching pigeons? A pigeon’s brain learns much the same way a human’s does. The scientific study of motivation usually involves teaching pigeons to earn treats by behaving in certain ways.
If you want to teach a bird to jump over a stick, you start by giving him a treat when he approaches the stick. Sooner or later, he will climb on the stick, and you reward him for that. Before long, he’s an expert stick-jumper.
In theory, incentive programs are structured the same way. Your team members achieve goals that benefit the organization, and you reward them with praise, money, or other incentives. But if you are not careful with the application of your reward strategy, you can end up with something called “superstitious conditioning.”