Motivating Efforts in Contributing to Public Goods Inside Organizations: Field Experimental Evidence

Published on August 21, 2018


We investigate the factors driving workers’ decisions to generate public goods inside an organization through a randomized solicitation of workplace improvement proposals in a medical center with 1200 employees. We find that pecuniary incentives, such as winning a prize, generate a threefold increase in participation compared to non-pecuniary incentives alone, such as prestige or recognition. Participation is also increased by a solicitation appealing to improving the workplace. However, emphasizing the patient mission of the organization led to countervailing effects on participation. Overall, these results are consistent with workers having multiple underlying motivations to contribute to public goods inside the organization consisting of a combination of pecuniary and altruistic incentives associated with the mission of the organization.


Andrea Blasco

Andrea Blasco is a research associate at the Institute of Quantitative Social Science (IQSS) at Harvard University where he’s working for the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard (LISH). His research interests are in the areas of Industrial Organization, Economics of innovation, and Media Economics. In particular, much of his work is focused on understanding the intertwined relationship between R&D and the legal system of IP rights. An equally important part of his research is devoted to the analysis of key economic concepts and issues affecting new and traditional media. Andrea holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Bologna, and a Master M2 from Toulouse School of Economics.

Olivia Jung

Olivia is currently pursuing a PhD in Health Policy and Management at Harvard Business School and the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She studies ways to engage frontline staff in health care organizations through innovation contests and teaming.

Karim Lakhani

Karim R. Lakhani is a Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and one of the Principal Investigators of the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard (LISH). He specializes in the management of technological innovation in firms and communities. His research is on distributed innovation systems and the movement of innovative activity to the edges of organizations and into communities. He has extensively studied the emergence of open source software communities and their unique innovation and product development strategies. He has also investigated how critical knowledge from outside of the organization can be accessed through innovation contests. Currently, Professor Lakhani is investigating incentives and behavior in contests and the mechanisms behind scientific team formation through field experiments on the Topcoder platform and the Harvard Medical School.

Michael Menietti

Michael works as a research scientist at the Crowd Innovation Lab. His present projects use field experiments and historical data to investigate individual behavior in tournament environments. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011 under his advisor Prof. Lise Vesterlund. Michael’s dissertation work focuses on the private provision of public goods by non-profit organizations. He examines contribution behavior using theory and laboratory experiments.

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