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Mike Norton  

Behavioral Scientist, Incentives and Engagement Expert & Professor, Harvard Business School

Michael I. Norton is the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, and a member of Harvard’s Behavioral Insights Group. He holds a B.A. in Psychology and English from Williams College and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Princeton University. Prior to joining HBS, Professor Norton was a Fellow at the MIT Media Lab and MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

He is the co-author - with Elizabeth Dunn - of the book, Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending (Simon & Schuster 2013).

His work has been published in academic journals including Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Psychological Science, and the Quarterly Journal of Economics, has been covered in media outlets such as the Economist, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, and has been parodied by The Onion. He has appeared on National Public Radio, CBS, Fox, and MSNBC, and written op-eds for the New York Times, Forbes, and the Los Angeles Times.

His research has twice been featured in the New York Times Magazine Year in Ideas issue, in 2007 (Ambiguity Promotes Liking) and 2009 (The Counterfeit Self). His "The IKEA Effect: When Labor Leads to Love" was featured in Harvard Business Review's Breakthrough Ideas for 2009. In 2010, he won the Theoretical Innovation Prize from the Society of Personality and Social Psychology; in 2011, he won the SAGE Young Scholars Award from the Foundation for Social and Personality Psychology; in 2012, he was selected for Wired Magazine’s Smart List as one of “50 People Who Will Change the World.” His TEDx talk, How to Buy Happiness, has been viewed more than 3 million times.

At HBS, he is the course head for the first-year MBA course, "FIELD Foundations," and heads the Strategic Marketing Management executive program.

Speech Topics

The Science of Spending: Prosocial Incentive Plans

Mikes research demonstrates that spending money on othersfrom giving money to a homeless person to buying coffee for a friendhas a larger impact on well-being than spending that money on stuffTVs, cars, and houses. He discusses the wide range of the experiments underlying this research, from sending undergraduates out on college campuses with stacks of cash to give away to interviewing poor people in Uganda about their spending habits.

Most importantly, Mike reviews his newest research examining the impact of prosocial incentives on both employees and customers. In experiments with employees ranging from bank tellers to pharmaceutical sales representatives, employees are given bonuses that they are encouraged to spend on othersdonating to charity, or buying gifts for their teammates. Such prosocial incentives have a substantial impact on employee satisfaction and performanceand in fact perform better than typical bonuses that employees are not required to spend on others. He reviews other efforts by companies to engage in such activities to increase engagement with their customersfrom the Pepsi Refresh Project to the Product (RED) campaign.

Putting Customers to Work for You: A New Approach to Engagement

Recent years have seen an explosion of efforts by companies to involve their customers more deeply in their operations, from product design and assembly (e.g., Converse and Mountain Dew) to creating and selecting advertisements (e.g., Doritos SuperBowl ads). But do such efforts pay off? How can the successor failureof such efforts be assessed? And what factors should companies considering these new forms of customer engagement have in mind as they explore these ideas?

Mike will discuss his research on what has come to be known as the IKEA Effect (a Harvard Business Review Breakthrough Idea in 2009)the increased value people have for products they assemble themselves from misshapen mugs from long-ago pottery classes to bookcases from the Swedish retailer. In particular, he shows that involving customers in co-creation requires a careful balance between two opposing forces. First, the task has to be difficult enough for customers to feel that the firm has really allowed them to accomplish somethingleading companies to increase the difficulty of tasks; second, however, tasks that are too complicated lead customers to blame the firm for wasting their time. Mike describes the results of many of his fun experiments in which he asks people to build things ranging from IKEA furniture to LEGO sets to origami, which reveal how to find the right balance between these forces.


The Power Of Rituals In Eating, Grieving And Business - Forbes

Behavioral scientist Michael I. Norton became interested in mourning rituals after reading Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust's This Republic of ...

Michael Norton: Finally, Proof That You Can 'Do Well By Doing Good'

There's surprisingly little rigorous evidence demonstrating that companies really can make money by doing more good. To this end, my collaborators and I have ...

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