Incentives are all the rage: employee bonus pay, app badges, student grades, and even lunch with President Obama. Despite their widespread use, most research finds that incentives are terrible at improving performance in the long-run on anything but mindless rote tasks, because the fixation on prizes clouds our creative thinking (video explanation below). However, a new Harvard study of teachers found that a novel approach to incentives could dramatically improve student performance: give teachers a reward upfront and threaten to take it away if performance doesn’t actually improve. Exploiting the so-called “loss-aversion” tendency could open the door to creative incentivizing for software designers and managers. Harvard University’s Ronald Fryer and his colleagues explain that, in education, pay-for-performance has a dismal record of improving student outcomes.