I was interested enough that I tracked down the actual Robert Sutton quote: “a successful prize gets people to do what they want to do anyways—it just helps them to do it more successfully.”
There are several directions here that are interesting.
- Prize as push to do what you want to do.
- Prize as push to take an action you would have anyway within a certain timeframe.
- Prize as permission to act at all.
- Prize as incentive to do what you want to do anyways.
- Prize as reason to prioritize one single action among many actions you want to take.
- And finally, the meaning that was possibly originally intended: prize as incentive to act--but with a wrapper of other elements that make you (or your action) more successful.