The Mother of all Non-Monetary Rewards: Time

Every once in a while a movie comes out that really piques my interest not because of the cast or the reviews, but because of the conjured up plot gimmick.  Usually, the movie itself disappoints and I’m left wondering why the potential wasn’t realized.  “The Invention of Lying” comes to mind.  For those who haven’t seen, it’s set in an alternate world where there is no such thing as a lie.  One guy figures out that he can say anything he wants and everyone believes him.  He “invents” lying and apparently is the only guy capable of it.  I thought this was a clever gimmick with immense potential for hilarity.  Unfortunately, the delivery wasn’t great and the movie ended up being rather boring.  There are countless similar examples. 

The latest is an upcoming movie titled “In Time” starring Justin Timberlake.  This one is set in a world where everyone on the planet stops aging once they turn twenty-five.  On that birthday, they’re given one year of time to deposit in their proverbial bank account.  That time continuously counts backward and if it reaches zero you die.  In other words, every minute of your life is being spent as you continue to live.  In order to survive, you have to earn more time to keep your account balance positive.  In essence, time becomes the new currency of the day.  Everything from coffee to magazine subscriptions is purchased by withdrawing time out of your account.  Every job pays wages in minutes that you deposit into your account and use to live another day.  Time is literally money and money is literally time.

Based on the trailer, the movie looks like a bit of a dramatic thriller.  All kinds of social and societal dynamics are explored and apparently danger lurks on every corner.  It looks like a super-intense version of real life; which I suppose is what happens when going broke literally kills you and getting rich means you undoubtedly have to take other people’s lives away from them.  The possibilities are endless, I hope it delivers.

Obviously, in real life we value time in a figurative sense.  Most of us can’t really place a dollar value on a minute, but we cherish it nonetheless.  When we “get more time”, it probably means we just have more time not reserved for someone or something else (i.e. free time).  People often talk about wanting more free time but I’ve never seen anyone place a true monetary value on it.  I wonder what the true value of free time would be to the average American?  It would be an interesting experiment to modify an incentive compensation plan to use time as currency instead of money.  What if the bonus for hitting quota was not just a monetary reward but also a time reward?  What if an extra day off came with a smaller bonus?  If a sales rep had the choice of a bonus plan paying in money or time or a blend which would they choose? 

My hunch is that all individuals are not the same.  American’s have a reputation for valuing money over time and I’m sure many would live up to that expectation.  However, I suspect there would be individuals more than satisfied with some extra time off instead of heftier bonus checks.  Of course, the experiment would have a major bias if you only looked at sales people.  Overachieving sales reps tend to be the workaholic, money motivated types.  But you never know; personal situations and the business of life could become an even bigger influence than it already is and motivate people to take more time for themselves.  As the old saying goes:

“No one on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time on my business’.”