Drive (Book Review)

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink turns motivation upside down. Pink dissects motivation, throws out the old stick-and-carrot and replaces it with autonomy, mastery, and purpose. More illuminating than Drive would be quite the performance. It is based on rigorous science, yet is able to convey one clear message. Motivation needs to be rethought; we are working with an outdated system and need to reconsider how we motivate people.

The old system is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. The latter depends on stick-and-carrot motivation. They offer large rewards for (individual) performances, but at the same time scare people with threats of layoffs. This system is based on extrinsic motivation and belongs in the 20th century. Yes, it does work there, the stick-and-carrot approach works for left-brain tasks. People work faster and faster when they are rewarded more and more for mechanical tasks. The question now is; how many jobs fit this description?

Almost all jobs in the current workforce ask for (rudimentary) cognitive skills. In the 21st century work consists of right-brain tasks. Instead of a narrow focus (stick-and-carrot), the jobs of today require creativity, problem-solving skills and novel approaches. The famous candlelight problem beautifully showcases this effect. When participants are presented with the classical problem they perform better when given no reward than when given a reward. And between a low and large reward there is a negative relationship; the larger the reward, the longer participants took to solve the problem. Only in the special (20th century) situation where the candles and pins were taken out of the box (making the solution obvious) did rewards have a positive impact.

Motivation in the 21st century should consist of three integrated parts. The first is autonomy; being free to choose what to do. The second is mastery; becoming better at something. The third is purpose; doing something that matters. Drive perfectly explains the three concepts and in the end, gives advice on how to activate the three areas to their full potential. Daniel Pink has written five books to date, he was the speechwriter for Al Gore and definitively knows his way with words. He has made Drive into a clear and concise book that achieves great explanatory power.

The Book: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Daniel Pink – ISBN-10: 1594484805| ISBN-13: 978-1594484803

More on Drive: – Drive animated – TED Talk by Daniel Pink – More on Daniel Pink