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Book review: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates UsDrive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An intriguing investigation of the factors that motivate people. Pink shows that science has learned much about motivation, but business and education still follow outdated models. The old systems of rewards and punishments are no longer effective for today’s non-routine, creative, conceptual work. People need a sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Pink divides human history into three “operating systems” of motivation:
Motivation 1.0: People are driven by their biological urges: hunger, thirst, sex, survival.
Motivation 2.0: People are given external rewards and punishment to enforce compliance; the “carrot and stick” model.
Motivation 3.0: People are empowered to follow their intrinsic motivation and desire for purpose. The goal is engagement; to achieve flow, the state of being “in the zone”, and mastery.

The book refers to several management styles that have developed since the Industrial Revolution. It then explains the three factors of motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. It explores autonomy further, explaining that people should be free to choose their task (work), time (schedule), technique (work style), and team (people they work with).

Pink divides people into Type X (extrinsically motivated) and Type I (intrinsically motivated), and describes research showing that Type I people are generally more successful. He compares “purpose goals” and “profit goals”, and explains that people striving for purpose have higher self-esteem and lower anxiety and stress than those pursuing profit.

Rewards are a major theme in the book. Pink shows that “if, then” rewards (“if you do this, then you’ll be rewarded”) may be effective in the short term, but are detrimental in the long term. In their place, he recommends “now that” rewards: “now that you’ve done this, you’re being rewarded”. These responsive rewards play off a person’s intrinsic motivation rather than wielding extrinsic motivators like a whip.

I liked the point that rewards can turn play into work, but focusing on mastery can turn work into play. Thus, a hobby that turns into a job often loses its appeal. Alternatively, a person who truly loves his work and strives to master it finds himself “in the zone”, enjoying it as much as he would a hobby.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding human motivation and what drives workers, volunteers, hobbyists, and schoolchildren.

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