Book Review: Drive by Daniel Pink

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink explores the concept of motivation and how motivation has changed throughout the years.  At one time motivation was based on survival, this was followed by a model of motivation based on rewards and punishments, which is still used by many businesses and organizations today. In this book, Pink shows us that there is a lot more to what motivates most people today.

In the first section of the book, Pink discusses those punishment and reward types of motivation, he calls them “if-then” rewards. This is when you offer someone a reward for doing something and consequence if the same task is not done. He then goes on to show how these “if-then” types of rewards are not effective for motivating people and how they can actually diminish performance and encourage unethical behavior.  He does acknowledge that “if-then” rewards can work for rule-based routine tasks but using a “now-then” reward works even better. This is when a reward is given after a task is completed for a job well done, and not promised before the task begins.  While reward and punishment motivation techniques are still very much in use in our society, the science is proving that motivation is either extrinsic or intrinsic and intrinsic motivation is what moves people toward behaviors that have less to do with external rewards and more to do with activities that bring an inherent satisfaction.

In the second section of the book Pink delves into the three elements of intrinsic motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose.  People need autonomy over task (what the task it), time (when the task is done), team (who they work on the task with) and technique (how they complete the task).  Pink defines mastery as “becoming better at something that matters”. The idea of mastery is an interesting one as mastery is unattainable, but one must have a mindset that your abilities are infinitely improvable to pursue mastery.  In the mastery section he talks about “flow” – this is when the challenge that you are attempting perfectly matches to your abilities, and “The Goldilocks Effect” -when the task is neither too easy nor too hard but just right. The final piece to intrinsic motivation is purpose.  People are motivated when they are making contributions to a greater cause. 

The third section of the book is what Pink describes as a tool kit and it truly is.  There are short sections on motivation strategies for individuals and organizations. Information about compensation, tips for parents and educators, a reading list, stories from business leaders, tips for getting you motivated to exercise and a book summary. 

The focus of this book is on how businesses need to change their thinking about how to motivate employees. Pink uses examples of businesses that have been able to incorporate the principals of intrinsic motivation into their business model and how that has helped them.  But even though the focus is on business I found the book very interesting and easy to read. There are several concepts that pop up that have been in many of the other books that I have read the past year. The idea of mindset and flow are two examples of this. Also some people are more motivated by extrinsic rewards than by intrinsic elements and all of us are to some degree influenced by both so if you are trying to find ways to self-motivate you need to figure out where you fit in on the motivation continuum.

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