Book review: Drive by Daniel Pink

There’s that category of books you read with a sense of absolute identification with the ideas being bestowed and the main reasoning of the text. To me Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by author Daniel Pink falls in that category and is one of the best books I’ve read in the last few years.

Pink explains the new paradigm of motivation (tip: most of the times it’s not “carrots”, be them money or not!) with the help of results from extensive research in this field, highlighting the implications that this new model of motivation has on business practices (this should be required reading in business schools) and education of our children (I’m definitely recommending it to friends with kids).

In 140 characters (cleverly provided by the author!) the book can be summarized as:

The book basically tells us that there’s a gap between what we do regarding motivation and what science shows us on that topic, and that the “carrot & stick” approach (especially the if-then type of rewards we use to motivate) is in most cases wrong, and even potentially harmful. Pink states that we need a new approach to motivation, one that is based on three pilars: Authonomy (“the desire to direct our own lives”), Mastery (“the urge to get better and better at something that matters”) and Purpose (“the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves”).

So enough with the spoiler post on what the book is all about. I know that Christmas has passed but be sure to find some excuse to grab your copy of the book. In case you don’t have time to read it, I recommend listening to this podcast with author Daniel Pink by the Harvard Business Review IdeaCast project (I know that there’s a TED talk and a RSA animated video but haven’t checked them out so can’t really recommend). Enjoy!

8 thoughts on “Book review: Drive by Daniel Pink

  1. i didn’t read the book. maybe i will if you borrow me it. meanwhile i’m stuck with this idea… you say (from the book) that the carrot thing… the reward idea, is not… the most efficient. but then you also say that people must point their autonomy as their internal carrot? What do I earn to be capable of deciding from myself when necessary or doing what it takes to get my business targets? Only some personal satisfaction? Why should i want to be better and better? Work harder and harder? Or at the end, isn’t a social benefit a reason big enough for a nice carrot? In my humble opinion I think that there is always a carrot to catch, it could be generated from inside to outside or vice versa. the carrot can be everything that makes me want go further

    • Domingos, that’s one interesting and challenging comment. Let’s see if I can help make the matter more clear. Carrots here are used in the context of rewards (including monetary ones) that are given upon condition of something – the if-then effect (if you do this I’ll give you that). The reasoning here is that people will only complete those tasks because they are offered something in return. In this case a carrot is something that is given to you (external motivation) to “force” you to do something. That’s Motivation 2.0.

      What Pink proposes is that a) there are other reasons for completing tasks, and completing them well, in a work context (and fun or intelectual challenge may be valid reasons) and b) for creative or complex work giving a if-then reward can even be counterproductive and thus impact satisfaction and productivity.

      Regarding autonomy I forgot to mention that there’s this theory (and research that supports it) that divides people into 2 types. And one of those types (Type I) seeks autonomy over task (what), time (when), technique (how) and team (who with). So autonomy is something that some people are prone to value and that conditions how they will respond to external stimulus (carrots).

      I do not see this quest for autonomy, mastery or purpose as a carrot but more as an internal drive (your internal motivation or Motivation 3.0).

      Hope this helped!

  2. basically, it’s expected that people suddenly understand how important is to play their roll enthusiastically, just for their own pleasure… such as for their auto esteem, pride or self realization… wow… amazing stuff. why didn’t we all thought about this sooner? workers just need to find an interior reason to smile while they do what their bosses want.

    there isn’t self motivation, because motivation only happens internally per si. people can’t motivate one another. what they can do is to create the wright reasons and conditions to stimulate one another. motivation is when i feel something is lacking and then I tend to act to suppress that supposed whatever absence. Unless we are talking about very elementary needs, such as drinking or eating, or dressing, or making a pi or a pupu (as my lovely niece says)… everything works with an external injection, because every path we choose to take comes with the (offered) idea that we’re going to catch something in the way. business people should be focused on delivering what workers want and need. It can be money, comprehension, recognition, new challenges and opportunities to do more and better, a flexible work table, a nice buffet, a kinder garden close to work… everything should be on the table when we are talking about delivering the benefits that the two parts are looking to get from another, and of course money ins’t the only or, in many cases, even an optional answer/carrot.

    it’s always nice to read you. hope to hear from you soon. thank you. take care

    • Interesting perspective on motivation.

      “people can’t motivate one another. what they can do is to create the wright reasons and conditions to stimulate one another”: for some people/tasks those reasons & conditions will be carrots, and for others it will be another thing (recognition, freedom, flexibility, etc)

      It’s my pleasure having you read me. Come back anytime!

  3. there is nothing in life you do without thinking in what you’re going to receive or feel on return. we will not love forever someone that don’t want to love us back (maybe family love). even charity makes you feel good with yourself, otherwise you wouldn’t do it. so i can’t see were is no carrot.

    but of course I can understand your point of view. at the end we are just saying the same thing🙂

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