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  • Writer's pictureLinda Pizzitola, Kauai, Hawaii

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

drive - the surprising truth about what motivates us - daniel pinkus

A review of the book by Daniel Pink

As a longtime student of human motivation, I donʻt know why it took me six years to get around to this book. It’s game-changing information that researchers have known since the late 1950’s, but that business and educational institutions have largely ignored.

Pink describes three levels of motivation: Motivation 1.0 is the most primitive “operating system,” based on our basic biological needs: food, water and sex.

Motivation 2.0 is all about motivating with rewards and punishments: the carrot and the stick, the predominant model for human behavior since caveman days.

The new paradigm Pink illuminates so well in this book is Motivation 3.0: instrinsic, internally-generated motivation driven by our needs for automomy, mastery and purpose.

operating systems of motivation

In this ambitious book, Pink explores four decades of research on what boosts performance and creates satisfaction in our lives…and what doesn’t.

He shares the pioneering work of research psychologists Harry Harlow and Edward Deci, who demonstrated that the performance of a task can be its own reward. Harlow proposed this radical idea back in 1949, based on his studies with rhesus monkeys, but it was not widely accepted by the scientific community. Deci picked up the investigation twenty years later and ultimately concluded that we have an “inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise [our] capacities to explore, and to learn.”

Pink makes the case that the carrot and stick approach can actually be detrimental to motivation, in that it can:

  • extinguish intrinsic motivation

  • diminish performance

  • crush creativity

  • crowd out good behavior

  • encourage cheating, shortcuts, and unethical behavior

  • become addictive

  • foster short-term thinking

He convincingly spells out why external incentives are no longer the driving force they once were. A growing number of aging baby boomers are looking back on their lives so far and finding a lack of meaning and purpose. We, and the generations behind us, are seeking jobs and projects that are creative, interesting, and self-directed.

Pink shares ways for both individuals and organizations to transition into a Motivation 3.0 framework, building more intrinsic satisfaction into our lives. He explores a variety of alternative business models that enhance performance and address the human inclination to perform tasks for their own sake. These incorporate Pink’s three elements of motivation — autonomy, mastery, and purpose — and include:

  • ROWEs (results-only work environments) where the employee determines when and where they work, as long as their work gets done

  • 20 Percent Time where workers spend one day a week (20 percent of their time) on projects of their own making

  • “Homeshoring” where customer service reps take calls from home, doing their work with greater autonomy and no commute

  • Creating flow-friendly environments where the creativity and mastery of employees is encouraged.

  • Building in opportunities for workers to derive purpose and meaning from their jobs by contributing to a cause larger than themselves

Pink also provides alternative educational models and a 70-page “Toolkit” including:

  • Nine Strategies for Awakening Your Motivation

  • Nine Ways to Improve Your Company, Office, or Group

  • Nine Ideas for Helping Our Kids

  • Fifteen Essential Books

  • Six Business Thinkers Who Get It

His Twitter length summary of the book? “Carrots & sticks are so last century.."

carrots and sticks are so last century -daniel pink

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