Summary and Review of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

This summary and review of the book, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, was prepared by Heather Russell while a Supply Chain Management student in the College of Business at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Cover via Amazon

Motivation—the act or instance of motivating; the state or condition of being motivated; something that motivates, inducement; incentive.

Executive Summary

What is motivation? According to Webster’s dictionary.com, it means to provide with a motive or motives. Most businesses and people that the best way to motivate ourselves and others is with external rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake, Daniel H. Pink says in, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. The secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He demonstrates that while carrots and sticks worked successfully in the twentieth century, that is precisely the wrong way to motivate people for today’s challenges. In Drive, he examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose—and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action. Along the way, he takes us to companies that are enlisting new approaches to motivation and introduces us to the scientists and entrepreneurs who are pointing a bold way forward.

Throughout the book, Daniel Pink tells his readers about the different studies on people that have been performed over the years. Pink finds that most motivation comes from people that are self motivated for survival.  For small, mundane tasks, the simple carrot and stick approach works just fine, for larger tasks it is more than likely not going to work.

Pink discusses the three elements of motivation; autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Pink shows us an example that by letting people come to work whenever they want to and work at their own pace, they actually get more done. The next step is to continually work on something until it is perfected, or mastered. For proper balance, the last element, purpose, requires a drive for something much larger than oneself.

Towards the end of Drive, Daniel Pink offers his readers a toolkit/checklist for how to get motivated and stay motivated. He offers up how to keep individuals, organizations, parents and educators motivated, and also provides a reading list for books written by people with superior motivational skills. Pink also gives his readers advice from six other motivational business thinkers that always get the job done.

All in all, motivation comes from fear of not being successful which drives the individual to self motivation. Results of a lot of the studies done throughout Drive conclude that money is not always the best motivator.

10 Things Managers Need to Know from Drive:

1.    Employers should try the theory of letting employees spend 20 percent of their time working on any projects they desire.

2.    Encouragement of peer-to-peer “now-that” rewards. Being recognized by peers is more motivating than money.

3.    Find out how much autonomy the people in the organization really have. Perform an autonomy audit.

4.    Bosses need to give up more control and leave their employees alone sometimes.

5.    Find out if employees really know what the company’s purpose is. Take a vote and then educate.

6.    Robert B. Reich devised a simple “pronoun” test. Listen to the pronouns employees use. If they are using “we” it means they are engaged into the company.

7.    Employers should create an environment that makes people feel good about participating within things in the company.

8.    When assigning tasks throughout the office, make it a “no competition zone”.

9.    Managers should try task shifting. Employees get bored in one place and should be switched up every now and then.

10.  Employers should motivate with purpose and not with rewards.


Image via Wikipedia

Full Summary of Drive

Part One

The Rise and Fall of Motivation 2.0

The book opens up with a scenario; suppose you sit down with an economist in 1995 and you tell them “I have a crystal ball that can see fifteen years into the future and I am going to tell you about two encyclopedias—one just out and the other coming out a few years after and you have to pick which is more successful in 2010. The first is put out by Microsoft. Paid professional writers and editors will write an entire encyclopedia and will be put out for sale. The second encyclopedia will not come from a professional company, but from individuals who write and edit articles for fun. There are no special qualifications and no one will be monetarily compensated to do such work. All work is done for free on the individuals own free time. Now, which encyclopedia do you think is going to be the most popular?”

This idea sounds crazy when posed in a question because one does not think that people will give up free time and energy to write and edit articles. Naturally, in 1995, you would say Microsoft, but Microsoft never made much money with Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia and pulled the plug. As we all know, the second idea is Wikipedia.

Researchers have studied the implications for motivation. It is simple, both external rewards and punishments can work well for algorithmic tasks, but not so well for heuristic tasks. Work is not necessarily enjoyable, which is why people need to be coaxed with either rewards or punishments.

Back to Wikipedia, it works because the people that write the articles are self-motivated people and no one has to sit around and think of how to get these people motivated to write about certain topics. Routine, not-so-interesting jobs require direction; non-routine, more interesting jobs depend on self-direction.

Seven Reasons Carrots and Sticks (Often) Don’t Work….and the Special Circumstances When They Do

When carrots and sticks encounter the third drive, strange things begin to happen. Traditional “if-then” rewards can give us less of what we want: They can extinguish intrinsic motivation, diminish performance, crush creativity, and crowd out good behavior. They can also give us more of what we do not want; they can encourage unethical behavior, create addictions, and foster short-term thinking. These are the bugs in our current operating system.

Carrots and sticks are not all that bad. They can be effective for rule-based routine tasks—because there is little intrinsic motivation to undermine and not much creativity to crush, and they can be more effective still if those giving such rewards offer a rationale for why the task is necessary, acknowledge that it is boring, and allow people autonomy over how they can complete it. For nonroutine conceptual tasks, rewards are more perilous—particularly those of the “if-then” variety. But “now-that” rewards—noncontingent rewards given after a task is complete—can sometimes be okay for more creative, right-brain work, especially if they provide useful information about performance.

Type I and Type X

The first two chapters focused on a Type X behavior—behavior fueled more by extrinsic desires than intrinsic ones and concerned less with the inherent satisfaction of an activity and more with the external rewards to which lead to an activity. Type I behavior concerns itself less with the external rewards an activity brings and more with the inherent satisfaction of the external rewards an activity itself.  Daniel Pink believes that we as a people and as businesses should focus on being more of Type I behavior than Type X behavior. He says that the good news is Type I’s are made not born.


Part Two

Autonomy—the desire to direct our own lives

Pink shows us an example that by letting people come to work whenever they want to and work at their own pace, they actually get more done. This is call a ROWE, which is a results only work environment. Autonomy leads to engagement and engagement leads to produce mastery.


Mastery—the desire to continually improve something that matters

Only engagement can produce mastery and the pursuit of mastery has become essential in making one’s way in today’s economy. Unfortunately, despite the sweet words like “empowerment” that flow so freely throughout the work place, the modern work place’s most notable feature may be its lack of engagement and its disregard for mastery.


Purpose—the desire to do things in service of something larger than ourselves

Humans by nature seek purpose in everything that is their life. Businesses have long considered purpose ornamental so long as it did not get in the way of the important things, but that is changing  due to the uprising of baby boomers reckoning with their own mortality. Purpose maximization is taking place alongside profit maximization as an aspiration and a guiding principle. Within organizations, this new “purpose motive” is expressing itself in three ways: in goals that use profit to reach purpose; in words that emphasize more than self-interest; and in policies that allow people to pursue purpose on their own terms. Pink states that the move to accompany profit maximization with purpose maximization has the potential to rejuvenate our businesses and remake our world.

Although I liked this book and found it useful, I did think that some of the scientific experiments done with humans seemed a bit lab rat “ish”. I think Daniel Pink gave very good insight as to what employers should and should not do with monetary compensation versus non-monetary compensation. People should be able take away the simplest form of motivation and use it to motivate themselves. Even though understanding the forms of motivation is simple, actually executing ones motivational style is more difficult than it seems.

Interview with the author:

Personal Research on what Motivates people

I wanted to know from real people what motivates them to do the things they do. Below are some of their answers which in turn may help motivate you.

-The fear of failure. The satisfaction of proving those who doubt me wrong.

-The fear of failure is a good one. For me personally I want to prove to my Mom and Dad that since they thought they didn’t need me around, that I made my life a success without them. I don’t want to let my grandparents down, who worked everyday to put me thru school.

-Doubters. That’s something that lights a fire under me like nothing else. That person/people in my ear telling me I will never succeed.

-What Motivates me  Fear of letting others down , Realisation that i can do better , Self inflicted Criticism, Reachable Goals, The feeling of pride through achievement, Making others happy

-Providing for my family.

-Success motivates me. I enjoy being successful at whatever I do. From my garden to my job, I try to put every ounce of effort into whatever I do. Am I the best at everything? Nope, but I try.

-Challenge motivates. If someone says “you can’t do that.”

Competition motivates. Good-natured, that is. I’m not cut out for that corporate back-stabbing kind of competition. I lose those games because I don’t play them.

And then there’s the Marquis de Sade…”Nothing quite encourages as does one’s first unpunished crime.”

-My motivation comes from within. I am driven to know, learn and master, if possible anything I undertake. The feeling of accomplishment after I complete a task, be it at work, home or anywhere else, is what motivates me. Just to say, even if it is to myself: “I did it.”

-Fear is the biggest motivator

-I am motivated by wanting to make sure that my family is happy and cared for.

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David C. Wyld (dwyld@selu.edu) is the Robert Maurin Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, and executive educator. His blog, Wyld About Business, can be viewed at http://wyld-business.blogspot.com/.

Cover via Amazon

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2 Comments
  1. Posted April 16, 2010 at 3:17 am

    Inspirational :)

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