Sunday, May 9, 2010

Book Review: "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us," by Daniel Pink

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Dan Pink has written a book about motivation and the problem that most businesses haven’t caught up to what really motivates us.

“Too many organizations – not just companies, but governments and nonprofits as well – still operate from assumptions about human potential and individual performance that are outdated, unexamined, and rooted more in folklore than in science.”

The pursuit of short-term incentive plans and pay for performance requires an upgrade to Motivation 3.0, which incorporates three essential elements: Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives; Mastery – the urge to improve on something that matters; and Purpose – the desire to do something in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Pink’s Motivation 3.0 is the logical evolution from two previous societal “operating systems” – the laws, social customs and economic provisos that “sit atop a layer of instructions, protocols, and suppositions about how the world works.” Motivation 1.0 was a basic survival operating system of early humans – the hunter-gatherers – whose day-to-day survival governed their behavior.

As civilization progressed and became more complicated, economic rules spawned a new operating system of external rewards and punishments – Motivation 2.0, which was extremely effective for rule-based, routine tasks of the type that prevailed from the Industrial Revolution up through the mid 20th century.

The carrot and stick approach of Motivation 2.0, however, has become unreliable for how we organize what we do; how we think about what we do; and how we do what we do. In fact, in our current operating system, Motivation 2.0 tends to “extinguish intrinsic motivation, diminish performance, crush creativity and crowd out good behavior.” It can encourage unethical behavior, create addictions to rewards that distort decision-making, and foster short-term thinking.

Thus, an upgrade is required – Motivation 3.0 – for the smooth functioning of 21st century business, which depends on and fosters the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself; what Pink call “Type I” behavior. Type I behavior leads to “stronger performance, greater health and higher overall well-being.”

Pink shows how companies that are embracing the upgrade Motivation 3.0 and its basic elements are outperforming those that continue to employ the old Motivation 2.0 carrot and stick techniques.

The “default setting” of Motivation 3.0 is autonomy and self-direction. People need autonomy over task (what they do), time (when they do it), team (who they do it with) and technique (how they do it). Management’s role, then, isn’t about walking around and seeing if people are in their offices at certain times; it’s about creating conditions for them to do their best work.

While Motivation 2.0 required compliance, Motivation 3.0 demands engagement. Only engagement can produce mastery – becoming better at something that matters. Mastery abides by three basic rules. Mastery is a mindset – it requires the capacity to see your abilities as infinitely improvable. Mastery is a pain – it demands effort, grit and deliberate practice. And mastery is asymptote – it’s impossible to realize fully.

Autonomous people, working toward mastery perform at very high levels. But those who do so in the service of a greater objective – greater than themselves – achieve even more. Thus, in Motivation 3.0, purpose maximization, along with profit maximization, is an aspiration and guiding principle. Pink contends that the “move to accompany profit maximization with purpose maximization has the potential to rejuvenate our businesses and remake our world” (my emphasis).

So, if you’re running an organization, are you running on an outdated operating system or have you upgraded to Motivation 3.0, which will provide greater performance. As an individual, can you embrace the elements of Motivation 3.0 to enhance your performance within the organization?

Perhaps a greater question is, can organizations and individuals upgrade to Motivation 3.0 or are we doomed to run inefficiently on an old, obsolete operating system?


  1. Nice summary of important points from an intriguing book. I find myself wondering how to incorporate Motivation 3.0 in my teaching approach at U of A South Commerce program. Am part-way there; this inspires me to be even more creative in "creating conditions for them [my students] to do their best work."


  2. Thanks Gail. It's my belief that it'll be your students, the next business leadership, that will take Motivation 3.0 to heart and run or create organizations that will optimize potential. Keep up the good work.

    ~ Scott

  3. Interestingly, Scott, I had checked this book out of the library, taking it with me to Phoenix recently.
    When it became overdue, I returned it - without reading it.
    I'm glad to be able to read your synopsis...and to see that both of us are seeking out the "what's new" and "what's best new" at the same time!!

  4. Erika, I suspect that's why we're persuing the New Normal conversation via TRP.

    ~ Scott