Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
Recommended for: Any new manager, anyone who wants to learn the best way to get the best out of your people.
The premise of the book is that when it comes to motivating people, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. If we want to strengthen our companies, elevate our lives, and improve the world we need to close this gap. Our current model for business is to use sticks and carrots to motivate, but these don’t work and can cause harm. Science shows the way to upgrade. Pink sites three essential elements: 1. Autonomy- the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery- the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose- the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
Here’s my top 21 takeaways:
- Workers were once approached like parts in a complicated machine. If they did the work in the right way at the right time, the machine would function smoothly. To ensure it continued, you rewarded the behavior you sought and punished the behavior you discouraged.
- Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self determined and connected to one another. When that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.
- Rewards (carrots) can deliver a short term boost, like a jolt of caffeine, but the effect wears off and can reduce a person’s long term motivation to continue the project.
- Some advocates say that extrinsic motivation is all evil, but Pink says this isn’t true. What’s true, he says, is that mixing rewards with inherently interesting, creative, or noble tasks—without understanding the science of motivation—is a very dangerous game. He created this flow chart to help you determine when to use rewards:
- Goals that people set for themselves and are devoted to attaining mastery are usually healthy. Goals imposed by others—sales targets, quarterly returns, standardized test scores– can have dangerous side effects.
- All goals are not created equal. Goals and extrinsic rewards aren’t inherently corrupting, but goals are more toxic than traditional management thinks.
- Carrots can cause addiction. Rewards and trophies can provide a delicious jolt, but the feeling soon dissipates and to keep it alive the recipient requires even larger doses and more frequent doses (scary!).
- Ensure that the baseline rewards—wages, salaries, benefits are adequate. Without a healthy baseline, motivation of any sort is difficult and often impossible.
- Any extrinsic reward should be offered after the task is completed. If you offer the reward before hand, people will focus on the reward instead of the task. In other words, shift from “if-then” rewards to “now that” rewards. HOWEVER, repeated “now that” bonuses can become “if-then” entitlements which can crater effective performances.
- Intrinsically motivated people usually achieve more than their reward seeking counterparts in the long run. Its not true for the short term, though. However, continuing to get short term results is difficult to sustain.
- We forget that management does not emanate from nature. Its not like a river or a tree. Its like a tree or a bicycle. Its something humans invented.
- Good change agent strategy– If you want to work with more progressive management-style people the best strategy is to become one yourself. It becomes contagious.
- Transitioning to autonomy won’t or can’t happen in one fell swoop. Plucking people out of controlling environments and plopping them into autonomous ones will cause the people to struggle. Organizations must provide scaffolding.
- The highest most satisfying experiences in people’s lives is when they are in the state of Flow (Its a fascinating concept if you haven’t heard of it before. Take a look!!).
- One source of frustration in the workplace is the frequent mismatch between what people must do and what people can do. When what they must do exceeds their capabilities, the result is anxiety. When what they must do falls short of their capabilities, the result is boredom.
- A challenge must not be too hard nor too easy in order for a person to achieve flow. Pink calls these Goldilock tasks (not too hot not too cold).
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who coined the term Flow and who studies it, conducted an experiment that deprived people of Flow. The subjects experienced what is called general anxiety disorder in the medical field. People become sluggish, they complained of headaches, many complained of difficulty concentrating, some got sleepy, others were too agitated to sleep. Csikszentmihalyi said that just after two days, people’s mood became so deteriorated it became inadvisable to continue with the experiment. Conclusion—flow is a necessity. We need it to survive. (I found this fascinating!)
- Csikszentmihalyi discovered we are more likely to experience flow during work than during leisure.
- “One cannot lead a life that is truly excellent without feeling that one belongs to somethin greater and more permanent than oneself.” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Great people have one sentence that describes their purpose (ex. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and kept the Union intact.”). Orient your life toward a greater purpose by summarizing it in one sentence. So ask: “What’s your sentence?”
- Ask yourself each night before you go to bed, “Was I better than yesterday?”
At the end of the book, Pink lists essential reading to learn more, highlights management thinkers who get it (oddly, Deming wasn’t listed—he would have been all over this book), provides a glossary for new terminology, and gives suggestions on how to improve motivation in organizations and personal lives (exercising and motivating kids!).
Pink also gives questions for people to discuss among themselves. I’d be curious to have a traditional manager read this book and see what they think. I can’t help but hear them saying already, “Yes, but . . .”
I think this is a must-have book for any leader or manager. As a matter of fact, if I were to recommend just one book for a manager to read, I believe this would be the one. Its powerful.
You can buy the book here.