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Drive: The Surprising Truth About What…

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (2009)

by Daniel H. Pink

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A well written, short, occasionally funny, and always inspiring and motivating (imagine that) book that talks about the science behind human motivation. Most businesses are still run the way they were in the 19th century, with carrots and sticks, oblivious to the fact that the nature of work has changed dramatically. This book talks about how to upgrade to a new model based on autonomy, mastery, and purpose. If you've ever felt frustrated at your job or your manager, this book likely explains why. If you want to do better, read it.

Some fun quotes:

Rewards can deliver a short-term boost—just as a jolt of caffeine can keep you cranking for a few more hours. But the effect wears off—and, worse, can reduce a person’s longer-term motivation to continue the project.

Walk into the IT department of a large company anywhere in the world and ask for a tour. That company’s corporate computer servers could well run on Linux, software devised by an army of unpaid programmers and available for free. Linux now powers one in four corporate servers. Then ask an employee to explain how the company’s website works. Humming beneath the site is probably Apache, free open-source Web server software created and maintained by a far-flung global group of volunteers. Apache’s share of the corporate Web server market: 52 percent. In other words, companies that typically rely on external rewards to manage their employees run some of their most important systems with products created by nonemployees who don’t seem to need such rewards.

The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimates that in the United States, only 30 percent of job growth now comes from algorithmic work, while 70 percent comes from heuristic work. A key reason: Routine work can be outsourced or automated; artistic, empathic, nonroutine work generally cannot.

Routine, not-so-interesting jobs require direction; nonroutine, more interesting work depends on self-direction.

In other words, rewards can perform a weird sort of behavioral alchemy: They can transform an interesting task into a drudge. They can turn play into work. And by diminishing intrinsic motivation, they can send performance, creativity, and even upstanding behavior toppling like dominoes.

Only contingent rewards—if you do this, then you’ll get that—had the negative effect. Why? “If-then” rewards require people to forfeit some of their autonomy.

“Those artists who pursued their painting and sculpture more for the pleasure of the activity itself than for extrinsic rewards have produced art that has been socially recognized as superior,” the study said. “It is those who are least motivated to pursue extrinsic rewards who eventually receive them.”

Goals may cause systematic problems for organizations due to narrowed focus, unethical behavior, increased risk taking, decreased cooperation, and decreased intrinsic motivation. Use care when applying goals in your organization.

By offering a reward, a principal signals to the agent that the task is undesirable. (If the task were desirable, the agent wouldn’t need a prod.)

Pay your son to take out the trash—and you’ve pretty much guaranteed the kid will never do it again for free. What’s more, once the initial money buzz tapers off, you’ll likely have to increase the payment to continue compliance.

Rewards do not undermine people’s intrinsic motivation for dull tasks because there is little or no intrinsic motivation to be undermined.

Any extrinsic reward should be unexpected and offered only after the task is complete.

Most leaders believed that the people in their organizations fundamentally disliked work and would avoid it if it they could. These faceless minions feared taking responsibility, craved security, and badly needed direction. As a result, “most people must be coerced, controlled, directed, and threatened with punishment to get them to put forth adequate effort toward the achievement of organizational objectives.” But McGregor said there was an alternative view of employees—one that offered a more accurate assessment of the human condition and a more effective starting point for running companies. This perspective held that taking an interest in work is “as natural as play or rest,” that creativity and ingenuity were widely distributed in the population, and that under the proper conditions, people will accept, and even seek, responsibility.

As the strategy guru Gary Hamel has observed, management is a technology. And like Motivation 2.0, it’s a technology that has grown creaky. While some companies have oiled the gears a bit, and plenty more have paid lip service to the same, at its core management hasn’t changed much in a hundred years. Its central ethic remains control; its chief tools remain extrinsic motivators. That leaves it largely out of sync with the nonroutine, right-brain abilities on which many of the world’s economies now depend.

Indeed, just consider the very notion of “empowerment.” It presumes that the organization has the power and benevolently ladles some of it into the waiting bowls of grateful employees. But that’s not autonomy. That’s just a slightly more civilized form of control. Or take management’s embrace of “flex time.” Ressler and Thompson call it a “con game,” and they’re right. Flexibility simply widens the fences and occasionally opens the gates. It, too, is little more than control in sheep’s clothing. The words themselves reflect presumptions that run against both the texture of the times and the nature of the human condition. In short, management isn’t the solution; it’s the problem.

A study of 11,000 industrial scientists and engineers working at companies in the United States found that the desire for intellectual challenge—that is, the urge to master something new and engaging—was the best predictor of productivity. Scientists motivated by this intrinsic desire filed significantly more patents than those whose main motivation was money, even controlling for the amount of effort each group expended.

According to Dweck, people can hold two different views of their own intelligence. Those who have an “entity theory” believe that intelligence is just that—an entity. It exists within us, in a finite supply that we cannot increase. Those who subscribe to an “incremental theory” take a different view. They believe that while intelligence may vary slightly from person to person, it is ultimately something that, with effort, we can increase. To analogize to physical qualities, incremental theorists consider intelligence as something like strength. (Want to get stronger and more muscular? Start pumping iron.) Entity theorists view it as something more like height. (Want to get taller? You’re out of luck.)f If you believe intelligence is a fixed quantity, then every educational and professional encounter becomes a measure of how much you have. If you believe intelligence is something you can increase, then the same encounters become opportunities for growth. In one view, intelligence is something you demonstrate; in the other, it’s something you develop.

There is no reason to believe any longer that only irrelevant ‘play’ can be enjoyed, while the serious business of life must be borne as a burdensome cross. Once we realize that the boundaries between work and play are artificial, we can take matters in hand and begin the difficult task of making life more livable.

In other words, in America alone, one hundred boomers turn sixty every thirteen minutes.
Every thirteen minutes another hundred people—members of the wealthiest and best-educated generation the world has ever known—begin reckoning with their mortality and asking deep questions about meaning, significance, and what they truly want.

We know that human beings are not merely smaller, slower, better-smelling horses galloping after that day’s carrot. We know—if we’ve spent time with young children or remember ourselves at our best—that we’re not destined to be passive and compliant. We’re designed to be active and engaged. And we know that the richest experiences in our lives aren’t when we’re clamoring for validation from others, but when we’re listening to our own voice—doing something that matters, doing it well, and doing it in the service of a cause larger than ourselves.

“Do rewards motivate people? Absolutely. They motivate people to get rewards.” ( )
  brikis98 | Nov 11, 2015 |
Much of the business and education world relies on rewards and punishments. Produce more widgets, get a bonus. Meet your reading goal, get a pizza party. Pink shows that these rewards are, in the modern economy, often counterproductive. They turn inherently rewarding activities into work and reduce both creativity and productivity. Pink wants us to be more aware of our intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, motivators: we seek, he says, autonomy, mastery, and purpose in our work.

An optimistic, empowering look at how to better structure work and play, though it will make you frustrated that so many things are currently run contrary to science. ( )
  jholcomb | Oct 8, 2015 |
Drive looks at what motivates people in there work, play and school. Interesting, with some research backing his observations. The recommendation was to encourage intrinsic motivation (autonomy, mastery, purpose) over extrinsic. Makes sense, but difficult to make changes. The book is attempting to do that. ( )
  addunn3 | Sep 22, 2015 |
Mostly I just find it amusing that a business book gave the best argument I've ever seen for a guaranteed minimum income. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Aug 26, 2015 |
A very interesting read. He doesn't successfully make his case at the outset, but builds up steam as he goes along and makes it much more convincing and concrete. As with many books of this genre, each chapter can be exploded into libraries of work. Still, despite its brevity, he parlays his theories in full. The coda is quite entertaining as well, with ideas, workshops, summaries, pointers, talking-points and my favorite thing for an author to do: book recommendations. I'm happy to say I've read much of his list.
  MartinBodek | Jun 11, 2015 |
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For Sophia, Eliza, and Saul -
the surprising trio that motivates me
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In the middle of the last century, two scientists conducted experiments that should have changed the world - but did not.
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Pink argues that the secret to high performance and satisfaction in today's world 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.

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