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This is evolutionary psychology as seen by two professors from the Harvard Business School (!). While some readers may be familiar with a lot of what is presented here, it is agreeable to get a perspective from another academic discipline and a new sense of application. It is especially pleasing because professors Lawrence and Nohria write well and have an appreciation of what an exciting time of biological discovery we are living in, a time when the convergence of knowledge and techniques from various disciplines is giving us the ability to look inside the black box of human nature previously closed.
The authors' use of the term "drives" to designate the source of behaviors is familiar, but the idea that these drives come from modules in the brain, or a network of modules, is what is relatively new. Whether this is just another construct like Freud's ego, id, and superego is an open question. However--and this is important and at the very essence of what is going on in brain science today--unlike Freud's construct, the one presented here is based on something tangible in the brain's structure. As the authors report, recent advances in technology allow us to discern the brain's structure as it works. These observations provide a scientific basis for constructs attempting to explain human behavior. Whether there are four fundamental drives, as messrs. Lawrence and Nohria think, or some other number, or whether an entirely different construct is required, is also an open question. Personally, I find their array persuasive, and I think the idea of "drives" a valuable one. More important though is their understanding that we are motivated by more than rational self-interest, the so-called "invisible hand" from Adam Smith and the market place.
Here are the drives as defined on page 10:
D1 is to acquire objects and experiences that improve our status relative to others.
D2 is to bond with others in mutually beneficial, long-term relationships.
D3 is to learn about and make sense of ourselves and the world around us.
D4 is to defend ourselves, our loved ones, our beliefs, and our resources.
In should be noted that these four drives do not in any way contradict the general finding in biology that individuals tend to behave in such a way as to enhance their reproductive success. What is new is that such "selfish" behaviors include behaviors usually seen as altruistic. Yet I think the authors would enhance their understanding of the idea of "altruistic behavior" by reading Amotz and Avishag Zahavi's The Handicap Principle: A Missing Piece of Darwin's Puzzle (1997) in which the adaptive function of some altruistic behavior is to directly advertise fitness.
It should also be noted, as the authors do on page 63, that "What drives behavior is a contest among the emotions, not the rational calculation alone." In other words, rationality leads to the creation of an emotion which competes with the instinctive emotion. This is an important concept. It is not the rational mind overcoming the emotional mind, but the employment of emotion by the rational mind to overcome instinctive imperatives which sometimes lead us in the wrong direction.
Through the process of "social bonding" as presented on page 83, the authors embrace the idea of group selection, an idea disparaged by notions from Dawkins's "selfish gene" and elsewhere. The idea that there could be the selection of genes that "orient behavior toward the good of the group" has long been discounted by the establishment in evolutionary biology. (This view is changing.) The seemingly very convincing argument has been that "any carrier with a genetic disposition to be nice to others would be, in time, wiped out by the selfish free-riders in the population." (Still on page 83.) My feeling, however (similar to that of the authors), is that for human beings the "in time" part has never had a chance to kick in. This is mainly because of the constant struggle of tribe against tribe throughout human and pre-human history. The benefit to the tribe from individuals willing to risk life and limb for the good of the tribe is clear. What has not been realized by many is that the benefits to the individual by enhancing the tribe's fitness more than offset the loss incurred from taking risks. True, if the tribe faced no outward danger for a long period of time, the genes of the "selfish free-riders" would predominate in the population and the altruistic genes would die out. But that hasn't happened. Consequently groups (bands and tribes) that contained many "altruistic" individuals survived while groups with fewer altruistic individuals died out. Therefore we have the "group selection of individuals" (which is a way I have seen this phenomenon phrased).
I should also like to note that religion, the cultural evolution of, is accounted for in a similar way. Those tribes that had religious beliefs strong enough to facilitate bonding and altruistic behavior survived more often than tribes that did not. This is something that E.O. Wilson pointed out some years ago in his book On Human Nature.
I think this is an excellent book for the general reader and a fine melding of the ideas of evolutionary biology into the culture of the work place and other loci in the modern world. The authors do a good job of showing how the ideas of evolutionary psychology go far beyond the retelling of "just so" stories, ideas that can help us to understand ourselves and the world in which we live.
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Leave it to two Harvard business professors - Paul R. Lawrence and Nitin Nohria - to break every rule of conventional academic etiquette. Their transgression? Applying their knowledge of companies and individuals to present a unified explanation of human behavior, thereby encroaching on the academic fiefdoms of evolutionary biology, psychology and anthropology, just to name a few. They use the four basic human drives that influence behavior to offer deep insights into corporate and individual actions. We [...] strongly recommend this ambitious, far-ranging book to management students, executives searching for understanding and for anyone who delights in tweaking the collective nose of academia.
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on October 30, 2001
This has been one of the few books I have read lately that really makes me think about what makes me tick but also the larger issues that guide us all -- not only in how we work but what we value in life. The chapters on the four drives are some of the most interesting I have ever read -- though it feels like this topic is just really beginning to be explored. This book will stay on my shelf to be picked up and reread. Very thoughtful.
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on October 29, 2001
This book is right, or at least on the right track. In contrast to many models of human behavior (economic = self-maximizing, etc) that aren't credible because they don't explain much of what we human beings are really like, this book presents a more complex model that, in my opinion, rings true. Even better, the authors don't try to claim perfection, instead being happy with being useful. In the best scientific traditions, the conclusions of this book are stated in such a way that it is clear what they know, what they think and what they hope. The authors are also unafraid of criticism (good science), confident that their thoughts are valid but quick to point out areas that need more research and in several cases, describing realistic experiments that could be conducted. Finally, this book is not limited to theoretical exploration but also describes specific do's and don'ts about leading groups of real people that can now be better undersood because of the better understanding of why people are the way they are.
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on February 23, 2003
At first glance this book seems to be leaning too much toward the scientific/academic side. I was actually dreading to read the book, however the authors have done a magnificant job of livening up each academic part with real world case studies. The main theme of this text is how we base our decision making on four psychological drives that every person is born with regardless of religion, race or other factors:
1.) The Drive to Acquire (D1) - We all have it, it is normal but some have too much of it. Those who have an overdose of D1 tend to teeter on the edge of self-destruction and those around them.
2.) The Drive to Bond (D2) - Everybody likes to feel wanted and belong to some type of organisation (family, cultural, religion, hobby, etc., When a person engages in decicion making, they will usually decided positive for the person who has something in common with them.
3.) The Drive to Learn (D3) - Learning is a part of life and when this drive is not satisfied in people they become aggressive and restless. Have you ever seen a highly intelligent well-paid co-worker leave a job although this person never had any problems with peer or superiors? Chances are that this person was in dire need of a cerebal orgasam i.e. The person was somebody who needed to be mentally challenged.
4.) The Drive to Defend (D4) - We have learned certain beliefs and take them to be true until proven otherwise. When somebody attacks or tries to show us otherwise we become agitated, angry or beligerent because deep down in our subconscious we have a defense mechanism that does not want to be proven wrong.
This is an excellent book for markets, negotiators and employers. What makes us tick inside our crainium. The authors have excellent examples taken from Hewlett-Packard and how they created a bond between employees and the company. Other scenarios show why some companies work extremely well with labour unions and some companies never seem to have any peace between management and unions. Why do we prefer a product over another? All of these answers are in this text.
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on November 8, 2001
The authors advance the theory that the interplay between our 4 key biological drivers - getting, loving, learning and defending - is the catalyst of the decisions and, ultimately, the paths we choose in life. As a student of cause & effect, I found their attempt to elevate the discussion of "what drives us" beyond the typical psycho-bable to be laudable. How many of us act in the complete dark when it comes to some framework within which to understand our behavior?
Their theory is especially timely given the rapid evolution of the intersecting fields of biology, nanotechnology and computing. Isn't it time to investigate the biological drivers behind what is still the most fascinating machine - man? Yes.
Nor does the investigation by Nohria and Lawrence fall prey to a mechanistic characterization of human kind. They draw on a rich database of workplace experience for validation and move from here to compelling insights on the broad tapestry of human interaction. The ride is at times controversial and provocative, but never boring or mechanistic. Well worth the read.
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on February 15, 2014
I had to read this book for my MBA. The first half of it is good, the authors give examples supporting their theory, which is interesting to know about. The second half, however, is full of conjectures and overstatements and I got the impression the authors had nothing new to say but kept outpouring their thoughts.

The subject is interesting, but their presentation of it generally treats human nature in a very instrumental and utilitarian way, too Anglo Saxon to my taste :-) (depending on the point of view of objectivity, it may be an advantage). But I can say I came out better after reading this book.
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on June 26, 2008
Readers who like the idea in this book should also enjoy Steven Reiss's idea of multidimensionality of human nature (see Reiss's "Who Am I: The 16 Basic Desires that Motivate Our Actions and Define Our Personalities" and "The Normal Personality"). Little wonder why Amazon bundle the two books together.

Putting the two sets of ideas side by side (and they are developed independently using different research methods), one see a clear match between the typology of Lawrence & Nohria's basic drives and Reiss's basic desires, although the 4 drives in Lawrence & Nohria are higher-order groupings of Reiss's 16 basic desires.

The only comments that I would like to add here is that the 4 drives in Lawrence & Nohria should be seen as psychological rather than biological. Secondly, the concept of individuality (i.e. individual differences in "how much" we desire each of these basic drives) is not apparent in this book as it is in Reiss's work.
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on June 17, 2009
Harvard Business School professors Lawrence and Nohria present a sociobiological theory of motivation directed to the business environment. They claim that humans possess four basic drives to acquire, to bond, to learn, and to defend. The unique approach in their book is the manner in which they apply their theory specifically to the workplace. Historical case studies are used to show that successful organizations are those that give their employees opportunities to fulfill all four of these drives. There are of course a number of competing drive theories from Freud's sexual drive to Steven Reiss's 16-drive theory. The authors, well versed in sociobiology, openly acknowledge that the numbers and exact nature of our drives need further exploration and provide suggestions for research projects. Irregardless of how many more drives one human may or may not posses their theory is enlightening for any reader. While being academic in its approach and presentation it is written with the lay reader in mind so any undergraduate will comfortably assimilate the information provided. This is ideal for any business leader that would like to better understand what not only drives them but also those around them.Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices (J-B US non-Franchise Leadership)
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on November 8, 2001
The authors advance the theory that the interplay between our 4 key biological drivers - getting, loving, learning and defending - is the catalyst of the decisions and, ultimately, the paths we choose in life. As a student of cause & effect, I found their attempt to elevate the discussion of "what drives us" beyond the typical psycho-bable to be laudable. How many of us act in the complete dark when it comes to some framework within which to understand our behavior?
Their theory is especially timely given the rapid evolution of the intersecting fields of biology, nanotechnology and computing. Isn't it time to investigate the biological drivers behind what is still the most fascinating machine - man? Yes.
Nor does the investigation by Nohria and Lawrence fall prey to a mechanistic characterization of human kind. They draw on a rich database of workplace experience for validation and move from here to compelling insights on the broad tapestry of human interaction. The ride is at times controversial and provocative, but never boring or mechanistic. Well worth the read.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse