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Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us Paperback – April 5, 2011
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"Persuasive . . .Harnessing the power of intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic remuneration can be thoroughly satisfying and infinitely more rewarding."
"These lessons are worth repeating, and if more companies feel emboldened to follow Mr. Pink's advice, then so much the better."
-Wall Street Journal
"Pink is rapidly acquiring international guru status . . . He is an engaging writer, who challenges and provokes."
"Pink's ideas deserve a wide hearing. Corporate boards, in fact, could do well by kicking out their pay consultants for an hour and reading Pink's conclusions instead."
"Pink's deft traversal of research at the intersection of psychology and economics make this a worthwhile read-no sticks necessary."
"[Pink] continues his engaging exploration of how we work."
"Pink's a gifted writer who turns even the heaviest scientific study into something digestible-and often amusing-without losing his intellectual punch."
-New York Post
"A worthwhile read. It reminds us that those of us on the right side of the brain are driven furthest and fastest in pursuit of what we love."
-Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Pink's analysis--and new model--of motivation offers tremendous insight into our deepest nature."
"Important reading...an integral addition to a growing body of literature that argues for a radical shift in how businesses operate."
"Drive is the rare book that will get you to think and inspire you to act. Pink makes a strong, science-based case for rethinking motivation--and then provides the tools you need to transform your life."
-Dr. Mehmet Oz, co-author of YOU: The Owners Manual
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The book has about 250 pages. One hundred fifty or so of those are for the basic content. It includes the Introduction and Parts I and II (chapters one through six).
The other hundred pages are a "Toolkit." This includes some material that didn't seem to fit anywhere else, a glossary, a recap of Drive, twenty conversation starters (useful at cocktail parties), a reading list, and a fitness plan. That's forty percent of the book. And none of it helps you put what you've read to work.
The core points of the book are covered in the TED talk. You can listen to it in about fifteen minutes or read it in about ten. You won't get the fitness plan or the conversation starters. You will get the essence of Pink's message.
If you're a boss or concerned about leadership, you need to become familiar with that message. The ideas are important. Pink's rendering of them, for good or ill, will define and influence the discussion of motivation in business for quite a while.
He does get the big picture right. He says that people would prefer activities where they can pursue three things.
Autonomy: People want to have control over their work.
Mastery: People want to get better at what they do.
Purpose: People want to be part of something that is bigger than they are.
This matches research that I've done with class members for over twenty-five years. They discuss a time when "it was great to come to work" and then create a description of what those times are like. The descriptions vary slightly in wording but always include the following.
Interesting and meaningful work.
Clear and reasonable expectations.
Frequent and usable feedback.
Maximum control possible over work life.
I'm describing the kinds of workplaces where intrinsic motivation happens. Pink is describing three things that provide that kind of motivation. In most highly effective workplaces, it's the boss that is the most important force creating an environment when intrinsic motivation can happen.
Top management sets the basic compensation and benefits structure. If that isn't perceived as fair and consistent, natural intrinsic motivation won't kick in.
It's your individual supervisor who has the biggest effect on your daily working environment. That's why there are pockets of excellence in otherwise horrid companies and why even the best companies have workers who are unhappy and teams that are unproductive.
This book won't give you the connection from concept to workplace. But Pink does deliver many key ideas that matter.
Key Idea: There is a difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.
Key Idea: Intrinsic motivators are more powerful.
Key Idea: If you use monetary rewards to get people to perform the way you want, those rewards may have the opposite effect.
These are important things for a boss to know, but if you only have Drive to guide you, you will get some things very wrong.
The examples that are used are heavily weighted toward academic and consulting studies. It's not apparent that Pink talked to a single worker or frontline supervisor. The book would have been more helpful if he had.
There are some pre-requisites to having intrinsic motivation kick in. Pink mentions in passing that there needs to be fair compensation in place. That's true, but it's not an "oh-by-the-way" point. It's Maslow's Hierarchy in work clothes.
Throughout the book, Pink equates "monetary" incentives with "extrinsic motivation." That ignores praise, promotion, preferment (in scheduling, eg), the admiration of peers, time off, and a host of other positive incentives. It also skews the discussion toward academic studies and away from the real workplace.
Pink also presents the issue as if it were intrinsic motivators (good) versus extrinsic motivators (not good). In the TED talk he even says "This is the titanic battle between these two approaches."
That's not how things work in the real world. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and their effects interact. You don't have a simple choice of which lever to pull. You have to understand and influence a complex system.
Those shortcomings are important. They derive from one of the most important things to understand if you've going to study this material critically and turn it to good use.
Pink has written this book like a political speech. He writes to make a point, not to present a balanced argument.
Like a good speech writer, Pink uses language that implies value judgments. He uses terms like "humanistic psychology" for things he agrees with. When he doesn't agree he uses terms like "rat-like seeking."
Like a good speech writer, Pink makes sweeping statements without providing support for them. "Sometimes" and "a surprisingly large proportion of the time" are used with no indication of what they actually mean. He says that sales quotas "can be effective," but doesn't tell you when or how often.
Like a good speech writer, Pink leaves out things that don't support his simplified message. There's no mention of studies that support the use of rewards in business settings.
Like a good speech writer, Pink boils his facts down to only the ones that support his argument. If all you read was Drive, you would think that the work of Deci and Ryan is about the superiority of intrinsic motivators to extrinsic in all situations.
But their work is more complex than Pink describes it. It includes analysis of effective extrinsic motivators as well as extrinsic motivators that are counter-productive.
Like a good speech writer, pink, picks up studies from one sphere and applies them elsewhere without telling you what he's doing. Deci and Ryan have done admirable and important work, but it's on motivation in personal development, not in the workplace.
Like a good speech writer, Pink ignores contradictions. He describes a horrid, slave ship workplace ruled by carrots and sticks. Later he mentions that most "flow" experiences happen at work.
Pink tells us about "20 percent" time for creativity at Google and Atlassian. But he doesn't discuss why they only offer their intrinsic reward of creativity to engineers and not the other workers in the company.
Like a good speech writer, Pink sets up the straw man of "Motivation 2.0" so that he's easy to knock down. And, inconvenient truths are sometimes mentioned in passing and then never heard from again.
The Bottom Line
You should learn what's in this book because, for better or worse, it is influencing the conversation about what makes a great workplace. But because of the presentation and selective use of facts, you can't rely on this book alone to help you do a better job as a boss.
Pink shows that there has always been monetary motivation, but that has lost its attractiveness as we've moved from the "top-down" management system to the more heuristic style (workers being free to decide how to do their jobs). He points out that repetitive jobs lend themselves more to traditional rewards, whereas money doesn't seem to motivate innovation.
I used to work for a major corporation (which we'll call "EMC," because that is their name). Pretty much everyone I met had responsibility for something, to the degree that supervisors were enablers - you went to them and told them what to do. Supervisors could (and sometimes did) give you reasons why not, but they weren't about to come into your cubicle and micromanage you. And the wider your responsibility, the harder you worked.
This system was totally unlike anything I'd come across before. Most businesses would act as though their employees couldn't be trusted. And although I was looking behind me nervously, I shone in this environment, and now I realized that's what they wanted from me.
Pink mentions Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (if that's new to you, look it up on Wikipedia), and I think he is right that now that there's a relatively well-paid group of workers, they can ask for something more than basic salary. As Pink puts it, we need to feel that the work we do is worthwhile, and thus we move to the top of Maslow's pyramid and realize esteem and self-actualization.
Hopefully you will have recognized some of the tenets of your organization. However, I think it's unlikely that all Pink's principles will have been adopted, so get this book now. It gives you a great deal to think about, and in the last section, Pink quotes people that have influenced his thinking.
Whether you run a company or see yourself as "just an employee," you need to read this. It shows pretty much everything to know about what will drive you or your staff to much better performance. It involves more than having an employee of the week, and you may find that if you work in a place that doesn't use these principles you may have to change jobs. But it will be worth it.