Recent Reads: Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Daniel Pink



Most people believe that the best way to motivate is with rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake, says Daniel H. Pink (author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others). In this provocative and persuasive new book, he asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction-at work, at school, and at home—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.

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose-and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.

This quick read was lent to me by someone I work with – actually someone I supervise.  (I’m just going to assume that she lent it to me because she knew that I love to read, am a life-long-learner, and that we share a mutual interest in psychology… and not that she thinks I’m a crap boss and need advice on how to motivate my team.)

For some reason, I didn’t quite latch on to Dan Pink’s writing style, but he presents a lot of valid points to reframe how we traditionally think about motivating others, which is basically systems rewards and punishments.  He challenges while such simple conditioning might work to influence routine tasks, it is actually a damaging perspective when it comes to finding motivation to do anything that requires complex thought, difficulty, or creativity.  We’re missing out on a huge component: intrinsic motivation.  Doing something for the inherent satisfaction of doing the activity itself.  Intrinsic motivation is running a marathon to explore the reaches of our physical form.  It’s creating art to express complex perspectives.  It’s volunteering time, because it serves a purpose greater than ourselves.

And yep, I am on board.  Lucky me, Dan wraps up his book with a “toolkit” of how to apply the psychology of intrinsic motivation to the real world – in personal life, at work, with kids.  So if you don’t want to read the whole thing, you can just jump straight to the back and quickly figure out “so how do I make this work for me?”  (Or, “so how do I not be a crap boss and better motivate my team.”)