Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Review: Drive--The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us
Daniel Pink

In retrospect, Daniel Pink's claims seem obvious, but so many of us have been taught that our own desires, that our own motivations don't matter that maybe the topic does deserve a book.

Using the metaphor of a computer operating system, Pink coins two new labels--Type I and Type X--to describe the main two views of motivation common at work, school, and home. Type I refers to intrinsic motivation while Type X refers to extrinsic motivation. Type X has been the dominate view for at least the last 200 years, while Pink sees the demand for increasingly creative work finally bringing a focus on intrinsic motivation to the fore.

Extrinsic motivation comes from outside a person and is reflected in practices that focus on rewards or punishments as motivations while intrinsic motivation relies on the sheer pleasure a person gets from doing something. Drawing on the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and many others, Pink describes motivation as depending on three elements: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Pink's description of mastery was most striking to me. Mastery also is a set of three traits: a mindset, pain, and an asymptote. I was struck by the benefits Pink describes of having a mindset focused on the process of learning rather than on achieving a particular performance standard.

As people develop the learning mindset they become more creative and determined whereas when people are focused on earning a certain grade or achieving a certain goal and then fail, they are more likely to give up. Pink notes that research shows that the best predictor of college success is not IQ or test scores but "grit."

At his best, Pink tells stories of various companies around the world that have worked to increase these elements for their employees and have seen this in turn increase profitability. Not that profit is everything, though.

Pink also describes a new trend with the founding of companies called "low-profit corporations" or "social businesses" or "for-benefit organizations." These businesses differ from traditional organizations in that they are profitable businesses but that increasing profit is not their primary purpose. They are seeking to foster some social or environmental good with their profits.

My only objection to the book is the first chapter, focusing on historic research into motivation. I am a great fan of popular science, yet in this case it makes for a rather dry start to an otherwise very fascinating book. My advice, "Don't give up during the first chapter!"

I highly recommend this book!

Other authors recommended by Pink:
Gary Hamel
Carol Dweck
Peter Drucker

Fans of Malcolm Gladwell are likely to enjoy Daniel Pink and fans of Daniel Pink will likely enjoy Marcus Buckingham.

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