Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
by Daniel H. Pink
The premise of this book is that motivation practices in many organizations have yet to catch up with our expanding understanding of human nature. We’re still using industrial-age management techniques while trying to succeed in a knowledge-age world.
Using psychological research and case studies, Dan Pink outlines three levels of motivation, which he names Motivation 1.0 (based on our survival drive), Motivation 2.0 (based on our drive to seek rewards and avoid punishment), and Motivation 3.0 (our drive to seek autonomy, mastery, and purpose).
He argues that too many existing motivation practices and too much management is based on Motivation 2.0 (which was solidified by Frederick W. Taylor’s (c. 1912) “scientific management”) and relies too heavily on extrinsic rewards and punishment–”carrots and sticks.” Motivation 2.0 persists because it’s “easy to understand, simple to monitor, and straightforward to enforce.” And it still works sometimes.
The changing nature of work further complicates the situation. Motivation 2.0 and its extrinsic rewards have and still work well for “algorithmic” tasks, which are jobs with straightforward, simple solutions (turning bolts on an assembly line). But in today’s knowledge economy, 70% of the job growth is in “heuristic” tasks, which are thinking jobs that involve creating novel solutions. In heuristic jobs, people respond better to intrinsic rewards, and extrinsic rewards can be detrimental.
He outlines how Motivation 2.0 is becoming incompatible with how we organize, think about, and do our work. And to distinguish the related behaviors, he proposes two behavior types Type X, which responds better to old-school Motivation 2.0 and its carrots and sticks. And Type I, which responds better to new-school Motivation 3.0 and its focus on intrinsic rewards. Type I people are most motivated when they have control over their work, are learning and improving, and feel that their work has meaning and purpose.
There are three parts to Drive. Part One explores the flaws in the traditional carrot-and-stick motivation system (Motivation 2.0) and proposes Motivation 3.0. Part Two examines the three elements of Type I behavior and how individuals and organizations can use them to improve performance. Part Three is a set of resources for creating settings that facilitate Type I behavior.
In the author’s words: “There’s been a mismatch between what science knows [about motivation] and what business does. The goal of this book is to repair that breach.”
“Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: 1. Autonomy–the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery–the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose–the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.”
Pink has written seven books; five of them are New York Times bestsellers. His other books include, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, To Sell is Human, A Whole New Mind, and The Power of Regret.
This summary reflects my takeaways from a book I found useful and recommend to others. Reading a summary isn’t a substitute for reading the book. There’s much more than I can cover here. Plus, this is my interpretation. If these ideas resonate with you, I encourage you to get a copy from your favorite bookseller. Here are the Amazon links: e-book | Audiobook | Print
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes should be attributed to the book’s author.
Aside from our biological drives (hunger, thirst, and sex), we are also motivated by environmental rewards and punishments. And there have been several decades of research on a third drive known as “intrinsic motivation.” However, a significant gap remains between what science knows and what organizations do. We must bridge this gap to improve the world, organizations, lives, and lives of others.
PART ONE. A NEW OPERATING SYSTEM
Three Types of Motivation
Societies have operating systems–just like computers–underlying rules that control everything. And our operating system–our beliefs, norms, social customs, laws, and economic arrangements–is built on sets of assumptions about human behavior. Our assumptions about motivations are based on three human drives and desires.
- Motivation 1.0 is based on our biological drive to survive by meeting our basic needs. During the very early days of our evolution, human behavior was based on survival. This early operating system that Pink calls “Motivation 1.0” isn’t much different from that of other animals.
- Pink calls the current system of rewards and punishments–the so-called “carrots and sticks–Motivation 2.0. This system is based on our psychological need to seek rewards and avoid punishments in our environment.
- As humans evolved, an operating system based solely on the biological drive was insufficient. While our survival drive was important, it was inadequate for who we were becoming. We also had a secondary motivation: to seek reward and avoid punishment.
- Motivation 2.0 is based on the idea that rewarding activity will get us to do more of it, and by punishing it, we’ll do less. It assumes that work isn’t inherently enjoyable, so rewards and punishments must be used–bigger carrots or sharper sticks. It further assumes that because work is supposed to be dreary, people must be closely monitored to prevent shirking. Motivation 2.0 has become so ingrained that we hardly notice it.
- Although Motivation 2.0 is unreliable, it still serves a useful purpose. It still works in some situations, particularly “algorithmic” tasks.
- Motivation 2.1 is a slightly tweaked version under the guise of flexibility and empowerment, but it still sits on top of the old carrot-and-stick framework. These refinements are modest improvements rather than the thorough overhaul that is needed.
- Motivation 3.0 is based on our innate desire for autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose. Self-determination Theory says that we have three innate but universal psychological needs: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Having these needs satisfied makes us feel energized, focused, and fulfilled. We all have this third drive; it’s part of what makes us human, but our environment determines how this aspect of ourselves shows up in our lives.
- For some people, work continues to be routine, boring, and directed by someone else. According to Frederick Winslow Taylor, motivation is only possible through careful monitoring. Information economy jobs are increasingly complex, interesting, and self-directed, which Motivation 2.0’s assumptions can hinder.
Motivation 2.0 Has Compatibility Issues
Motivation 2.0 has three compatibility issues:
- How we organize what we do. It doesn’t align with the way we are organizing things with new entities such as for-purpose organizations, open-source production models, and new business models that are more aligned with our nature as intrinsically motivated purpose maximizers, not just profit maximizers.
- How we think about what we do. It doesn’t conform to the way 21st-century economics is seeing us as full-fledged humans and not just economic robots.
- How we do what we do. In the information economy, a large and growing number of people now have complex, interesting, and self-directed jobs, which the assumptions of Motivation 2.0 can hamper.
Our tasks at work can be divided into two categories: algorithmic and heuristic. Algorithmic tasks follow prescribed instructions to reach a single “right” conclusion, while heuristic tasks involve experimenting with possibilities and coming up with a solution. According to McKinsey & Co., heuristic work accounts for 70% of job growth in the US. Researchers have found that carrots and sticks can be effective for algorithmic tasks but detrimental for heuristic ones.
Seven Reasons Carrots and Sticks (Often) Don’t Work…
They give us less of what we want
- Extinguishes intrinsic motivation.
- Diminishes performance.
- Crushes creativity.
- Crowda out good behavior.
Often, they give us more of what we don’t want
- Encourages unethical behavior.
- Results in addiction and risky behavior.
- Fosters short-term thinking.
Extrinsic Rewards Work Sometimes
Carrots and sticks are sometimes useful. They still work for rule-based routine (algorithmic) tasks where intrinsic motivation and creative demands are low. “If-then” rewards are riskier for non-routine conceptual (heuristic) tasks. But “now that” rewards, those given unexpectedly after a task is completed, can sometimes be okay–especially if they provide performance feedback to the recipient.
- Ensure that the base rewards (salaries and benefits) are adequate.
- Consider nontangible rewards (praise and positive feedback) first.
- If you offer extrinsic rewards, make them “now that” instead of “if then.”
Type I vs. Type X Behavior
“Type I” and “Type X” are names that Pink has given to two different categories of behaviors.
Type X’s primary motivator is external rewards; any deeper satisfaction is a bonus.
Type I behavior is intrinsically motivated. Rooted in the third drive, it’s more concerned with the intrinsic satisfaction of the activity than with the external rewards. Self-directed, Type I-oriented people strive to be better and better at something that matters and that’s connected to a larger purpose.
Type I people achieve more and experience better well-being than their reward-seeking counterparts. Studies show that intrinsically motivated people have higher self-esteem, better relationships, and overall well-being than extrinsically motivated people. Money and fame aspirants have poorer psychological health.
Type I people don’t always dismiss rewards and recognition in the same way that Type X people don’t always disregard the intrinsic enjoyment of their work. Type I enjoys receiving recognition because it’s a form of feedback. However, unlike a Type X, recognition is not an end in itself.
Type I behavior is both innate and learned. It’s based on universal human needs that are irrespective of age, gender, or nationality. It’s the default setting for most humans. Comparatively, Type X behavior is learned through experience, but almost any Type X can become a Type I.
Type I behavior is a renewable resource. Pink compares Type X behavior to coal and Type I behavior to the sun. Like coal, Type X has unintended consequences, and its “if-then” rewards always get more expensive. In contrast, Type I behavior, based on intrinsic motivation, is as Pink says, “the motivational equivalent of clean energy: inexpensive, safe to use, and endlessly renewable.”
PART TWO. THE THREE ELEMENTS
Autonomy, mastery, and purpose are three essential elements of Type I behavior. It is self-directed behavior dedicated to improving at something that matters. It connects that pursuit of excellence to a larger purpose. This type of behavior is essential in an economy where things are rapidly changing; it’s crucial to professional, personal, and organizational success.
By nature, humans are Type I–we are self-directed by default. Autonomy promotes high performance and Type I behavior. People need to be able to control their tasks, their time, their team, and their technique (what they do, when, with whom, and how). Organizations that boost employee autonomy perform better than their competitors.
Autonomy is not the same as independence. Autonomy isn’t based on the rugged, go-it-alone individualism that independence implies. Rather, autonomy involves acting with choice, which implies we can be autonomous and interdependent at the same time.
Management is out of sync with human nature.
Much of management is still industrial-age technology. It’s still about compliance, control, and extrinsic motivators. It assumes that we need a reward or punishment to move forward. But that doesn’t define us. We enter the world curious and self-directed. That’s our default setting. As adults, if we’re passive and inactive, it’s not because of our nature. It may be because of the influence that “management” thinking has on schools, families, and other aspects of our lives. Outdated management approaches can reset our default setting from Type I to Type X.
There’s still too much emphasis on supervision, “if-then” rewards, and other forms of control in management. This is true even for kinder, gentler Motivation 2.1, with its talk about “empowerment” and “flexibility.”
Accountability. According to Motivation 2.0, people would shirk their responsibilities if they had freedom, and autonomy would get them off the hook. In Motivation 3.0, people are presumed to want accountability. The best way to reach that goal is to ensure they have control over the task, the time, the technique, and the team.
Rather than improved management, this era demands more self-direction. We must let our nature emerge in order to achieve economic success and personal fulfillment today, not keep it submerged. Motivation 3.0 and Type I behavior can only be achieved by resisting the temptation to control people. Instead, do everything you can to rekindle their sense of autonomy.
Employees with bosses who support their autonomy have a higher level of job satisfaction. These are bosses who see things from the employee’s perspective, provide meaningful feedback and information, give them choices, and encourage employees to take on new projects. Organizations that offered autonomy had one-third the turnover and grew four times faster than control-oriented companies.
This era doesn’t call for better management. It calls for a renaissance of self-direction.
The four essentials of autonomy.
For Type I behavior to emerge, people must have autonomy over the four T’s: task, time, technique, and team.
- Task. Autonomy over how people approach or structure the tasks.
- Time. Sovereignty over their time so people can have autonomy over their lives.
- Technique. Environments that give greater autonomy over where people do the work, such as work-from-home arrangements and “results-only work environments” (ROWE). (A ROWE workplace doesn’t require people to show up at a set time. They can work where and when they want. They simply must finish their work as they see fit.)
- Team. Giving people greater choice in whom they work with–involving them in the hiring decisions and letting them choose the team they want to join. Look outside the organization for mastery-building activities, for example, open-source projects.
Motivation 3.0 requires engagement, whereas Motivation 2.0 demanded compliance. Pursuing mastery is essential for success in the information economy. It requires a growth mindset and willingness to put in the effort. It takes work, grit, and deliberate practice to achieve mastery.
Compliance won’t solve 21st-century issues. Complex problems require curiosity and experimentation. Today’s economy demands participation. Despite corporate buzzwords like “empowerment,” modern workplaces lack engagement and mastery.
Mastery is governed by three laws:
- Mastery is a mindset. Carol Dweck’s research shows that beliefs affect behavior. Our “self theories”—beliefs about our abilities—frame our experiences and limit our potential. When it comes to intelligence, people can either have a “growth” or “fixed” mindset. Intelligence is either developed or demonstrated. The growth mindset progresses toward mastery, and sees adversity as something to overcome.
- Mastery Is a pain. Mastery takes perseverance (“grit”), deliberate practice, and time. “Grit may be as essential as talent to high accomplishment,” according to Angela Duckworth and colleagues. Repetition is key, as is finding constant, critical feedback. “Many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice for at least 10 years,” according to Anders Ericsson’s research on expert performance.
- Mastery is an asymptote. You can get very close to it, but you can never grasp it. It’s unattainable. Elite athletes still want to improve even after their best games and seasons. They pursue mastery, knowing they will never achieve it. While this is frustrating, it is also appealing to strive for something and the constant improvement it brings. The joy is in the pursuit, not the realization. We are attracted to mastery precisely because its elusive.
Effort is one of the things that gives meaning to life. Effort means you care about something, that something is important to you and you are willing to work for it. It would be an impoverished existence if you were not willing to value things and commit yourself to working toward them. — Carol Dweck.
Flow, the oxygen of the soul.
The state of flow is characterized by full involvement, enjoyment, and a change in perception of time. A person in flow feels so absorbed in the present moment that they lose sight of time, place, and self.
Flow facilitates mastery, but doesn’t guarantee it since the two operate on different timeframes. Flow occurs instantly, whereas mastery develops gradually.
After 48 hours without flow, people displayed symptoms similar to severe mental illnesses, according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, demonstrating that flow isn’t a luxury, but a necessity. It may be the “oxygen of the soul,” as Pink says.
We are more likely to achieve flow at work than at leisure is one of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s surprising findings. Work often has the right structure for flow: clear goals, immediate feedback, and well-matched challenges. When it does, we enjoy the work and perform better.
Astute organizations allow their employees to shape mundane jobs in ways that add some flow, creating new domains for mastery. Research suggests that people feel most motivated and engaged when they are making progress in their work. By creating conditions that encourage, spotlight and celebrate progress, organizations can improve their cause and improve people’s work lives.
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. — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Motivation 3.0 includes purpose maximization along with profit maximization. As humans, we are wired to contribute to the greater good. Traditional businesses consider purpose a nice accessory, but it should not interfere with making money. Organizations with a purpose motive pursue profit for a purpose other than self-interest, use language that emphasizes values other than personal gain, and allow people to pursue purpose according to their preferences.
Purpose provides context for the other two components of Type 1, autonomy and mastery. Self-directed people who work toward mastery achieve high performance, but those working towards a greater purpose achieve even better results. Purpose isn’t recognized as a motivator in Motivation 2.0; it’s incidental. But as psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi points out, “Purpose provides activation energy for living,”
The final big difference between the two operating systems: Motivation 3.0 emphasizes purpose while Motivation 2.0 emphasizes profits. Pink argues that the best performing organizations have a purpose beyond profits. He points to signs of this new purpose motive showing up in goals, language, and policies.
- Goals. The emergence of businesses that are “not only for profit”—for-benefit organizations, B corporations, and low-profit limited-liability companies. Their core value is purpose, and Motivation 3.0 is their preferred operating system. Profits are used as a catalyst in these alternative business forms to pursue purpose. It’s not a “socially responsible cloak” wrapped around an old-school for-profit enterprise.
- Words. Such as “The MBA Oath,” which is a pledge of loyalty to causes that go beyond the bottom line that business school MBA students take.
- Policies. Such as giving employees discretionary time to work on passion projects or giving them greater control over the company’s charitable giving.
Satisfaction depends on having the right goals. Recently graduated college students reported higher levels of satisfaction and well-being when they had intrinsic aspirations (purpose goals). They also reported lower levels of anxiety and depression. Conversely, those who aspired to wealth and fame (profit goals) reported levels that were no better than when they were students. They also reported higher levels of anxiety, depression, and other negative indicators.
Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.
The mismatch between what science knows and what business does is a central theme of this book. Pink says the gap is wide and alarming.
Science shows that “if-then” rewards work in limited circumstances, but they can crush the creative, conceptual abilities that are vital to our progress. Science also shows that our third drive–our deep-seated desire to direct our own lives, expand our abilities, and contribute–is the key to high performance rather than our biological drive or reward-and-punishment drive.
Unlearning old ideas and undoing old habits will be hard work when it comes to bringing our organizations into sync with these truths. However, science confirms what we already know deep down: we aren’t meant to be passive or compliant, but rather active and engaged.
So, in the end, repairing the mismatch and bringing our understanding of motivation into the twenty-first century is more than an essential move for business. It’s an affirmation of our humanity.
PART THREE. THE TYPE I TOOLKIT
Part 3 of Drive is an appendix. Below is a list of the items included.
- Type I for Individuals: Nine Strategies for Awakening Your Motivation
- Give yourself a “flow test”
- Type I for Organizations: Thirteen Ways to Improve Your Company, Office, or Group
- The Zen of Compensation: Paying People the Type I Way
- The Zen of Compensation Reconsidered: Are Salespeople Different?
- Type I for Parents and Educators: Ten Ideas for Helping Our Kids
- The Type I Reading List: Fifteen Essential Books
- Listen to the Gurus: Seven Business Thinkers Who Get It
- The Type I Fitness Plan: Four Tips for Getting (and Staying) Motivated to Exercise
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