Sweeney Communications

Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

By Daniel H Pink

Publisher Canongate Books
ISBN 9781847677686

 Drive sets out to change our thinking about motivation – at work, in parenting and teaching. It says we’ve got motivation wrong in focusing on carrot-and-stick for the last few hundred years. Instead we should be finding ways of making tasks intrinsically satisfying.

Pink begins by overviewing Henry Harlow’s research in 1940’s Wisconsin that first suggested enjoyment of a task could be its own reward. Surprisingly, when rewards were introduced, enjoyment and performance dropped.

He then jumps two decades to Edward Deci whose research confirmed that when reward, especially hard cash, is used to motivate people it can have the opposite effect and take away their intrinsic interest in an activity.

“The problem is that most businesses haven’t caught up to this new understanding of what motivates us, Too many … still operate from assumptions about human potential and individual performance that are outdated, unexamined and rooted more in folklore than science,” he says in the opening chapter.

In the first half of this book Pink looks at the flaws in the reward-and-punishment system used in multitudes of companies, schools and other organisations around the world. He calls this Motivation 2.0 or extrinsic motivation.

Reward-and-punishment – carrot and stick – does work in certain situations. When the task is routine or boring, needs to be completed by following a prescribed process and requires mechanical skills, then rewards will improve performance, says Pink.

This though is the exception. When a task calls for even rudimentary cognitive skill there is an inverse relationship between the size of the reward and level of performance. In other words; the larger the reward is the poorer performance.
But not only does performance suffer, there are also other downsides to Motivation 2.0. It can encourage cheating, short cuts and other unethical behaviours, addictive behaviour and short-term thinking, as well as crushing creativity.

In the second part of the book Pink proposes an alternative system he calls Motivation 3.0, or intrinsic motivation, and the three elements organisations can introduce to develop intrinsic behaviours among managers and non-managers.

The first is by giving people autonomy over the tasks they do, the time they give to tasks, how they do each task and whom they complete tasks with. Pink gives examples of companies offering autonomy and outperforming the competition including Atlassian, Meddius, 3M, Georgetown University Hospital in Washington DC, Google, Best Buy, Zappos.com, Jet Blue, Whole Foods and WL Gore & Associates (maker of Gore-Tex).

Mastery is the second element. This is about becoming better and better at the capabilities and tasks that matter to us. Pink explains that we develop mastery when the challenges we are given optimally match our abilities – not too easy but also not unattainable. The challenge demands effort, grit and deliberate practice.

The third element is purpose – a cause greater than ourselves. Pink has termed this purpose maximisation and says that organisations with this as their goal are more successful. Motivation 3.0 does not reject profit maximisation, he explains, instead it places equal emphasis on purpose and profit. Rather than focusing on social responsibility he proposes the concept of ‘not only for profit’ – pursuing purpose and using profit as the catalyst rather than the objective.

Drive ends with a section bursting with practical toolkits and activities businesses and schools can use to introduce Motivation 3.0 into their organisations. The include strategies for awakening motivation, ways to improve engagement and productivity, and how to get compensation right.

Want to know more, watch this RSAnimate of Daniel Pink talkng through the highlights of Drive.

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