'Drive!: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us'

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'Drive!: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us'

Why carrots and sticks (often) don't work

Drive BOT cover
What do Internet and software upstarts such as Wikipedia, Firefox, Apache and Linux all have in common? They are all immensely successful innovative “open source” ventures that were developed and managed exclusively by volunteers. And all of their fortuitous successes were wholly based on what Daniel Pink has labeled “intrinsic motivation,” a “third drive” that motivates people and, up until recently, hadn’t been given much credence. 

In their survey of 684 open-source developers, MIT Management Professor Karim Lakhani and Boston Consulting Group Bob Wolf found an intriguing discovery that “enjoyment-based intrinsic motivation," namely, how creative a person feels when working on a project, is the strongest and most pervasive driver in their achievement.

That means “intrinsic motivation,” rather than “extrinsic motivation,” is often the catalyst for innovation.

Daniel H. Pink, in his New York Times Bestseller Drive, invites the reader to a philosophical banquet, where competing ideologies of motivation assemble, and offers the reader an entrée of what he calls the “third drive,” a drive that previous motivational theories have in failed to acknowledge. The third drive, Pink says, is an unearthed motivational drive based exclusively on one's need for "purpose, mastery and autonomy." 

This new and seemingly unconventional means of motivation is, in a sense, positioned in stark contrast to the more traditional behavioral roots grounded in the motivational “basic needs” theory for human survival, a theory based almost exclusively on the optimization of physical well-being and minimization of pain.

Drive attempts to trade the orchestrated circus-type views of motivational coercive conditioning, with its dangling “carrot and stick” philosophy, for a motivational theory that accentuates the basic idea of turning creative work into spontaneous play, a form of play that is not orchestrated by a “circus master,” but openly created and acted upon by the creative individuals themselves.

In other words, Drive states that for “creative professions,” it is far better and more motivating to allow people to create their own product or idea rather than to learn and master the rules of someone else’s. Drive Skit

Pink lays out the motivational foundation like a skilled artisan, crafting and building a solid structural theory that people, primarily highly creative people, are best left to their own devices when it comes to fostering and developing highly creative projects and inventions. Daniel Pink shows the research in opposition to the “reward based theories” of motivation, stating that if they can at times act as a thwarting effect on continued creative output, and that the fostering and sustainability of environments suitable for highly creative people far more important than extrinsic rewards themselves.

Drive provides the reader with an alternative to the Draconian Machiavellianism of the winner-take-all motivation theory that arguably pervades many of today’s corporate boardrooms, with a more palatable one, involving self-actualization and autonomous achievement. 

Drive differentiates the motivation required for the “Algorithmic” professions from the “Heuristic” ones, showing the reader that it is not necessarily the perceived difficulty of tasks that provide the motivational requirements in certain fields of professional work.   

Pink shows that even the traditionally "higher thought" professions, or more difficult ones, such as accounting, law, computer programming and other fields that may require a script, spec sheet or formula are really more Algorithmic in nature, and that the old views of motivation required to produce production in these areas, while successful to a point, cannot provide the same success for the more Heuristic “Flow” professions of the future.   

Drive spins the sphere of intellectual discourse on the subject of motivation, and in doing so, activates a gravitational pull of ideas that will inevitably change the way we view motivation for generations.
Drive poster
(click the image to see a larger view.)
-- J. Johnson, Library Associate