Drive: What Motivates Us

The philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach said “man is what he eats”. I would say that a man is also the books he reads and Drive, the book of Daniel H.Pink about motivation is one of those books that can influence you and change the way you think, inspiring you to act. An amazing book.

Drive of Daniel H. Pink

Drive of Daniel H. Pink

Drive teaches us that, when it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what the science knows and what business does. “The current system of motivation put in place in organizations often doesn’t work and often does harm. If we want to build better organizations, elevate our lives and improve the world a new approach is needed”.

In the introduction Pink explains that human beings behaviour is driven by what is known as the biological drive that comes from within and includes hunger, thirst and sex (Motivation 1.0). Then a second drive that comes from without is to respond to rewards and punishments in our environment (Motivation 2.0). In the middle of the last century however few scientists began to discover that there was a third drive that they called intrinsic motivation, our innate need to direct our own lives, to learn and to create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world (Motivation 3.0).

The Rise and Fall of Motivation 2.0

The first part of the book explains the raise and the fall of the Motivation 2.0 system based on rewards and punishments (also known as “Carrots and Sticks”) and why, if it was fine for routine twentieth-century tasks, it is not compatible today with the way we organize what we do and how we think what we do.

carrot_and_stickThe main reason why the traditional “if-then” rewards often don’t work are:

  • They can extinguish intrinsic motivation
  • They can diminish performance
  • They can crush creativity
  • They can crowd out good behaviour
  • They can encourage cheating, shortcuts, and unethical behavior
  • They can become addictive
  • They can foster short-term thinking

But carrot and sticks aren’t all bad, Pink explains that there are circumstances when they work: for example for rule-based routine tasks, because there’s little intrinsic motivation to undermine and not much creativity to crush.

Type I and Type X

After having explained why the system based on rewards and punishments doesn’t often work, Pink introduces the concept of Type I and Type X. The Motivation 2.0 depends on and fosters Type X behaviour while the Motivation 3.0 depends on and fosters Type I behaviour.

“Type X behaviour is fueled more by extrinsic desires than intrinsic ones and concerned less with the inherent satisfaction of an activity and more with the external rewards, instead the Type I behaviour concerns itself less with external rewards an activity brings and more with the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself.” Type I behaviour is self-directed. It is devoted to become better and better at something that matters.

Even if reducing human behaviour to two categories seems not fully correct and nobody exhibits only Type X or Type I behaviour, we do have dispositions towards one or the other. Can we change our Type? It seems so, a Type X can become a Type I, that for Pink is our natural state, the default setting for most of human beings. Type X instead is something we learn at school, at home and at work, modifying our natural state.

The Three Elements of Motivation 3.0

In the second part of the book Pink explains what are the three elements that motivate people: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.


The first requirement for motivation is autonomy.  Pink starts explaining the concept of ROWE some results-only work environment. In a ROWE workplace for example people don’t have schedules. They can go to work when they want, they have just to get their work done; how they do it, when they do it, and where they do it is up to them. Some experiments showed that companies that transformed to a ROWE have seen productivity raised and stress declined. How is it possible? Pink explains that people to be motivated need autonomy over tasks (what they do), time (when they do it), team (who they do it with) and technique (how they do it). This doesn’t mean that every company should become a ROWE, there are many ways to introduce autonomy in the workplace, but to do this a new concept of management is needed. Pink goes even further saying that management didn’t emanate from nature and, as currently constituted, seems out of synch with human nature itself. “This era doesn’t call for better management. It calls for a renaissance of self-direction”


Mastery is the desire to get better and better at something that matter and it can be achieved only with engagement.  Motivation 2.0 seeks compliance while Motivation 3.0, through autonomy leads to engagement. In this part of the book the concept of “flow” is introduced. The “flow” is the state of mind during the highest most satisfying experiences in people’s live and during optimal experiences when the challenges we face are matched to our abilities. Many companies have realized that having flow-friendly environments help people to be engaged and move toward mastery with an increase in productivity and satisfaction. Pink explains that mastery is a mindset that requires you to figure out at what you want to be really good, it requires learning and pain to reach this goal. Mastery is inevitable for Type I behaviour that value learning goals aver performance goals and welcome effort as a way to improve at something that matters, while it’s impossible for Type X behaviour.


This is the third element of motivation and it’s based on the observation that the most motivated people work for a cause larger than themselves because humans by their nature, seek purpose.
Motivation 2.0, however, doesn’t recognize purpose as a motivator and is more centered on profit maximization, but this profit maximization seems to be insufficient for both individuals and organizations. Motivation 3.0 doesn’t reject profits, but gives the same importance to purpose maximization. Pink explains that purpose can be maximized though goals and words that focus on it, for example some experiments showed that a brief reminder of the purpose of the work can double the performance.

In the last part of the book there is a toolkit, a sort of guide with tips, best practices, recommended readings to create settings in which Type I behaviour can flourish.


Drive has totally changed the way I consider my work and my workplace, explaining us the gap between what science knows and what business does. The secret to motivation and high performance is not our biological drive or reward and punishment drive but our intrinsic motivation, the desire to direct our own lives, to learn and increase our abilities and make a contribution. Daniel Pink remembered us that we are designed to be active and engaged, doing something that matters, doing it for a larger purpose.

If you are interested in the subject there is also the Pink’s TED talk:

Impediments to agile

Just reading an article on things that impede agile… I share two points here (extracted from the original article):

  • Technical Practices

” …you cannot scale agile on crappy code, without collective code ownership and continuous integration – period, no debate!”

  • PMO

“The mother-ship of all agile impediments – actually not my quote!

A bit harsh? Well it depends.

A PMO that is steeped in governance that adds no value then absolutely! Gated controls are great provided they add value – have the requirements been signed by the Business, has the design been signed by the CTO, have you produced your weekly report, have you correctly RAG your Risks and issues. Mother-ship!

But a PMO that has made both the cultural and mindset shift to agile can be a huge enabler.”

People is more important than everything

I’m more and more convinced about this: “people is more important than everything”. For many years in the software industry we tought to have found the good method for successfull software development, always searching for processes, practices, framework… but did these practices and methods provide the expected results? Today the risk is that agile will be another of such methods that didn’t bring the expected results if we don’t understand what “agile” is.

I see a situation in which many people wants to use “agile” and start to do it, but what I see in reality is the fall of agile: “fragile”, “wagile”, “srum-buts”… so the question is:  what “agile” really means?
My passion for agile comes from the idea that the interactions between people are more important than processes, that people are the key factor in the software success. Attendind people’s need and the close collaboration among people can bring back the enjoyment to developing successful software. The agile manifesto defines what agile is, we can find in it the same idea:

indivuals and interactions between process and tools”
“customer collaboration over contract negotiation”
Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

Agile is not doing it but “being agile”… for that we should start focusing more on people.

My book list after the Scrum Gathering

Back from Paris I looked on my notes to search for the readings I put into my “must read list” and I ended up to order these books on Amazon:

1) Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Daniel H.Pink
2) The Culture Game: Tools for the Agile Manager – Daniel Mezick
3) The Power of Scrum -  Jeffrey V. Sutherland, D. M. Van Solingen, Eelco Rustenberg
4) Scaling Lean & Agile Development: Thinking and Organizational Tools for Large-Scale Scrum – Craig Larman, Bas Vodde

I think I will be busy until the end of the year…

Scrum Gathering Paris – “Shu Ha Ri” and Spiral Dynamics

The first day of the Scrum Gathering in Paris is finished. It has been really a great day. The sessions I have attended were mostly about the same theme: “Expanding an Agile Culture in a Complex World”. This theme aims to define cultural tools (patterns, management practices, methods, etc) helping to install in a sustainable way an Agile culture within organizations. Below the sessions I liked most and my main takeaways:

“Cuture > Process” - Henrik Kniberg
The opeining keynote from Henrik Kniberg showed what “agile culture” really means and how this is achieved in Spotify the company where he actually works.
My Takeaways:
Shu-ha-ri  (Follow the rules, adapt the rules, Ignore the rules)
“People > *”  (People are more important than everything else)

Agile à la mode? The long-Term Viability of an Agile Culture in France – Petra Skapa and Mack Adams
This session showed how it’s difficult to have an agile culture in French organizations: the French values are not in lines with the agile ones.
My Takeaway:
The transformation to agile in France is more difficult than in other Countries. Agile is a mindset and it’s adoption and success is directly influenced by the Country’s culture.

Changing Cultural DNA with Spiral dynamics to become thouroughly Agile – Dajo Breddels
Interesting session on how the humans interact and behave according to the spiral dynamics theory and how this theory can help on the cultural change needed for agile transformation.
My takeaway:
Spiral Dynamics theory can be helpful for the agile cultural shift.

Transformation to Agile is not easy

I had the opportunity to meet Peter Measey as trainer of my Certified Scrum Product Owner course and since then I started to read his blog. Some time ago I read an article about how the transformation to agile can be difficult and he made me think about it. I know that the transformation to agile is not easy for large organizations that worked many years with a waterfall methodology. It requires time and it requires a change in all the level of the organization and after all these changes it can happen that the organization is still far to be really agile.  One important aspect of the transition is overcoming the individual resistance and it’s not easy because human being are involved. From Peter Measey’s blog:

“If you think that transforming an IT system from one technical platform to another is challenging, try doing a technical transformation where the platforms have a mind of their own and may not want to change, or even have the ability to change!”

Working in a large organization that wants to go towards agile and knowing that the transformation is complex I always had one question in my mind:

Can a large organization, alone, be successful in the transformation to agile?

When I say “alone” I mean without asking for help from external agile transformation experts.
Maybe the transformation is possible but more painful and longer because you cannot rely on lessons learned or common patterns among different organizations or maybe it will end, as Peter says, to what is known as “FRAgile” or “WAgile” where organizations are not really agile even if they think to be. I don’t have my personal answer to this question right now… In the meanwhile I’m still thinking on Peter’s questions:

“Would you try to write a software system without employing expert software developers ? So why would you think that something much harder (such as transforming an organisation of human beings) can be done by people who don’t understand transformation?

Change your Organization: it’s about trust.

Some days ago a colleague suggested me an interesting blog of James Shore about changing the organization. How an organization can become more agile? How an organization can improve their processes?
Successful organizational changes cannot be fully top-down or bottom-up, but is there really a difference between the two? James Shore thinks they are essentially the same thing: “Both are extremely difficult. Both require that people want to change.” So how can you introduce new ideas and help the change to happen? The central point is trust. James says “It’s as simple as that. When people trust me, I’ve been successful. It hasn’t even been hard. And when people don’t trust me, no amount of cajoling, persuading, beating with sticks, etc., will make a difference.” The way to change something in the organization is no-change. The approach is more to show people ideas, seeing what they think, talking about alternatives, listening to experiences, etc.

“#1: the Way to Change is No-Change. I’ve seen how hard organizational change can be, and so I no longer attempt it. I just share ideas, lead by example, and have fun doing it. If things change, great! It’s a much easier approach to life… and you know what? I think it’s made me more effective as a consultant, and as a change agent, too.”

I like this thought and I think James is right: at the end change is about trust and respect to earn this trust.

“We must be the change we wish to see.” – Ghandi.


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