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.

Autonomy

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

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.

Purpose

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.

Conclusion

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:

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