Study Guide

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

by Daniel H. Pink

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us Summary

Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1 Summary

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink suggests that the world currently does not acknowledge one of the human drives that motivates us in the twenty-first century. The world does acknowledge the biological drive, which Pink refers to as “Motivation 1.0," that urges people to eat and to procreate. It also acknowledges external motivations, like rewards and punishments, which Pink refers to as "Motivation 2.0." However, Pink argues that there is a third drive that motivates people, one that is actually hampered by rewards and punishments.

Pink summarizes Harry F. Harlow's 1949 experiment on primates, which found that the ability of monkeys to solve puzzles was inhibited by rewards and punishments. Harlow posited that the performance of the task offered an intrinsic reward. His research into motivation was largely ignored, and motivation systems based on rewards and punishments continued to thrive. However, when Pink looks at the rise in popularity and growth of Wikipedia, the preponderance of open-source software like Mozilla Firefox and Apache, and the emergence of the “low-profit limited liability company,” he sees evidence of the power of Harlow's third drive. Traditional businesses that seek to maximize profits often rely on “Motivation 2.0,” whereas these new entities are “purpose maximizers.” Pink argues that they are “unsuited to this older operating system because they flout its very principles.”

Pink recalls that his economics professors taught him that people would seek to maximize wealth. However, this interpretation of human behavior assumed that people were rational calculators, an assumption that was overturned by Daniel Kahneman's work and which led to Dan Ariely's book, Predictably Irrational. Motivation 2.0 assumes that people are “robotic wealth-maximizers,” but that view of human motivation is no longer compatible with what economists know about...

(The entire section is 546 words.)

Chapter 2 Summary

Carrots and sticks, or Motivation 2.0, fail to motivate people in the twenty-first century. There are two “simple and elegant ideas” at the heart of Motivation 2.0. It is not uncommon to assume that “rewarding an activity will get you more of it” and that “punishing an activity will get you less of it.” Pink acknowledges that these ideas work in some situations, but when carrots and sticks begin to encounter the third drive, strange things happen. In fact, “seven deadly flaws” are commonly witnessed when the third drive meets Motivation 2.0. In these instances, Pink explains, carrots and sticks can produce negative results:

1. Extinguishing intrinsic motivation

2. Diminishing performance

3. Crushing creativity

4. Crowding out good behavior

5. Encouraging cheating, shortcuts, and unethical behavior

6. Becoming addictive

7. Fostering short-term thinking

Carrots and sticks are instead more useful in motivating people to do routine tasks. When faced with routine tasks, supervisors would still do well to explain why the task is necessary, acknowledge that the task is boring, and allow people to do the task in their own way. However, Pink argues that few workers do routine work in the twenty-first century; consequently, Motivation 2.0 is becoming increasingly irrelevant and increasingly counter-productive.

Employers and supervisors will get better results by adopting strategies that take into account the third drive. “[T]he ingredients of genuine motivation," he suggests, are "autonomy, mastery, and purpose.” Allow workers to strive towards mastery, and they will do better work. The tendency to focus on short-term goals and to take shortcuts will be reduced. After all, “goals that people set for themselves and that are devoted to attaining mastery are usually healthy." In contrast, goals imposed by others—such as sales targets, quarterly returns, and standardized test scores—”can sometimes have dangerous side effects.” Pink suggests that both Enron’s collapse and the American recession can be attributed to the short-term thinking that comes from Motivation 2.0.

Pink does not suggest that people will work for free or for a non-competitive wage. He categorizes “salary, contract payments, some benefits” and “a few perks” as “baseline rewards.” When baseline rewards are insufficient, workers will focus on how they are treated unfairly. Their creativity will decline rapidly in these circumstances. However, once the baseline rewards are high enough that they are no longer a factor in the worker’s focus, adding additional extrinsic rewards will only dampen motivation. Pink does not suggest eliminating all rewards. Instead, he warns against using “if-then” rewards and promotes the use of “here-now” rewards that are given out unpredictably. These rewards can be as simple as praise, a lunch out, or genuine and detailed feedback. They should not be introduced at the start of a project as a condition of success, nor should they become predictably routine.

Chapter 3 Summary

Pink introduces Edward Deci and Richard Ryan as two of the “most influential behavioral scientists of their generation.” After studying intrinsic motivation, Deci and Ryan fashioned “self-determination theory” or “SDT.” Pink explains that SDT begins not with tendencies but “universal human needs.” These innate needs are competence, autonomy, and relatedness. SDT argues that when these needs are not satisfied, productivity—not to mention motivation and happiness—plummets. Motivation 2.0 stifles these needs. Self-determination theory shows that people have an “innate drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another.” A great deal of the work done to develop self-determination theory was accomplished in the 1970s, and Pink suggests that people are only now becoming aware of it.

Pink tells the story of Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, cardiologists who noticed that people who were susceptible to heart disease lived their lives in the same way. These patients were excessively competitive, impatient, and aggressive. Pink points out that their heart-disease-prone lifestyle defied their diets, their exercise regimens, and their family histories. Friedman and Rosenman referred to their behavior pattern as “Type A.” In contrast, “Type B” behavior is “rarely harried by life or made hostile by its demands.” Interestingly, Friedman and Rosenman discovered that people who exhibited Type B behaviors were as intelligent and “frequently just as ambitious” as their Type A counterparts. Pink points out that the nomenclature, Type A and Type B, remains in use decades later.

Pink next introduces the work of Douglas McGregor, who argued that “those running companies were operating from faulty assumptions about human behavior.” Leaders that put stock in such assumptions believed their employees generally “feared taking responsibility, craved security, and badly needed direction.”...

(The entire section is 543 words.)

Chapter 4 Summary

Pink turns his attention to what autonomy means and looks like. Autonomy is distinguished from independence and the “rely-on-nobody individualism of the American cowboy” because autonomy emphasizes choice. It is not necessarily opposed to interdependence. Pink argues that autonomy is a part of human nature. People are not “passive and inert,” as some managers would assume. Rather, they are “wired to be active and engaged.” He argues further that this is true not only of Americans or of Westerners but of all people.

Pink tells stories of multiple companies that operate with a “results-only work environment,” or ROWE. He credits Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, two former human resources executives at Best Buy, with the idea. A ROWE workplace does not have schedules; workers can show up and leave as they wish, but they get their work done nevertheless. Employees are given autonomy in regard to how they do their work, when they do it, and where they do it. Pink introduces Jeff Gunther, CEO of Meddius, to find out what ROWE environments are like. Gunther reports that his staff is motivated and productive and that turnover is down. In fact, Gunther thinks his employees would turn down job offers that include pay increases in order to continue to work in the ROWE workplace. This is not to say that they are underpaid; Gunther feels that salary is just a “threshold motivator.” Other companies, like Google, allow employees to devote as much as one-fifth of their time to autonomous work; the results at Google have included numerous innovative products, like Google News, Gmail, and Google Translate. These companies, and many more, are beginning to discover the power of the third drive.

There are four “essentials” in creating a workplace that values autonomy. The first essential is autonomy in regard to the task. Companies like Google provide evidence of the power of giving people autonomy in determining their tasks. Time...

(The entire section is 561 words.)

Chapter 5 Summary

Pink argues that autonomy is the opposite of control. They lead to different results: compliance is produced by control, whereas engagement is produced by autonomy. It is engagement that leads to mastery, which is the second of three elements Pink sees at the heart of Type I behavior. Pink argues that twenty-first century tasks involve “solving complex problems,” which “requires an inquiring mind and the willingness to experiment one’s way to a fresh solution.” Pink points to corporations that claim to “empower” workers and argues that actually the “modern workplace’s most notable feature may be its lack of engagement and its disregard for mastery.” Pink goes on to point out that not only does compliance lead to...

(The entire section is 711 words.)

Chapter 6 Summary

Pink turns his attention to the third element of the third drive: purpose. Pink considers the Baby Boomers, a generation that is turning sixty, and finds that when people turn sixty, they begin to wonder where the time went. They will typically realize that they may have twenty years left to live. However, realizing that the last twenty years passed quickly, boomers consider how they can make a difference in the world. Pink points out that the children of the Baby Boomers also value the idea that they can make a difference in the world and predicts that the world is about to see “a thunderstorm of purpose the likes of which the world has never seen.”

Pink argues that this pursuit of purpose is a part of the third...

(The entire section is 450 words.)

Chapter 7 Summary

The final part of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is a “toolkit.” Pink offers advice to people that want to align their lives with the third drive. He suggests a number of strategies to help people examine the way they live their lives and identify ways to achieve “flow.” For example, he suggests that people try to summarize their life in a sentence. He also advises people to adopt strategies that will allow them to bring mastery into their life.

Pink offers strategies to businesses to unleash the third drive in the work place. He suggests that companies “carve out time for noncommissioned work.” Likewise, companies would benefit from conduct autonomy audits to find out whether...

(The entire section is 549 words.)