Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

by Daniel H. Pink
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Chapter 1 Summary

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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.

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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 motivation. Pink suggests that if people are predictably irrational, they also could be “predictably transcendent” and focus on things like “significance seeking” and self-actualization. Why else do people devote time to things like learning to play the clarinet when there is almost "no chance that it will lead to monetary or reproductive gains?” Not only are material gains less important than people often assume, they may not even be the primary motivator.

Many managers, according to Pink, assume that people do not want to do work. The work that most people do, according to this model, is routine. Surely no one would do this work without compensation. However, Pink argues that jobs have become “more complex, more interesting, and more self-directed." He contends that "[this] type of work presents a direct challenge to the assumptions of Motivation 2.0.” Pink distinguishes "algorithmic" work, which can be automated or outsourced, from "heuristic" work, which is “artistic, empathic, non-routine work.” Motivation 2.0's carrots and sticks can work in relation to algorithmic tasks, but they are ineffective in relation to work that involves “solving novel problems or creating something the world didn't know it was missing.” Accomplishing this kind of work, according to Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School, depends upon what she calls “the intrinsic motivation principle of creativity.” Motivation 2.0 may actually impair heuristic performance. Given that Motivation 2.0 meshes so poorly with new business models, Pink concludes that “something's gone awry in our motivational operating system.” He calls upon his readers to invest in an upgrade, "Motivation 3.0," which is based on the third drive.

Chapter 2 Summary

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Carrots and sticks, or Motivation 2.0, fail to motivate people in the twenty-first century. There are two...

(The entire section contains 3814 words.)

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