Book Reviews

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

ISBN: 978-1594488849
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Pages: 256

In his previous book, A Whole New Mind , Daniel Pink declared that we're on our way to become obsolete. The future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind. Traditional "right-brain" skills like design, story, empathy, and play are what matters in the dawn of the conceptual age. A Whole New Mind was one of the most rewarding non-fiction books I read last year. As Daniel Pink now continues by looking into what motivates us, I set my expectations high.

Drive is an attempt to investigate human motivation with a focus on the professional work environment. The book starts with a retrospective on motivation in human history. The development of different types of motivations is explained by using operating systems as a metaphor. At first there was Motivation 1.0. Motivation 1.0 was all about survival (food, shelter). Once our basic needs were satisfied, Motivation 2.0 was built around the idea of external rewards and punishments. Traditionally used for routine tasks, Motivation 2.0 continues to be the predominate system in corporations. The problem is that as more and more work turns into creative problem solving, Motivation 2.0 does more harm than good. The reason is the clash with a more sophisticated type of motivation - intrinsic motivation, which is the desire to engage in an activity because we enjoy it and find it interesting. In fact, by adding a reward to some interesting task (say, programming) you run the risk of hurting the intrinsic motivation. At the end, the subject lose interest in the activity (a phenomenon known as the overjustification effect in social psychology). Daniel Pink covers many of these pitfalls with Motivation 2.0 and introduces his "upgrade": Motivation 3.0. This new type of motivational operating system is based on the assumption that humans indeed have intrinsic motivation to learn and create. Once people start to earn a fair amount of money, we ask for something more; we ask for a purpose. And this "something more" could be turned into a competitive advantage.

Daniel Pink is a great storyteller and Drive is an readable and enjoyable book. But is it really fundamentally life-changing as the backcover suggests? Well, not really. Frankly, there's little in Drive that isn't covered in a standard introductory course in social psychology. However that doesn't mean that the ideas and techniques are in widespread use (if they were, Daniel Pink would probably not write a book about them). Given the length of the book I would expect a more balanced discussion. For example, it's not necessarily an either-or relationship between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Even though the actual content is small enough to fit as an article (although you cannot deny the air of authority ideas get as they are packaged in books), I do recommend Drive. In this area, there's a huge gap between what should be and what is.

Reviewed August 2010