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Book Review: Drive by Daniel H. Pink

By Diane Danielson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink is one of those books that makes you wonder why we are having so much trouble getting over the command-and-control/face- time-and-billable-hours business models. In a nutshell--or should I say, in a "tweet"--which Pink so gamely prepares for us: "Carrots & sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery & purpose."

While Drive is like a lot of business books that focus on a new trend--i.e., really just an extended magazine article--it does hammer home some salient points. What I liked was that it broke down which types of work can be motivated by carrots and sticks and which types of work can't. Of course that explains what could be the downfall of the book/theory: How do you treat different parts of a single company differently and then make it all blend together? The examples within the book were often "all in" ROWE, or results-only workplace environments. A company realistically would have to learn how to be more of a hybrid--adapting appropriate managerial behavior to its diverse employees. That could be extremely difficult to implement.

Below are some of the points that jumped out at me:

  1. Times have changed, but most companies haven't. I thought Pink made a great point at the beginning when he posed the question, in 1995, which "encyclopedia" would people expect to survive--Encarta or Wikipedia. Only a very few would've imagined a Wikipedia world back then, where people would voluntarily participate in the crowdsourcing of an online encyclopedia.
  2. We have moved from a Motivation 2.0 world (rewards and punishments) to a Motivation 3.0 world (inherent satisfaction in the work itself). In other words, routine tasks may still benefit from incentives (i.e. Motivation 2.0); but for creative ones, incentives can have a limiting effect (i.e. Motivation 3.0)
  3. There are three elements to Motivation 3.0: Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose.
  • An example of a company "getting" autonomy is Google, which has 20 percent time--where engineers are free to work on anything they like. Some of the products that came out of 20 percent time are gmail and Google news.
  • Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh looked even deeper into autonomy: "Studies have shown that perceived control is an important component of one's happiness. However, what people feel like they want control over really varies, so I don't think there's one aspect of autonomy that's universally the most important. Different individuals have different desires, so the best strategy for an employer would be to figure out what's important to each individual employee."
  • Under mastery, I found his discussion of learning French to be quite illuminating. Learning French to pass a test is not the same as having a goal of speaking French. Both can fuel achievement, but only one leads to mastery. Seems in the latter, the goal is to learn; in the former, it's to prove you're smart.
  • Mastery happens when people get in the "flow." But, Pink cautions, "As wonderful as flow is, the path to mastery . . . is not lined with daisies and spanned by a rainbow. If it were, more of us would make the trip." At this moment in the book, I'm thinking of Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and the 10,000-hour rule. Yet, perhaps Julius Erving said it best: "Being a professional . . . is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don't feel like doing them."

Purpose I didn't make too many notes in this section, because this seems to be what we've been hearing for years: People want a purpose-filled life and work. For the first time, this made more sense to me as a feasible goal because Pink couples it with the other two concepts of autonomy and mastery.

Daily Dose Bottom Line: One thing this made clear is that there is a huge mismatch between what science knows and what business does. Yet whenever there is a gap, it means there is opportunity. The companies that understand how to motivate the workers of tomorrow will be the ones that "drive" us forward. Highly recommend for anyone managing creative types.

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