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July 2010


Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us


by Daniel H. Pink (Riverhead Books, 2009)


What are the big take-aways?


Pink’s own “Cocktail Party Summary” on pages 203-204 of the book is:


When it comes to motivation, there is a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system – which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators – doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: (1) Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives; (2) Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and (3) Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.


Personally, none of Pink’s evidence surprised me, nor did I need to be persuaded by his overall argument about what motivates people – especially at work. However, Pink provides a historical overview and context for his argument’s scientific basis that I found engaging and helpful (although his use of certain analogies to describe cultural developments, such as to computer operating system upgrades, left me cold).


Why did I like it?


I appreciated the thoroughness with which Pink explores the meaning and implication of the three primary motivators (autonomy, mastery and purpose). This book inspired me to read others about the psychology of motivation, several of which are listed in Pink’s “Fifteen Essential Books” list starting on page 185. I am especially drawn to those by “flow” theorist Mihaly Csikszentmthalyi, so you may see at least one of them reviewed soon in the Leadership Library.


In what situations would this be useful?


Successful leaders understand what motivates themselves and their colleagues, and this book is a great resource for comprehending the importance of motivation. It is also full of evidence and practical examples of what works – and why. I also liked the “Toolkit” at the end of the book, for simple and accessible exercises for both individuals and organizations looking to awaken motivational awareness. There is also a special section for parents who want to help their kids prepare for leading intrinsically-motivated, satisfying lives.


What other resources might “pair” well with it?


I haven’t reviewed it in the Leadership Library yet, but I have a high opinion of Kevin Cashman’s workbook, Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2008). It places a lot of emphasis on the concept of mastery in several personal and professional areas, such as authenticity, awareness, purpose, and “leading through synergy and service,” which dovetail really nicely with Pink’s analysis and presentation. If you read Pink, get inspired, and want to take action beyond what’s provided in the “Toolkit,” I recommend checking out the Cashman workbook as a potential resource.


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