The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us: Drive

What motivates you to do what you do?

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us was written by New York Times bestselling author Daniel H. Pink and released in 2009.

Pink is very active on Twitter – the author has a verified account with nearly 225,000 followers. He engages frequently with fans, and even replied to a reader’s tweet by encouraging them to tell their friends and colleagues to write an online review of his latest book, To Sell is Human. He also blogs very regularly at, with approximately 5-10 posts per month. His blog posts include several links (both outbound and inbound), and many contain embedded videos featuring further explanations and demonstrations on topics in his recent books.

The book Drive exists to change what people think about motivation. Throughout the book, it is explained that the best way to motivate people is not by using rewards, like money. Pink uses several extensive examples and situations to explain this, and refers very often to a select few researchers and theorists. He challenges the beliefs and principles of the business world, in exchange for those of science.

The essential lesson replies on what humans truly want. What is clear about halfway through Drive is that to perform better and be satisfied at work, school and home, people need the ability to direct their own lives, to create new things, and to improve themselves and the world.

One challenge is finding what exactly motivates people to be productive and create. Pink reveals several examples of employers and employees, teachers and students, and leaders and groups, trying different ways to increase productivity and creativity. However, this shows that many tactics aimed at increasing productivity can reduce it, and that tactics aimed at boosting creativity can reduce it. This is not applicable to every single circumstance, but Pink concludes that one of the defects of this (referred to as Motivation 2.0) is that the results are unpredictable and unexpected.

A focus on explaining both Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation, and people the difference between people being Type I or Type X, helps Pink reveal what ultimately is the Third Drive. The author continuously refers to and encourages the Motivation 3.0 operating system, which he says is “the upgrade that’s needed to meet the new realities of how we organize, think about, and do what we do”.

Clearly defined, Pink states that work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. This is in regards to Extrinsic Motivation. An example by Mark Twain is cited, regarding people in England who drive horse and buggies. They drive around for fun regularly – but if they were offered wages for doing so, it would become a service, and the drivers would quit. Rewards can turn play into work, and destroy creativity or their drive.

Intrinsic Motivation includes the needs for autonomy, mastery and purpose. When the reward is the activity itself, there are no shortcuts. People are actually less likely to act unethically when driven by an intrinsic motivation. As an example, there is evidence that non-commissioned artwork vs. commissioned work produces dramatically different results: Creativity is much higher in non-commissioned work, unless that piece is very beneficial to the artist in another, intrinsic way. Praise and positive feedback are less effective than awards and trophies, intrinsically.

Pink gives explains of how setting goals can encourage unethical behavior. Goals encourage cheating and shortcuts (people omitting safety checks, or producing lower quality work) because the only focus is to reach the deliverable – meeting the specific, assigned goal – and nothing else. Taking this to today, and applying it to digital media, examples include people cheating on visiting links just for view counts, clicking advertisements just to earn money, and paying for followers just to show increased numbers.

MasteryAutonomy, and Purpose are the three elements of true, intrinsic motivation.

A major takeaway from this book is that the solution is to attempt to turn work into play. For simple, routine tasks (non-creative ones), Pink provides three suggestions: Offer a rational for why the task is necessary (if it’s part of a larger purpose), acknowledge that the task is boring, and finally, allow people to complete the task their own way – by giving them freedom, and not being controlling.

The most intriguing concept in Pink’s book was about ROWE: Results Only Work Environments. In a ROWE, People show up when they want, they just have to get their work done. It does not matter how, when and where they do it. The lesson for managers and organizations is to create conditions that allow people to do their best work. This includes permitting people to work from home, allowing students and employees to make their own schedules, creating their own hours – which many technology start-ups do today, for example.

True intrinsically motivated work is produced when people have autonomy over the four T’s. Pink explains these to be Task, Time, Technique and Team. Through the Internet and Social Media, achieving autonomy over these can be more easily achieved – starting your own blog, launching your own online business with a few clicks, working online or even earning an entire degree on a computer.

Today, management is not what is needed – the world needs a renaissance of self-direction. Online, the world is yours.