Book Review: Drive - The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Daniel Pink in his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” argues that there is wide gap between what the science knows and what corporation do when it comes to implementing policies to motivate people to do their best. Pink argues that intrinsic motivation is much more powerful than extrinsic motivation. Company policies have long relied on boosting extrinsic motivation which works well in defined tasks but not where imagination, creativity and innovation is required. Pink states that only engagement can produce mastery and the pursuit of mastery. Today, more than 50% of employees in US are not engaged at work. The author describes case studies of implementing Motivation 3.0 in companies like Google (20% free-time where employees can work on their own pet projects), 3M and a software company in Australia.

According to Pink, there are three levels or types of motivations:
• Motivation 1.0 - The basic operating system for the first few thousand years based on the primary needs - food, shelter, clothing and reproduction
• Motivation 2.0 - The carrot and the stick - reward and punishment model
• Motivation 3.0 - Seeks engagement and a desire to do better which leads to mastery and the pursuit of excellence

Unleashing Motivation 3.0 requires three elements:
• Autonomy – provide employees with autonomy over the four main aspects of work: when they do it (time), how they do it (technique), whom they do it with (team) and what they do (task)
• Mastery – allow employees to become better at something that matters to them
• Purpose – People want to be part of something that is bigger than they are

While the message is very powerful, I don’t think it requires 250+ pages of text. The last section is a toolkit providing implementation guidance in various situations - which in my opinion is pretty much repetition. The TED Talk (can be accessed at - ) by the author summarizes the concepts. If you are interested and short on time just listen to the TED talk and you should be pretty well informed. Overall the message is pretty powerful  – I wish it was a shorter – Maybe a research paper in a journal or a magazine article ?


“Rewards, by their very nature, narrow our focus. That’s helpful when there’s a clear path to a solution.”

“Goals that people set for themselves and that are devoted to attaining mastery are usually healthy. But goals imposed by others – sales targets, quarterly returns, standardized test scores, and so on- can sometimes have dangerous side effects.”

“The businesses that offered autonomy grew at four times the rate of the control-oriented firms and had one-third the turnover.”

“Intrinsic motivation is conducive to creativity; controlling extrinsic motivation is detrimental to creativity.”

“"Being a professional - is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don't feel like doing them."”

“Carrots (rewards) & sticks (punishments) are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery, & purpose.”

“The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table.”

“The essential requirement: Any extrinsic reward should be unexpected and offered only after the task is complete.”

 “When money is used as an external reward for some activity, the subjects lose intrinsic interest for the activity,”

“An algorithmic task is one in which you follow a set of established instructions down a single pathway to one conclusion. That is, there’s an algorithm for solving it. A heuristic task is the opposite. Precisely because no algorithm exists for it, you have to experiment with possibilities and devise a novel solution.”

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