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Drive - Book Review

1 November 2010
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

"Drive," written in 2009 by Daniel Pink, whose previous bestseller "A Whole New Mind" garnered significant acclaim, delves into human behavior, particularly within the organizational and business context. While Pink's earlier work was more broadly focused on human nature, "Drive" focuses on the intricacies of conduct in professional settings.


Pink posits a theory that, although existing for approximately 40 years, faces resistance within the organizational/business world. Despite its longstanding recognition, the conventional approach persists, relying on rewards and fines as motivators. Pink argues that this traditional method is counterproductive and ultimately detrimental in the long term.


The book elucidates the three key motivators for individuals in both personal and professional capacities: independence, specialization, and guidance. By referencing studies, providing numerous examples, and suggesting actionable tools, Pink unveils what propels individuals to action.


The book systematically addresses the following topics:
  • Development of motivation

  • The inadequacy of the carrot-and-stick method

  • Instances when the carrot and stick method may be appropriate

  • Independence

  • Expertise

  • Intention

  • Promoting infrastructural changes within employees and organizations to foster internal motivation


Undoubtedly, it is a valuable read for managers, knowledge managers, and individuals alike.


Development of motivation

Pink initiates his book by delineating three developmental stages of motivation in society:


Motivation 1.0: This primitive stage involves a fundamental, indiscriminate drive shared by humans and animals—motivated primarily by the instinct to survive. Basic needs such as hunger and the quest for shelter propel individuals to engage in work diligently.


Motivation 2.0: Embraced for an extended period within the business and organizational sphere, this contemporary approach relies on the familiar carrot-and-stick method. Success is encouraged and rewarded, while failure is met with punishment. This model has been widely accepted and applied in various contexts.


Motivation 3.0: A novel yet rooted concept introduced by Pink attributes motivation to internal intrinsic factors rather than external, extrinsic elements predominant in the 2.0 paradigm. The book's subsequent sections explore these internal components, elucidating their significance in driving motivation despite being an established academic concept. Pink notes that only some organizations have fully embraced Motivation 3.0, with many opting for tactical adjustments (Motivation 2.1) rather than transformative ones (3.0). Implementation challenges arise due to the comfort of the existing system, rooted in the necessity of survival (1.0) and the fairness of rewards (2.0) for advanced motivation (3.0) to manifest. Pink highlights the difficulty in expecting advanced intrinsic motivation when individuals grapple with basic survival needs.


Key insights on intrinsic motivation include:

  • According to research findings, this type of motivation is learned rather than inherent, benefiting individuals both physically and mentally.

  • Those proficient in intrinsically motivated work exhibit more long-term success than those driven by external rewards.


The inadequacy of the carrot-and-stick method

The world is undergoing profound changes, challenging the perennial applicability of the carrot-and-stick method. Daniel Pink presents seven compelling reasons why reliance on external rewards in the carrot-and-stick approach is no longer sufficient, drawing inspiration from research by Dan Ariely:

  1. External rewards shift our focus from intrinsic interest to task completion for the sake of the reward, thereby stifling inherent motivation. For instance, incentivizing a child to empty the trash for a fixed monetary amount can diminish their willingness to perform the task once the reward is reduced.

  2. The promise of external compensation detrimentally affects performance across various occupations, with higher compensation correlating with a decline in productivity.

  3. External rewards hamper creativity by narrowing our thinking and impeding our ability to explore alternative paths of action.

  4. Extrinsic rewards diminish altruistic behavior, as observed when people were paid for blood donations, resulting in a decline in contributions compared to scenarios without external incentives.

  5. External rewards foster dishonesty, shortcuts, and unethical behavior. The desire to achieve a goal can prompt individuals to compromise their principles, mainly when the reward or fine legitimizes the action.

  6. External rewards become addictive, making breaking free from the cycle challenging. As individuals become accustomed to rewards, a growing desire exists to elevate the reward level.

  7. Extrinsic rewards promote short-term thinking, emphasizing only measured targets and ranges. This myopic focus hampers long-term planning and impairs our ability to consider broader perspectives.


This compilation of insights underscores the limitations and drawbacks of the traditional carrot-and-stick approach, urging a reconsideration of motivational strategies in light of these findings.


Instances when the carrot and stick method may be appropriate

Nevertheless, there are instances where the carrot-and-stick method proves effective; otherwise, it would have gained less widespread acceptance.

External rewards find utility in routine, repetitive tasks that lack a significant cognitive component. When applied to routine tasks, it is advisable to:

  • Provide a rationale elucidating the importance and necessity of the task.

  • Express empathy for those tasked with the mission, acknowledging the routine nature of the assignment.

  • Grant individuals autonomy to determine their approach to executing routine tasks.


Additional recommendations for utilizing external rewards (extrinsic) include:

  • Presenting the reward after task completion, rather than promising it in advance, creates a pleasant surprise for the recipient (avoid linking the task directly to the reward).

  • Soft rewards, such as recognition and acknowledgment, are preferable to tangible external rewards.

  • Furnishing a comprehensive explanation and information detailing why the reward is conferred. The significance of feedback is as crucial as the reward itself.


Independence

Knowledge workers prefer the autonomy to decide what tasks to undertake and, at the very least, how to execute assigned tasks. Daniel Pink defines this autonomy, using the term "autonomy" under the broader concept of independence, stressing that it doesn't imply isolation or individualism. Independence, as per Pink's explanation, revolves around making choices. Pink proposes four dimensions, encapsulated as the 4 "T"s, that facilitate this independence:

  1. Task - Task independence involves selecting the tasks necessary to fulfill a role.

  2. Time - Time emphasizes task performance while affording employees the freedom to decide when, where (at home or in the office), and, to some extent, the hours spent. Emphasizing outputs over hours encourages employees to focus on the task itself.

  3. Technique - Independence in deciding how to perform assigned tasks, allowing employees to choose their preferred methods.

  4. Team - The possibility, at least for specific tasks, for individuals to decide on the teams they work with.


The foundational premise of the independence concept contradicts past beliefs. Historically, independence was thought to lead to inappropriate or ineffective behavior. Motivation 3.0, however, rests on trust in people, enabling organizations to harness the advantages of autonomy. It's crucial to note that the suitability of various independence methods may vary across different types of organizations and, sometimes, among different types of employees.


Expertise

A second crucial factor shaping internal motivation is the individual's or employee's aspiration to become an expert in their field. In contrast to Motivation 2.0, which emphasizes compliance, this aspect focuses on strengthening the employee's connection to the organization and fostering engagement. In this context, the employee's competition is internal during their journey of self-improvement, with the goal being progress compared to their past self and the achievement itself serving as the reward.


To facilitate this, organizations aim to create environments that encourage and provide opportunities for specialization. This involves:

  1. Cultivating an inviting, employee-friendly physical environment, exemplified by notable instances like Google.

  2. Establishing a sense of play and fun in the workplace enhances the overall work experience.


The conducive atmosphere for personal development within a specialization is more than just a one-size-fits-all solution; each organization must discover its unique approach. It's imperative to acknowledge that the results of such efforts become apparent only over time, adding complexity to the quest for a winning formula in nurturing expertise.


The three fundamental principles of specialization are as follows:

  1. Expertise is a mindset: Proficiency in a particular area is more than just acquiring skills; it is fundamentally about adopting a mindset conducive to continuous learning and improvement.

  2. Expertise is arduous and not necessarily enjoyable: Drawing on the analogy of marathon runners, expertise often involves substantial effort and may not always be "fun." The satisfaction derived from the investment, even when accompanied by considerable sweat, contributes to a more profound sense of accomplishment and heightened expertise.

  3. Expertise develops asymptotically, an ongoing pursuit without a final destination: Mastery in a field is a continuous, asymptotic progression, and the point of ultimate knowledge is never fully attained. Instead, individuals perpetually strive for improvement, recognizing that true expertise remains an evolving and elusive goal.


Intention

In Daniel Pink's prior work, "A Whole New Mind," a dedicated chapter explored the theme of intention. It is crucial to grasp that contemporary motivation is not inherently opposed to profitability; instead, it seeks to balance financial success with maximizing intent. Individuals and organizations fixated solely on monetary gain risk entering a self-perpetuating cycle of insatiable greed, even when achieving their financial goals, as there is a persistent desire for more without true satisfaction.


A more sustainable and attractive workplace is created by pursuing profits while concurrently emphasizing and prioritizing other intentions that the organization values. Such an approach fosters a positive environment where individuals are inclined to work, contribute, and find fulfillment.


Intention is manifest in three key organizational dimensions:

  1. Goal Setting: Organizational goals should not only exist but should also be the right ones that employees can relate to within a positive value context.

  2. Terminology: The language used plays a crucial role, emphasizing inclusivity with a plurality of "we" rather than an exclusionary "them."

  3. Organizational Policy and Ethics: Intention is reflected not only in stated policies but critically in their implementation in practice. The alignment of organizational actions with ethical principles reinforces the sincerity of intent.


Promoting infrastructural changes within employees and organizations to foster internal motivation

In his book, Pink provides a comprehensive toolkit for individuals, parents, educators, and organizations, offering guidance on fostering intrinsic motivation. This summary focuses on the business aspect and outlines strategies for organizations to promote their employees:

  1. Allocate 20% Free Time: Following the model of companies like 3M, provide employees with 20% free time to pursue projects contributing to the organization's advancement.

  2. Employee Vouchers: Empower employees to reward their peers with vouchers, immediately acknowledging and appreciating their efforts with tangible rewards like a meal.

  3. Grant Autonomy: Assess the level of autonomy granted to employees, recognizing the importance of independence in fostering motivation.

  4. Embrace Employee Goal Setting: Relinquish control by allowing employees to set goals. Utilize softer language, reduce imperatives, and encourage spontaneous interactions.

  5. Cultivate Intention: Encourage organizational/team discussions about intentions and purpose.

  6. Language Usage: Monitor "we" versus "them" in organizational communication.

  7. Design Organizational Modus Operandi: Create an environment that treats employees as partners, offering autonomy and managing the organization as an open system.

  8. Promote Teamwork: Build diverse teams with complementary knowledge, foster collaboration over competition within teams, allow task rotation, and be cautious about the use of external rewards.

  9. Implement Periodic Engagement Days: Plan regular days where everyone pauses from their usual tasks to engage creatively with various aspects of the organization's work (FedEx Day).


In conclusion, Why is this approach different from the norm in the business world, which still predominantly relies on external compensation and the carrot-and-stick method? The suggestion is to start the transformation within your team, creating a positive ripple effect. By doing so, it is hoped that other teams and, eventually, the entire organization will be motivated to adopt these principles, creating a genuinely worthwhile culture.

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