Business Book Brunch: Drive

Written by NZBWN Events Team.

Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us

By Dan Pink

Drive by Daniel PinkDrive explores what has motivated humans throughout history and explains how we shifted from mere survival to the carrot and stick approach that’s still practiced today – and why it’s outdated.

Most people have been taught to believe that the best way to motivate is to use rewards like money, but according to Daniel Pink people are making a mistake thinking that external rewards are the best way to motivate. He calls this Motivation 2.0.

There is scientific evidence that this rarely provides long-term performance improvements. Extrinsic motivation is based on the idea that if we want to increase a behavior we need to reward it and if we want to decrease a behaviour, we must use punishment. However, when people are motivated only by external rewards, they often shift their attention from the experience leading to the goal to the reward that follows the goal.

Pure focus on goals may cause systematic problems for organisations such as focus only on short-term gains and lose of sight of the potential devastating long-term effects on the organisation. The symptoms of goals only focus include:

  1. Extinguishing intrinsic motivation
  2. Diminishing performance
  3. Crushing creativity
  4. Crowding out good behaviour
  5. Encouraging cheating, shortcuts, and unethical behaviour
  6. Becoming addictive
  7. Fostering short-term thinking

Instead Pink suggests that the secret to high performance and satisfaction at work, at school, and at home consists of three pillars: the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to become better at things that matter to us, and to do something meaningful for ourselves and the world. He calls this Motivation 3.0.

He feels there are three elements we must provide to workers in this category:

  1. Autonomy—”the desire to direct our own lives;”
  2. Mastery—”the urge to make progress and get better at something that matters; and”
  3. Purpose—”the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.”

Pink does not suggest that people will work for free or for a non-competitive wage. He categorizes “salary, contract payments, some benefits” and “a few perks” as “baseline rewards.” When baseline rewards are insufficient, workers will focus on how they are treated unfairly and their creativity will decline rapidly. However, once the baseline rewards are high enough that they are no longer a factor in the worker’s focus, adding additional extrinsic rewards will only dampen motivation.

This does not mean that everyone should stop using external rewards. Rather, it is important to understand that for routine tasks, which aren’t very interesting and don’t require creative thinking, rewards can provide a small motivational booster shot without harmful side effects.

He does not suggest eliminating all rewards. Instead, he warns against using “if-then” rewards and promotes the use of “here-now” rewards that are given out unpredictably. These rewards can be as simple as praise, a lunch out, or genuine and detailed feedback. They should not be introduced at the start of a project as a condition of success, nor should they become predictably routine.

Finally, Pink provides some tips for personal application of Motivation 3.0:

  • Adjust how you compensate and reward business development efforts
  • Involve your team more in goal setting exercises
  • Strive for the flow state in everything you do

If we get past the simplistic ‘carrots vs sticks’ ideology, and allow people to be more motivated by autonomy, mastery and purpose, we can make our businesses stronger and maybe change the world.

Reviewed by Shayna Manchanda 

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