David's Reviews > Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Drive by Daniel H. Pink
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Dec 21, 11

Read in December, 2011

This book has important information about motivation that goes beyond the conventional self-help genre and discusses some recent social science advances on the topic. The author exposes research that finds the customary practices tied to extrinsic motivation are typically flawed and misguided in our modern world. We are grounded in the belief that rewarding an activity will get you more of it and punishing an activity will get you less of it. But counterintuitive consequences of extrinsic incentives are a hidden cost. Better results typically come from intrinsic incentives. This has a number of implications, like high wages don’t usually lead to better performance and can actually diminish performance and stifle creativity. What’s more, Pink assures us that these finding are among the most robust in the social sciences. He offers specifics about how this works, acknowledging that there are a few areas where “if-then” rewards can be effective (typically with algorithmic tasks). Because we are moving from an industrial economy to a service economy, the old rules of extrinsic motivation are becoming less applicable today and will be even less so in the future. He claims that intrinsic motivations will lead to a better and more gratifying life of autonomy, mastery, and purpose at the individual level, which will in turn lead to higher performance at the social and economic level. As compelling as his argument is, I think it will be a tough sell in the business world. The carrot-and-stick mindset is so engrained in our culture that we’re not going to give it up without a fight. It would mean giving up control over people. That’s a price that management may not consider worth the return of better performance.
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