Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An Absolute Must Read: "Drive - The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us" by Daniel H. Pink

Some books for me are "game changers." All of Malcolm Gladwell's books fall into this category: "Tipping Point," "Blink" and "Outliers." Frans Johansson's "The Medici Effect" prompted me to organize two leadership gatherings: The White Rhino Intersection and Intersection 2.0. Daniel Pink's latest book, "Drive," belongs in this same category. I love what Gladwell said about Pink's book: "I spent as much time thinking about what this book means as I did reading it." Well said; I have had the same response.

To regular readers of The White Rhino Report, Pink is no stranger. I wrote effusively about his earlier book, "A Whole New Mind."

Review of "A Whole New Mind"

I recently offered a link to a TED talk that summarizes the most salient points of "Drive."

Drive Video

Having been thoroughly mesmerized and intrigued by the "Drive" video, I wondered if I needed to read the book. I am glad I chose to take that additional step. The video serves as an excellent appetizer and introductory tool, but the main nutrient's can be found in the book.

Pink's genius is his ability to take previously published research from a variety of fields, synthesize and coordinate the data and present the findings to a lay audience in a way that does not "dumb down" the content or the significance of the discoveries. He takes the "what," and turns it into a powerful "so what?".

In discussing what motivates individuals and teams in almost any setting, Pink describes two types of motivation: Type X (extrinsic) and Type I (intrinsic).

"Type I behavior is a renewable resource. Think of Type X behavior as coal, and Type I behavior as the sun. For most of recent history, coal has been the cheapest, easiest, most efficient resource. But coal has two downsides. First, it produces nasty things like air pollution and greenhouse gases. Second, it's finite; getting more of it becomes increasingly difficult and expensive each year. Type X behavior is similar. An emphasis on rewards and punishments spews its own externalities. And 'if-then' motivators always grow more expensive. But Type I behavior, which is built around intrinsic motivation, draws on resources that are easily replenished and inflict little damage. It is the motivational equivalent of clean energy: inexpensive, safe to use, and endlessly renewable." (Page 80)

He goes on to describe what lies at the heart of Type I behavior and the underlying motivations. He issues what amounts to a manifesto for change.

"Ultimately, Type I behavior depends upon three nutrients: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Type I behavior is self-directed. It is devoted to becoming better and better at something that matters. and it connects that quest for excellence to a larger purpose. Some might dismiss notions like these as gooey and idealistic, but the science says otherwise. The science confirms that this sort of behavior is essential to being human - and that now, in a rapidly changing economy, it is also critical for professional, personal, and organizational success of any kind. So we have a choice. We can cling to a view of human motivation that is grounded more in old habits than in modern science. Or we can listen to the research, drag our business and personal practices into the twenty-first century, and craft a new operating system to help ourselves, our companies, and our world work a little better. It won't be easy. It won't happen overnight. So let's get started." (Pages 80-81)

As the author continues to sketch out the components of what he calls Motivation 3.0 - a large quantum leap beyond the traditional Motivation 2.0 that fueled the Industrial Revolution - he describes four aspects of autonomy.

"And what a few future-looking businesses are discovering is that one of these essential features is autonomy - in particular, autonomy over four aspects of work: what people do, when they do it, how they do it, and whom they do it with. As Atlassian's experience shows, Type I behavior emerges when people have autonomy over the four T's: their task, their time, their technique, and their team." (Pages 93-94)

In discussing the importance of "Purpose" as a factor in motivation, Pink's work comes close to the themes of the book "Half Time - Moving from Success to Significance," by Bob Buford, which I reviewed in this space a few months ago:

Review of "Half Time"

These themes are also resonant with Rick Warren's best-seller, "The Purpose Driven Life."

The demographic time bomb that is my generation of Baby Boomers presents an interesting dilemma and opportunity occasioned by our anticipated increased longevity.

"Upon comprehending that they could have another twenty-five years, sixty-year-old boomers look back twenty-five years - to when they were thirty-five - and a sudden thought clonks them on the side of the head. 'Wow. That sure happened fast,' they say. 'Will the next twenty-five years race by like that? If so, when I am going to do something that matters? When am I going to live my best life? When am I going to make a difference in the world?'

Those questions, which swirl through conversations taking place at boomer kitchen tables around the world, may sound touch-feely. But they're now occurring at a rate that is unprecedented in human civilization. Consider: Boomers are the largest demographic cohort in most western countries, as well as in places like Japan, Australia and New Zealand. . . In America alone, one hundred boomers turn sixty every thirteen minutes. When the cold front of demographics meets the warm front of unrealized dreams, the result will be a thunderstorm of purpose the likes of which the world has never seen." (Pages 132-133)

In my observation, the impact is even more dramatic than that which Pink describes. In my role as a career coach, life coach, recruiter and mentor to many emerging leaders, men and women are beginning to ask the "purpose question" at increasingly younger ages. This bodes well for our future, and will force companies to address this issue if they hope to survive and to attract and to retain top talent.

The purpose dynamic has another aspect to it. In the absence of working for a higher purpose, Type X high achievers - the classic "Type A" personalities - work longer and longer hours to achieve material success and promotion. The result is burnout and dissatisfaction.

"One of the reasons for anxiety and depression in the high attainers in that they're not having good relationships. They're busy making money and attending to themselves, and that means that there's less room in their lives for love and attention and caring and empathy and the things that truly count." (Page 144)

In the title of this review, I call this book a "Must Read," yet the book is not for everyone. I recommend it to you only if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are a life-long learner who is willing to learn new facts and to change your thinking and behavior in accordance with these new insights.
  • You are in a position of leadership - in a company, in the military, in a family, in a school, in an organization - in which you need to and desire to create an environment of work and learning that maximizes autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
  • You want to make a positive difference in the world and in the lives of those whom you influence.
If this is you, then order this book now, devour it, breath it, taste it, smell it, talk about it and live it. And then pass it on to the next generation of Type I leaders.

Enjoy the drive . . . and the journey!




Unknown said...

Well said, Al. I've been looking for something like this. I'll check it out and then I'd be interested in hearing how you think a book like this ties into traditional Christian 'motivators'.

Unknown said...

We read some of Daniel Pink in my grad classes for teaching. Good stuff. Does this book talk specifically about the differences in motivation between adults and children, particularly adolescents and their penchant for wanting to "be cool" and fit in, yet express their budding individuality? The differences between the adolescent and adult mind is often overlooked in these types of books.

The White Rhino said...


Thank you for your comment. Some of the research that Pink cites does include children, but the primary focus of his attention is on those in the business world. He makes the point over and over that children are born motivated and excited, and our socialization and schooling often extinguishes the spark.