Book Review: ‘Drive, The surprising truth about what motivates us’ By Daniel H Pink



In a serendipitous moment, this book caught my eye at the library.  Being a longtime armchair amateur psychology enthusiast – I scurried home to read it.

What truly motivates us to get out of bed in the morning ?  Yes, money, obligation, bills, but also, if we are fortunate, the pure joy of doing something for the hell of it.

Mr Pink explains that humans have an inbuilt drive for intrinsic rewards.  These include the desire for personal autonomy,  the lure of wanting to achieve mastery of a skill, and the satisfaction of a higher purpose.  the three combined form a potent motivator.

This drive has been suppressed and sidelined by the ill-fitting carrot and stick approach which continues to be used as a primary motivating tool (or rather, controlling tool) in businesses and schools.

Money and control works up to a certain point to ensure basic needs are met and certain obligations are fulfilled.  It is more effective as short term incentive for chores with a defined outcome and little room for creativity or right brain thinking.    

However if you really want results then give people choice, and ownership over their work, help them connect to a greater purpose and they will fly.  This is not just soft folk science or wishful thinking.  It also requires more than just paying lip service to the idea while continuing to operate business as usual…

This whole concept got me excited because it confirms what I have been suspecting for a while. What we really need is Liberty! (woo woo!)  And trust that the human animal is mature enough and evolved enough to migrate in the right direction.  If you are invested in your work, you will do it well.  If you care about the outcome then greed, shortcuts or mediocrity will not be part of the modus operandi.

This idea also  fits beautifully with the early retirement cheerleading crowd.  (and believe me – it is a growing crowd!).  If you live an agile and simple lifestyle, with no debt and the freedom to work whenever and however you choose – then you will be happy.  Whether you live in a rented studio apartment or a 5 bedroom sprawler.

The best books often confirm a great truth that you feel like you already know or suspect to be true.  In this case it is explained beautifully by Pink who also offers up a practical toolkit of resources and experiments to help nudge us in the right direction.. 

Takeaway quote: (from George Nelson, design director at Herman Miller)

‘You decide what you will make’



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