PinDriv 11-01-002


The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us


Daniel H. Pink

Riverhead Books, 2009, 242 pp.  ISBN 978-1-59448-884-9


Pink builds on the half-century old discovery that people are much more effectively motivated internally than externally (Douglas McGregor, The Human Side of Enterprise, 1960).  Daniel Pink is the author of the best-selling A Whole New Mind.  He is a writer and lecturer on economic transformation and the new workplace.    


Pink's contribution is that intrinsic motivation is comprised of three factors: "(1) Autonomy--the desire to direct our own lives; (2) Mastery--the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and (3) Purpose--the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves." (204)  Pink describes the research, explores the three elements, and provides a whole toolkit of suggestions for application.  He concludes that we should focus our efforts on creating environments for these innate psychological needs to flourish.


This kind of motivation works for me.  And probably for you and a lot of other knowledge workers you know.  At the same time you know any number of people for whom the application of these concepts would serve more as temptation than opportunity because of the truth of Jeremiah 17:9. [dlm]


Part One - A New Operating System

Introduction - The Puzzling Puzzles of Harry Harlow and Edward Deci

In 1949 Harlow and colleagues discovered that monkeys would solve a puzzle without reward, simply because they found it gratifying to solve puzzles.  The performance of the task provided intrinsic reward. (3)  Harlow later discovered that when money was used as an external reward for some activity, the subjects (not monkeys this time) lose intrinsic interest for the activity.  Rewards deliver a short-tem boost but the effect wears off and eventually reduces a person's longer-term motivation.  Rewards can have a negative effect. (8) 


Chapter 1 - The Rise and Fall of Motivation 2.0

Survival and basic biological urges comprise Motivation 1.0.  Pink says most business motivation consists of rewards and punishments, Motivation 2.0.  This still serves some purposes well, but it is deeply unreliable and often doesn't work at all. (21) 


Karim Lakhani and Bob Wolf found that "enjoyment-based intrinsic motivation, namely how creative a person feels when working on the project, is the strongest and most pervasive driver." (23) 


Some new low-profit limited liability corporations, L3Cs, operate like for-profit business but their primary aim is to offer social benefits.  They are hybrid organizations that are economically self-sustaining but animated by a public purpose. (24)  [The Mission Exchange will offer a webinar on this kind of business in October of 2011. Dlm]  People are known to leave lucrative jobs to take low-paying jobs with a stronger sense of purpose. (28) 


Routine, not-so-interesting jobs require direction; non-routine, more interesting work depends on self-direction.  More routine work is being off-shored, leaving more creative, artistic, and non-routine work. As organizations flatten, companies need people who are self-motivated.  (30) 


Chapter 2.  Seven Reasons Carrots and Sticks (Often) Don't Work . . .

The "Tom Sawyer effect" says rewards can turn play into work but on the other side some practices can turn work into play.   Rewards often have the unintended effect of undermining a person's intrinsic motivation.  Rewards tend to narrow our focus, which is helpful when the path is clear, but it "blinkers" the wide view that fuels creative solutions. (44)  Even the intrinsic desire to do something good is blunted when people are given money for doing it.  They no longer have the "good feeling" for having done it because it was good. (48)


Carrots and sticks can promote short-term thinking and unethical behavior at the expense of the long view.  (49, 51)  "Goals may cause systematic problems for organizations due to narrowed focus, unethical behavior, increased risk taking, decreased cooperation, and decreased intrinsic motivation.  Use care when applying goals in your organization." (51)


If you pay your kids for specific chores, there's no going back.  They will never do it again for free.  Rewards are addictive in that the agent always expects it.  Extrinsic motivators focus our sights on what's immediately before us rather than the long view.  Many people work to get the reward but no further. (56)  So if the student gets a prize for reading three books, don't expect him to read a fourth.  (58)


Chapter 2A - …and the Special Circumstances When They Do

For routine tasks, rewards can provide a small motivational boost.  To increase the task's variety, try to make it more like a game - if possible.  Rather than offer an 'if-then' reward that would result in the expectation of rewards, offer an extrinsic reward once in awhile after the task is complete.  (66) 


Chapter 3 - Type I and Type X

We have three innate psychological needs--competence, autonomy, and relatedness.  When those needs are satisfied, we're motivated, productive, and happy."  Beyond survival (Motivation 1.) and rewards (Motivation 2.0), we have a third drive (Motivation 3.0), hence the book title (Drive).  "We should focus our efforts on creating environments for our innate psychological needs to flourish." (72)


Type X behavior is fueled primarily by extrinsic desires supplied by external rewards.  Type I behavior is fueled more by intrinsic desires, the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself," i.e. the third drive". (77)  For Type I's, the main motivator is the freedom, challenge, and purpose of the undertaking itself; any other gains are welcome, but mainly as a bonus." (78)  "Type I's almost always outperform Type X's in the long run."  "The most successful people…are working hard and persisting through difficulties because of their internal desire to control their lives, learn about their world, and accomplish something that endures." (79)


"Ultimately, Type I behavior depends on 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." (80-1)


Part Two - The Three Elements

Chapter 4.  Autonomy

A few companies have initiated a "ROWE - a results-only work environment."  No expected time in the office or standardized procedures.  They have goals to reach, but people are expected to get the work done when and how they like. 


Management is about creating the conditions for people to do their best work.  People are not "human resources" but "human partners."  And partners need to direct their own lives. 


"Mediocrity is expensive--and autonomy can be the antidote." (90, Tom Kelley)


Type I behavior emerges when people have autonomy over their task, their time, their technique, and their team.  (94)


Some companies give people a percentage of their time to work on any task they like. 


The lawyer's "billable hours" is a great drain on intrinsic motivation.  The focus is not on output, solving the client's problem, but on input, how many hours they can put into it.  This can lead to poor problem solving and encourage unethical behavior. (99) 


"Nothing is more important to my success than controlling my schedule.  I'm most creative from five to nine a.m.  If I had a boss or co-workers, they would ruin my best hours one way or another."  (99, Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert)


Customer call service agents are often tied to a script that minimizes their creativity and resourcefulness and takes you through dozens of unnecessary questions whose answers lead them down the wrong branch of the script taking hours of unnecessary time. [My experience, DLM].  "Zappos doesn't monitor its customer service employees' call times or require them to use scripts.  The reps handle calls the way they want.  Their job is to serve the customer well; how they do it is up to them." [Whatever they sell, I'm tempted to buy it. Dlm]


Autonomy over team is the least developed.


Great artists of the recent past were not told what picture to paint, what hours to work, or how to paint the picture.  You and I need autonomy just as deeply as a great painter.  (106)  "We're born to be players, not pawns." (107) 


Chapter 5 - Mastery

"Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement." (110)  Complex problem solving requires "an inquiring mind and the willingness to experiment one's way to a fresh solution." (111)  Compliance is lousy for personal fulfillment. 


"The improvement was the goal.  The medal was simply the ultimate reward for achieving that goal." (114, Sebastian Coe, Olympic champion)


The psychologist Csikszentmihalyi found the most satisfying experiences in people's lives were when they were in "flow."  "In flow, the relationship between what a person had to do and what he could do was perfect.  The challenge wasn't too easy.  Nor was it too difficult.  It was a notch or two beyond his current abilities, which stretched the body and mind in a way that made the effort itself the most delicious reward.  That balance produced a degree of focus and satisfaction that easily surpassed other, more quotidian, experience.  In flow, people lived so deeply in the moment, and felt so utterly in control, that their sense of time, place, and even self melted away."  (115)


Economics is too weak and incomplete to account for human behavior.


The urge to master something new and engaging is the best predictor of productivity.  (117)


There is a frequent mismatch between what people must do and what people can do.  The challenge is to find jobs that challenge people just enough, to sculpt jobs in ways that bring a little bit of flow to otherwise mundane duties.  Employees can create new domains for mastery.  (119)


Mastery is a Mindset.  What we believe shapes what we achieve.  If we believe we can continue to grow, we can.  Performance goals (like a goal to get an "A" in French) tend to confirm that we can or can't do something.  Thus we tend to select easy goals so we can achieve them or write ourselves off as unable or to do it.  Learning goals (like learning to speak French) on the other hand, help us grow.  The goal is to improve and thus we don't give up so easily. 


Mastery is a Pain.  Mastery takes effort over a long period of time, is often not much fun, requires lots of mundane practice, and takes grit.   "Grittiness" may be the best predictor of college grades.  The determination to work over a long period of time without seeing much short-term improvement is required.  It's grueling and you have to be willing to work for it.


Mastery is an Asymptote.  The curve approaches but never quite reaches.  You can approach mastery, hone in on it, get really close, but you can never touch it. This is a source of both frustration and allure.  (127) 


Chapter 6 - Purpose

People who reach 60 often ask, "When am I 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?" (132)


 "Autonomous people working toward mastery perform at very high levels.  But those who do so in the service of some greater objective can achieve even more.  The most deeply motivated people…hitch their desires to a cause larger than themselves." (133)


Business has begun to rethink how purpose figures in what it does.  Volunteer work nourishes people in ways that paid work simply does not.  (134)


Younger generations are also interested in purpose.  TOMS gives a pair of shoes away for every pair it sells.  It claims to be a "for-profit company with giving at its core." (136)  This business model transforms customers into benefactors.  [At least it gives customers that good feeling. Dlm] 


"Do the workers refer to the company as 'they'? Or do they describe it in terms of 'we'?  'They' companies and 'we' companies … are very different places." (139)


Part Three - The Type I Toolkit

Type I for Individuals: Nine Strategies for Awakening Your Motivation

A great man is one sentence.  Abraham Lincoln: "He preserved the union and freed the slaves."  Franklin Roosevelt: "He lifted us out of a great depression and helped us win a world war."  The Big Question: What's your sentence?


Little Question:  Were you better today than yesterday?  Look for small measures of improvement.


Type I for Organizations: Nine Ways to Improve Your Company, Office or Group

 Give employees a half day a week for some period of time to work on any task they choose.


Take three steps toward giving up control.  Involve people in goal setting.  Use noncontrolling language.  Hold office hours so people can come see you. 


Listen carefully to whether employees refer to the company as "we" or "they."


Create an environment that makes people feel good about participating.  Give users autonomy.  Keep the system as open as possible.


The Zen of Compensation: Paying People the Type I Way

Pay people fairly internally and in comparison with other organizations.  Pay more than average. 


Type I for Parents and Educators: Nine Ideas for Helping Our Kids

Give your kids an allowance and some chores--but don't combine them.  Kids learn how to handle money but they see chores as part of the family obligation.


Praise effort and strategy, not intelligence.  Make praise specific.  Praise in private.  Offer praise only when there is good reason for it. 


The Type I Reading List: Fifteen Essential Books

Lists books with their key ideas.  Great list.


"If you set a goal of becoming an expert in your business, you would immediately start doing all kinds of things you don't do now." (186) 


"Those with a 'growth mindset' believe that their talents and abilities can be developed.  Fixed mindsets see every encounter as a test of their worthiness.  Growth mindsets see the same encounters as opportunities to improve." (188) 


"Do rewards motivate people?  Absolutely.  They motivate people to get rewards." (182)


Listen to the Gurus: Six Business Thinkers Who Get It

Douglas McGregor, Peter Drucker, Jim Collins, Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, Gary Hamel


The Type I Fitness Plan: Four Tips for Getting (and Staying) Motivated to Exercise

Create a plan that's tailored to your needs and fitness level.  Set the right kinds of goals - to get fit or feel good or stay healthy.  Ditch the treadmill and do something you enjoy.  Pick an activity where you can improve over time.  Reward yourself the right way.


Drive: The Recap

This is quite a good summary. 



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