Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

The basic ideas of Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us have entered the intellectual mainstream, but they haven’t had much impact upon the world of work. This is a shame.

The key insight of Pink’s research is that money only motivates employees up to a certain point, beyond which it no longer works as a motivator. This does not mean that employees do best when paid low wages—everyone needs enough to live a decent human life—but it does mean that beyond a certain point people aren’t motivated by more money. After a certain point, intrinsic motivation, which comes from within yourself is much more powerful than extrinsic motivation, which comes from outside sources like money.

What people really want from work is: 1) autonomy: self-directed control over their work; 2) mastery: the chance to get better at our work; and 3) purpose: a reason to be motivated to do our work. The key is to pay people enough so that they aren’t thinking about money but thinking about work. And once you do that, the science shows that giving workers the autonomy to master and find purpose in their work will lead them to being happier and more productive. Here are links to all of Pink’s books about work:

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3 thoughts on “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

  1. Employees. But what about employers? What motivates them? What motivates that quintessential American, Donald Trump (“you’re fired”)?:
    •Manipulating employees so they won’t manipulate him (dominant-submissive)
    •Revenge (for childhood, etc.)
    •Sadism (deriving pleasure from the pain of others.
    And if you went to the rural area in India studied, where $50 is a large sum, you’d discover numerous little Trumps, with tight smiles on their faces, motivated by domination, revenge, and sadism.

  2. To loosely paraphrase a quote from Milton’s “Paradise Lost”: I always chose autonomy, preferring to work independently rather than serve under someone else, even if it cost me $$. Still looking for a source of motivation that will ultimately replace money as the value of all things. Capitalism, like a game on Monopoly is unsustainable, in my opinion.

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