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Sunday, December 04, 2011

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

If you have ever been interested in motivating others, "Drive" by Daniel H. Pink is an important book to read. The main theme of the book is that the Carrot and Stick model of motivation is outdated. It has outlived its usefulness and doesn't apply to modern life, specially beyond algorithmic tasks.

"Management isn't about walking around and seeing if people are in their offices," he told me. It's about creating conditions for people to do their best work.

The author argues that core human motivators are Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. He uses the example of Wikipedia vs. Encarta to support this argument: Wikipedia was backed by autonomy, mastery and purpose, and it managed to outclass the carrot-and-stick-backed Encarta.

With this great start, the author goes on to discuss each factor in detail. A lot of real-world experiments are discussed, such as the Flow game which arose out of Jenova Chan's MFA thesis.

There are gems here and there such as this statement from a hiring manager, "If you need me to motivate you, I probably don't want to hire you."

Some information in the book comes as a pleasant surprise. For example, I was surprised to know that the famous Post-It Notes were created in 3M using the permitted bootlegging policy. Permitted bootlegging is office time where staff are allowed to spend a certain amount of their time working on 'pet-projects' in the hope that would some day bring in revenue to the company.

Having said all this, "Drive" is not without its flaws. Though the author states that the lessons from this book can be applied to life beyond the office, i.e., to social life. But I feel that the books fails to address social issues. There book remains focused on the 3 factors, which I believe is seriously limited. Things such as peer pressure, addiction/ fashion and awareness.

In summary, it's a must read book but it's not idea. Will somebody ever write the ideal book on human motivation?