Book Review: Drive

Would you rather listen to this review? Listen at http://audioboo.fm/boos/164231-book-review-drive-by-daniel-pink.

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As regular readers of my blog know, I recently read the book Drive by Daniel Pink.
Before I get into my own comments, I would like to reproduce the author’s “Cocktail Party Summary” offered on page 203:

When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system — which is built around external, carrot and stick motivators– doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: (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.

These three elements – autonomy, mastery and purpose form the core of intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation explains many things that classical economics cannot. Like this blog. No one’s paying me to this. Not here and not at Free Government Information, where I’m a team blogger. As far as I know, no one is paying Bobbi Newman for Librarian by Day, Walt Crawford for Walt at Random, Jessamyn West for librarian.net or most of the editors at Wikipedia. (Sorry for the shameless name dropping, but I needed some librarian oriented examples of people putting out high volumes of quality content.)

Intrinsic motivation also explains how software companies saw their profits soar when they let employees do whatever they wanted once a quarter or why people doing creative tasks actually do worse when offered rewards. These examples and more are extensively documented by Pink in an engaging and often humorous manner. As he himself says, many of these conclusions defy common sense. But since at least the 1950s they’ve been demonstrated repeated in multiple studies and business situations. If you don’t believe Pink, check out the underlying studies.

Pink supplies a reading list on pages 185-194 he calls the Type I Reading List. His selections seemed interesting and I thought others would be interested in his selections too. So I went to WorldCat and put his 15 selections, plus Drive itself onto a WorldCat list at http://www.worldcat.org/profiles/dcornwall/lists/1834257.

As regular readers know, I like books that propose fixes after they’ve identified problems. The last third of Drive is the Type I Toolkit, which are tips and resources for helping you, your organizations and our schools to become more intrinsically motivated. Once this happens, we’ll be both happier and more productive. I feel like that’s been true in my life over the past several years and I hope it can happen for you, whereever you are. It may be called work, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you’ve read the book or have other thoughts about whether you’re intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, please leave a comment.

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