You all know what day it is so say it with me…It’s Scott Drotar Literary Review Day! This week I present to you a book that looks at the very core of human nature and what makes us tick. Businesses and corporations are constantly striving to find ways to get the most work and return out of their employees. Companies frequently offer incentives like an increase in pay, bonuses, and more vacation time to motivate their workers to perform at a higher level. In this week’s entry, author, Daniel Pink, shows that these external rewards not only do not increase employee productivity, but they can actually diminish it in certain situations. He goes on to discuss the things that do drive us to greater and grander accomplishments, and how to apply this knowledge to your life. This week I examine the psychology classic, “Drive.”
In “Drive” former lawyer and author, Daniel Pink, attempts to answer the question of what makes some people perform better than others. What drives us? He begins by summarizing the current methods used by companies to try to motivate employees, which he calls “Motivation 2.0.” This approach, which has been the primary motivational strategy adopted by businesses, operates on the premise that people work harder to gain rewards and avoid pain. This is basically a “carrots and sticks” perspective on driving performance, and basically states that you can get employees to work harder by offering external incentives and punishing failures. While very few people would disagree with this point of view, and it can be effective in the right context, it turns out that there are numerous situations where this approach is actually counterproductive.
The business landscape has been undergoing a shift over the last 30 years from a world dominated by blue-collar, boilerplate workers to a world where employees with analytical and technical skills are in highest demand. Research has shown that with this change from mindless, robotic work to work that requires more critical thinking and creativity, has come a change in what drives employee performance. It turns out that external incentives can limit our ability to think critically and creatively, which will hinder performance in the types of jobs that are becoming most important, such as computer programmers, graphic designers, and engineering. In order to improve performance in this new corporate atmosphere, you have to offer, not external, but internal incentives. Pink discusses three internal incentives in his text, autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Without giving too much away, employees will perform better when they are given control over the work they do, when they can better themselves, and when they are doing work that benefits others. He goes on to describe each of these internal incentives in detail, as well as how and when to apply them.
The information contained in “Drive” is so valuable that Pink was asked to give a TED talk about this topic. In his brief, 18 minute talk, he covers how the old, “carrots and sticks” method is no longer the best way to improve employee productivity, and how the use of internal incentives can be more effective in many circumstances. If you still are not sold on the fact that you can benefit greatly from this incredible book, here is the TED talk Pink gave in 2009.
“Drive” was a very enjoyable read in terms of writing style and the presentation of the information. Pink has a flowing, easy-going style, that allows him to present dry, technical details without boring the reader. Countless studies and findings are cited and examined, but the discussion is always kept at a level that any reader can understand. While the focus of the book is on increasing productivity in a business setting, and thusly the majority of the examples throughout the book are business oriented, the author also makes a point to show how these ideas can be applied in anyone’s life. Whether it be motivating your children, your spouse, or even yourself, these concepts can be effective in driving performance.
There is not much bad to say about “Drive.” It presents novel information that can benefit nearly anyone in a way that is accessible to almost everyone. If nothing else, this text will teach you how to get yourself to be as productive as possible, both at work and in your personal life. This is a reward that you should be interested in regardless of who you are and what you do. So, it is pretty much a no-brainer this week. “Drive” gets a 5 out of 5 on the Roll Models Review Scale.