Book Review: Drive by Daniel Pink

Drive - motivating your team the Pink way
Drive – motivating your team the Pink way

Drive is a good, practical book on how to motivate people around you, inside and outside of work. I’ve read a few books on the subject, but many focus too hard on organisational structure, or project management. Drive focuses much more on the psychology of motivation. What is it that really drives people to perform well?

Interestingly there is a quote from a review by Malcolm Gladwell on the front cover (of my paperback version), because the book is written in a Gladwell-esque way of theory first, practical second. Like Gladwell, there is a bucket full of examples in the book to help Pink illustrate his key theories.

The book has a slight focus on technology and creative industries. Why do people work open source projects? The first example in the book asks how Wikipedia beat Microsoft’s Encarta. Microsoft paid professionals to write Encarta. Wikipedia doesn’t pay contributors. So how did Wikipedia create a higher quality than Encarta for free? And why would anyone contribute content towards Wikipedia for no monetary reward?

Pink handles the question of money (salary and bonuses) particularly well. For manual, repetitive jobs, money helps. For creative roles, and I’m really generalising, the advice is to get pay right, and then get money out of sight because it’s not a key motivator.

Pink calls the new world “Motivation 2.0”. Carrots and sticks don’t work so well any longer. Money (the carrots in the old world) isn’t always the answer to motivating staff. And threats (sticks) don’t motivate either.

Pink breaks Motivation 2.0 down into three components. The first is autonomy and I completely agree. For me. I love autonomy. But I’ve worked in teams where new joiners have been unable to adapt to the new concept of autonomy.

And that’s my main gripe with the book. It’s targeted towards certain people in a specific environment. If you are responsible for a team who manage a warehouse and want to motivate your staff, I don’t think Drive is going to help. I’ve worked in these environments and saw different management styles – the ones which worked aren’t covered in this book. Conversely, if you work in a modern office based organisation and already have some degree of management autonomy to roll out new techniques, then this book is likely to resonate and provide a few good ideas.

I preferred the first part of the book to the second. The first part deals with the research (the Gladwell-esque parts) and the second is the practical advice for implementing Motivation 2.0. The first part is enjoyable reading. I ended up skim reading the second part.

Should you buy this book? Yes if you want to motivate your team (or your own role). It will help you quietly create a revolution and a happier team.

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