What drives us?

What drives us?

Drive by Daniel Pink draws on the tradition of behavioural economics and psychology to argue that business has not caught up with what we now know about what motivates individuals. It makes three points – people need autonomy, to work towards mastery (the strive to get better at something), and purpose (that we are contributing to a purpose that serves something beyond ourselves). This was a natural follow-up for me after other recent reading on intrinsic motivation.

This categorisation of autonomy, mastery and purpose chimed particularly with me, as I read Drive last week just after a friend who had returned from retreat told me about a powerful meditation exercise where they focused on an average day and thought about whether the activities involved mastery and were nourishing or depleting (so they could work towards increasing mastery and nourishing activities in their day).

Drive gives powerful examples of why carrot and stick approaches often don’t work (as the desired behaviour often disappears once incentives are removed). It also shows that people who follow what he calls ‘Type X’ behaviour, where they focus more on the external reward, are more likely to burn-out than those who exhibit ‘Type I’ behaviour, where people are more focused on the inherent satisfaction that an activity brings. There is a link to a quiz where you can see what behaviour type you fall into.

A few years ago I recognised that my life to that point had largely been driven by jumping through hoops. As I succeeded in each test I set myself I realised I was sadly lacking in the satisfaction I thought I would get. Instead I began to focus on making sure I was doing the things that made me happy rather than focusing on achievements (see also my blog on happiness). Striving to make sure my life is more Type I than Type X is ongoing for me.

The Resources in the toolkit section at the back of the book are amazing. I particularly liked the twitter book summary: ‘Carrots and sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose’.

There are also chapters on applying the thinking to your own motivation, to the motivation of your team in the workplace, to how people should be remunerated (my boyfriend who works in sales compensation bought the book for this purpose and then lent it to me), and to parenting. There’s also a great reading list (which of course I loved), and a fantastic brief recap of the argument of the whole book chapter by chapter. It strikes me any report that I am involved with at work should really have this, as it’s a really good discipline to make sure your structure is right and that your argument flows.

I plan to try and apply the insight in Drive to my working life – I think it’s going to be really valuable.