Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink (Book Review)

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
by Daniel H. Pink

Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group
2009
242 pages

You need to read Drive if you fit into any of these categories:

1. You supervise or manage people. (If you're a parent, that includes your kids. If you're a teacher, that includes your students.)

2. You want to supervise or manage people.

3. You've ever been supervised or managed.

Did I miss anyone?  Good, because Drive is a book that almost everyone can benefit from reading.  And Daniel Pink just so happens to have written an enjoyable nonfiction read. 

After reading Drive, there's no need for traditional management books.  The theories we learned in Management 101 on how to motivate people are obsolete, outdated, and oh-so-nineteenth and twentieth century. As the book jacket says, "most of us believe that the best way to motivate ourselves and others is with external rewards like money - the carrot-and-stick approach."   I have a job that needs to be done.  You need money.  I pay you.  If you don't do the job the way I expect and to my exact specifications, there are repercussions.  Hence, you become a cog in the wheel. You do as you're told without any creativity or innovation.  Your attitude becomes one of resentment.  Your motivation and morale is shot to hell. 

This is old-school thinking, a mindset that was fine and worked well back in the manufacturing and industrialized economies of the day.  But our jobs (the ones that are left, anyway) are ones that have evolved into ones that demand more higher-level skills and thinking, more interaction with people and more on-the-spot judgment calls. 

Managers fail to see that the traditional management theories aren't working because they don't know any better.  Managers believe (and many still do) that this is the way to keep people in line, to get them to work harder, to earn their loyalty.  As an example, how many of you have a boss who practices "management by walking around"?  That sounds all fine and well and good, all progressive and in touch with one's employees and their issues, but what does this really accomplish?  Nothing - except making you feel like you're on a leash, that you can't possibly leave work at 4:45 p.m. instead of 5:00 in order to catch your kid's school play because the boss might choose that exact moment to stop by.

Tell me how that motivates people to do their best work again? 

Pink says there's a better way.  "The secret to high performance and satisfaction - at work, at school, and at home - is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world." (from the book jacket).  We need autonomy (over our task, our time, our technique, and our team), mastery, and purpose.

I happen to believe this is true - and truthfully? That this isn't really all that surprising of a concept. 

In Drive, Daniel Pink gives real-life examples of companies and CEOs who have figured this stuff out.  He shows us corporations that not only allow their employees to telecommute or work truly flexible schedules, but who embrace concepts like FedEx Days and 20% Time. These are initiatives, endorsed by top leadership, where employees are given the freedom to spend 20% of their time on a project of their choice.  He argues - and proves - that some of the most innovative products (and ones that often have a very positive effect on the corporate bottom line) are ones that were developed not because a boss said "I want you to produce this widget, in this certain size, in this color, etc. etc.) but instead because someone had the time and the freedom to create, to tinker, to explore possibilities. 

Pink drills down even further. He gives very practical examples of how these practices can be implemented in any organization - specific to the business world, the classroom, and the household.  He provides reading lists and websites.  He even provides a Twitter-ready summary of the book ("Carrots and sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery, and  purpose.")

This will go onto my list as among my best nonfiction books I've read this year. 

Have you read Drive? If so, what were your thoughts?

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