Book Review: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

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Click to see Goodreads review

I just finished reading ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’ by Daniel H. Pink, and though the truth isn’t all that surprising, we have not made many changes in the classroom or the workplace to motivate people. How do you create an environment that promotes intrinsic motivation? What motivates you?

We may not realize this but the dangling carrots of the ‘if-then’ contingency is causing us more harm than good. Numerous studies have shown that when rewards are given in an ‘if-then’ contingency, human performance worsens, they take longer to complete a task and even crushes creativity.

Humans seem to perform even better when the rewards or the dangling carrots are removed. They are intrinsically motivated. The best example is the Wikipedia phenomenon, where everything is written completely voluntarily for nothing in return, no incentive, no reward, yet it is now the most widely contributed and widely used encyclopedia worldwide since Encarta – a paid service, with limited articles which quickly become outdated. Their contributors may be more qualified and professional and knowledgeable, as they are paid to write the articles. Wikipedia, on the other hand, allows anyone to contribute articles easily to their site and is continually updated by the public. Their information and sources may not be as accurate as Encarta, but this doesn’t stop anyone from using it for quick references.

Open source is such a successful business model now that it is baffling to economists how they continue to sustain themselves when people work for free, offer the product free for the public when it actually costs contributors their own money to do the work! Why? It’s all about intrinsic motivation. We find enjoyment, fulfillment and purpose in the work, that we do not need external rewards to motivate us.

Though the truth is not all that surprising, it is frustrating that we do not implement what we know to be true in the workplace or the classrooms. It is so easy for us to fall back to the carrot and stick, reward and punishment model even though we know it doesn’t work.

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