AGL 010: Book Review: Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Dan Pink gave what might be one of my favorite TED talks of all time as he explained the puzzle of motivation (It’s also one of the most viewed with over 14 million views at the time of this posting).  This talk made me want to read his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. This book changed the way I motivate my employees and teams.  It also inspired me to use the information in the book to motivate not only the people that reported to me, but others above me, and to the right and to the left.

I liked this book and Dan’s TED Talk so much that I incorporated it in my own TEDx Talk in 2015.  In this book Dan tells us that our thoughts on motivation are wrong and that business doesn’t do what science shows it should do.  Dan talks about several research studies that have been done on the science behind motivation.  Motivating others is a huge part of leadership.  Leaders are required to influence others.  There are 2 ways to influence others, either to manipulate them or inspire them. Dan states that we can use Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose to inspire and motivate others.


Humans are designed to be self-directed.  I have a 5 year old and an 1.5 year old… I see it first hand.  The innate desire for people to control themselves is real and starts from the time kids can crawl. There are some ideas in this book that I don’t necessarily agree with 100%, but that’s just because I haven’t tried them yet.  There’s an idea of a ROWE, Results-Only Work Environment, where people don’t have schedules and they do what they want, when they want and they are only held accountable by their results. I think this might work for Sales, but I don’t see how it could work for jobs that require heavy teamwork and communication, like project management or software development, but maybe I’m wrong.  But you can motivate others, by giving them freedom and holding them accountable to high standards.  Give your people autonomy over Task; What they do, Time; When they do it; Team, Who they do it with; and Technique, How they do it.


Mastery is being Good at something that matters.  In software development its about giving your team the tools and opportunity to learn and work with the latest and greatest.  In this book Dan Pink says that Mastery abides by three rules: Master is a mindset – you must have the ability to see your skills as improvable. Master is a pain – its hard work and requires effort, and determination, its a process not a project.  Master is an asymptote – its not possible to fully achieve, so it can be frustrating.


Purpose was the hardest for me.  This book talks about purpose is not being about profits, but more about being part of something bigger than yourself and making a difference.  For me it was hard to find that in my work, but I did find it eventually.  Stepping away from this text, I came up with my own formula for finding purpose, its perspective plus teamwork.  For me and my team, we served together and that made a huge difference in our purpose.  We also adopted the mission statement of “Making Life Easier” and applied to all work we do.

To buy this Drive on Amazon, click here.