Drive – thoughts on Daniel Pink’s new book

While reading Daniel Pink’s new book Drive I realized that when I am motivated in a “Motivation 3.0” way then I am also playing to my strengths.

Pink explains that the evolving component is intrinsic motivation. For creative work, we are most highly motivated when we are driven from an internal desire to learn, create, or better the world.

Which reminds me a bit of the Marcus Buckingham strengths books…. Where we are most “strong” when we are doing something that makes us feel “strong”…it’s not about talent per say. I can be talented at something but find it boring or otherwise not engaging to do.

As managers, instead of just “hoping” that an employee or team member will be self motivated, we can help others discover what is intrinsically motivating to them. And we can reward creative work in a different way than we reward more predictable work.

The book “Drive” contains quite a few helpful exercises to help us discover our internal motivators. Some of them are described in this article How to Tap into What Really Motivates You.

Pink also explains that when an external motivator like a $ reward is dangled (think carrot) for creative work we actually produce less, and more slowly. The external pressure of an external reward or external deadline causes us to narrow our focus and try harder. Ironically, by narrowing our focus we are ignoring or filtering out the diversity of ideas that would lead us to a more optimized, more creative outcome.

In Tobias Mayer’s Welfare CSM class I learned the same principle firsthand. Tobias set up this ball game with tangerines…and after many iterations of improving he then started to add stress and pressure. And our ideas became frenzied and our teamwork fell apart. Then we started to check out. I know that in real life we do have deadlines, but it is helpful to know how much unreasonable pressure and  deadlines can stifle creativity and motivation.

Early in my career I was on a project to deliver a working system. It was a very big electronic system with over 100 engineers contributing. Management thought they would motivate us by promising a big bonus to us if we met a certain deadline. And we missed the deadline. It was devastating. Demotivating. One of the biggest system problems we solved much later, once the spotlight was off. I remember the fun and excitement of finding the problem and tracing the solution… teamwork was high because the pressure of the deadline was removed. And without teamwork we would not have been able to solve this very complex systems issue. An interaction of system bus timing, custom asics, and software. Even writing this I am intrigued, I want to go solve those kinds of problems, I want to work again with that team…

I also liked the part in the book “Drive” that talked about challenges. We need challenges that are “well matched to our abilities”… one of my son’s therapists taught me that we need to offer “just the right challenge” to our kids…. Too easy means no learning, too hard is demotivating. So, we need to find and set up “just the right challenge.” And so the same is true for teams and projects at work.

Which leads me to Agile and Scrum. With Scrum we set up self-organized teams and ask the teams to tell us what they will commit to complete within an iteration. The scrum team learns (over time) how much to commit to …how much is “just the right challenge”… lots of opportunities for Motivation 3.0

Anyway, Drive by Daniel Pink is a very fun read… recommended…


One Response to “Drive – thoughts on Daniel Pink’s new book”

  1. tobiasmayer Says:

    Nice post, and thanks for the mention. Certainly makes me want to read the book now.

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