Summary of Drive by Daniel H. Pink

Wikipedia killed Microsoft Encarta and Britanica isn’t competitive with Wikipedia. What motivation drives so many humans to create and contribute without any traditional financial reward model?  For-profit businesses benefit by finding out why this happens.  Drive is a guide on why Google’s 20%, Facebook’s 24-hour Hackathons3M’s personal bootlegging time, and Wikipedia existence generate so much passionate and successful work.  Pink repeats the answer several times: Science already knows a lot about motivation and behavior which most businesses have yet to understand about us humans.  Pink then gives a summary of what science knows about human motivation.
In summary, Ping gives us Humans 3 tiered motivations. Motivation 1.0 – Survival: sex, food, shelter, safety.  Mo 1.0 had its hayday for most of human evolution, because we didn’t have enough food, safety or shelter (I will sidestep the obvious joke about sex at this point).   Motivation 2.0 – Carot n’ stick of monetary rewards by external managers. Mo 2.0 really gets busy in the Industrial-Revolution.  Motivation 3.0 – Once past the baseline money all people want, Mo 3.0 kicks into high gear and asks “do I LIKE doing this work?”  1.0 must be satisfied before it will give up control, then 2.0 takes over and will dominate until a baseline reward exists (making ‘enough’ money).  After the amount to satisfy Mo2.0, additional dollars do not matter nearly as much as our desire for”Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.”  There are several convincing studies demonstrating our desire for autonomy, mastery, and purpose – some even demonstrate that monetary awards in constricted environments produce *less* results than giving the same person less money and more control over how they accomplish work.
Drive is careful to point out that Motivation 3.0 may only operate in creative, heuristic-based work.  This analytical, creative work requires self-direct and very smart people.  3.0 does not want to follow step-by-step toward a preset algorithm producing more widgets.  We want to create, not follow.  Mo 3.0 is happy when work provides 1) autonomy in our efforts; in work which 2) provides the ability to progress toward mastery of a subject; and 3) serves a purpose we can see, understand, and support.  Pink also spends a good deal of time explaining the mental zone this puts us into, called “flow.”  This concept of intentional practice is covered well in Gladwell’s book “Outliers.”  Gladwell concludes that becoming an expert in virtually any field requires 10,000 hours of intentional practice; where intentional practice is doing work with the conscious intent to get better at the skills you are using.  Gladwell also agrees with Pink’s conclusion that people will only sustain this intentional practice if there is a purpose which is clear and interesting to pursue.

Back to Google and 3M – Their unstructured employee time is always spent on heuristic solutions to problems people are insterested in solving. Algorithmic problems (step 1 through step 10) are not what people choose to figure out – because it’s already been figured out.  Heuristic problems are interesting!  This is where true creativity and interest get unlocked and motivation reaches peak performance.  For people: metrics boards or productivity reports will always lose out to interesting software problems or better ways to solve a basic human need.  Google and 3M are finding a way to take that reality, and include it within their business.  They’ve had a lot of success.  Other companies are doing some very smart things to free employees from ‘if you do this, then you get that’ reward systems.  Altassian created “Fed-Ex Days” where employees are free to choose their teams and work on any problem *they* want to solve 1 day per quarter.  This is called “Fed Ex” because you have to deliver the idea, code, or whatever next day.  The results at Atlassian were so good that very quickly it justified moving to a full 20% of engineering time moving to Fed-Ex.  This removed managers’ direction, allowed engineers to choose whom they associated with, and only had results as the requirement!  Atlassian has zero engineering turnover.  Google has 50% of its offerings coming from its “20% time.”  We humans are more productive when we have freedom to work on projects we care about; and we also get better and better at the work we do when we work on projects we care about.  It is a virtuous circle which requires little management to shepherd into the for-profit business model.

One question which Pink did not ask in Drive, but I think he should have is whether 3.0 emerged because of the Internet age.  In the last 20 years, finally, we’ve started to have a group of people focused on work where the ‘boss’ may not be the expert.  The differences between the assembly line and software development are pretty easy to see.  Henry Ford’s managers knew the work better than the assembly-line workers.  The managers wrote the manual.  That is not true in a highly differentiated company, where the technical expert is the person closest to the problem.  At least in some areas of technology, this difference has actually reduced the difference in wages/income between front line work and managers.  That is not to say workers everywhere, but specific to technology direct managers do not make 2-3 times employees, as is common in Mo2.0 work environments. Often I am surprised why mgrs would make more, or perhaps the future will actually invert the benefits to the most technically capable.  This rise in income for front-line info/tech workers may also be driving the some of the emergence of Mo 3.0.  I wish Pink had investigated this question, becuase info on this would really be interesting.
Personality Test to see where you fall on Drive’s continuum of motivation.
If the topic of human motivation in the Internet age or software creation is interesting, you should read Drive.  If you do not think people will organize outside of direct-profit motive, you have missed out on what is happening, and you should immediate go and buy a copy of FREE, summarized here.   Chris Anderson will do an excellent job of explaining how the future is already arriving, and you need to understand creative people a lot of software development is already finding ways around the direct “if I do this, then I get that” payment models.  Both models will continue to exist, so paying attention to the new one seems very important.    The 10 minute of Pink’s DRIVE animated video summary is great.  Pink’s talk on motivation at TED is also 50 minutes well spent.   Both cover the topic of Functional Fixedness, and money rewards causing negative results in comparison with other appoaches on heuristic, creative work.  Functional Fixedness and the findings on it, are one of the most robust and repeated experiments in management social sciences, if you ignore it, you are missing something big.
By way of follow up, Alan Murray wrote an excellent piece in the WSJ, which makes the point that costs of association (find the right like minded people) and transactions (price, package, advertise, sell, insure, design, build, etc) are both going down drastically in the internet age. the reason we have corporations is to reduce the costs…but these costs are going down rapidly… Since these costs are going down, it is fair to ask if large corporations are the right vehicle to continue to generate value.  Great questions….And a book to cover it in more depth (it’s on order, look for Amazon review soon!).  couple of quick quotations from Mr. Murray’s article:
  • The big companies Mr. Christensen studied failed, not necessarily because they didn’t see the coming innovations, but because they failed to adequately invest in those innovations. To avoid this problem, the people who control large pools of capital need to act more like venture capitalists, and less like corporate finance departments. They need to make lots of bets, not just a few big ones, and they need to be willing to cut their losses.
  • Corporations are bureaucracies and managers are bureaucrats. Their fundamental tendency is toward self-perpetuation. They are, almost by definition, resistant to change. They were designed and tasked, not with reinforcing market forces, but with supplanting and even resisting the market.
  • The resource allocation problem is one Google has tried to address with its “20%” policy. All engineers are allowed to spend 20% of their time working on Google-related projects other than those assigned to them. The company says this system has helped it develop innovative products, such as Google News. Because engineers don’t have to compete for funds, the Google approach doesn’t have the discipline of a true marketplace, and it hasn’t yet proven itself as a way to generate incremental profits. But it does allow new ideas to get some attention.
  • The “innovator’s dilemma” applies to management, as well as technology

I just ordered Mr. Murray’s book, and you can too – look for a review soon.


About paulscho36

I like to simplify software. I love people who actually deliver software.
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3 Responses to Summary of Drive by Daniel H. Pink

  1. Pingback: Focus on results – reward results, not facetime. | The Sound Bite Age

  2. Pingback: Innovation and the large enterprise | The Sound Bite Age

  3. Pingback: Middle Management cowering in the 21st Century | The Sound Bite Age

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