Saturday, March 6, 2010

"Drive - The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us", a review

I want to share a little book which might positively impact your business and creative life. I just finished Dan Pink's new book "Drive - The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us". It wraps together some new and older research on cognitive science, psychology and business process thinking. You can also hear Dan speak about his new book and his ideas at his recent Ted Talk. It's captivating and illuminating.

The main premise of the book is that what used to motivate us, the extrinsic carrot and the stick incentives of if you do this...then you can get that etc., or if you don't, "this" will happen to you. He says this is much less useful in today's world where people are looking for more intrinsic motivators. In fact Pink proposes Motivation 2.o based on this older view of motivation needs to be replaced by Motivation 3.0, one which recognizes the rising importance of finding a sense of personal autonomy, mastery and purpose helping to fuel our motivations and personal drive.

As Dan says, "We need an upgrade. And Science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: (1) Autonomy - the desire to direct our own lives; (2) Mastery - the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and (3) Purpose - the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves."

The book sets up this idea of Motivation 3.o by first examining Motivation 2.0 and making the case of how the carrot and sticks approach while very appropriate during the 20th century and still useful as a base today isn't enough. He talks about Type "X" people, those motivated by extrinsic rewards or motivators like financial incentives, increased prestige, role power, getting your name in print. He then shares how as we have moved into the 21st century there has been a transition from extrinsic to the intrinsic or Type "I" with the rise in volunteer ism, the phenomena of open source fed group fed media like Wikipedia, success of viral mass participation enabled by the internet through texting aid to Haiti as another recent example. People are plainly responding to more intrinsic motivations. They want more than just carrots or sticks. Dan illustrates how this "leads to stronger performance, greater health, and higher overall well-being".

During the section on Mastery, Pink speaks about the impact of "Flow" a concept championed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. We all know about Flow as it's the feeling we experience when we're in the groove on the court, painting pictures, playing music or working together where individual personalities disappear and the work magically gets done and done well. He theorized people " are most happy when they are in state of flow - state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situationl. "The flow state is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing. This is a feeling everyone has at times, characterized by by a feeling of great absorption, engagement, fulfillment and skill - and during which temporal concerns (time, ego-self, food, etc) are ignored. " (fromály_Csíkszentmihályi)

As a creative business person and someone who engages in high levels of collaborative design and interaction, whether in design charettes, business meetings or interactions with colleagues, this concept of flow is something I experience often. It's a magical place to get to where personalities disappear replaced by a focus on the design challenge at hand and finding purposeful and appropriate solutions.

That's one of the reasons why I want to share Dan Pink's book with you and its ideas. Our work lives can be filled with a sense of fulfillment, excitement and yes, at times, rapture! Please let me know what you think, if you've experienced this shift from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation in your work, creative and personal life. Does Dan Pink's Motivation 3.o resonate with what you're observing in you work and life? Tell me how. I'd be psyched to get your perspective and share it with others.


Daniel Pink said...

Thanks for the very kind review, Steve. Delighted to hear you enjoyed the book. Design charrettes are actually a really interesting dimension of both flow and team autonomy that I hadn't considered.

Dan Pink

Stephen M. Frey said...

Dan, Thanks for commenting on my post. I definitely enjoyed your book and enjoy puzzling through ways to apply it in my work as an architect.

I've really enjoyed the "flow" side of things of late, really enjoying being in the moment doing the design work I do and trusting my instincts and doing what seems right while working hard to collaborate with others on my team. This is especially important as we have begun to work with multiple design collaborators beyond our design office.

We literally bat ideas back and forth with one another via emailed drawings, sometimes using goto meeting tools, hand sketching, 3-d modeling. Ideas can get better this way by having multiple sets of eyes on the same design problems. Often I'll "box myself in" with preconceived constraints and have a collaborator devise a workaround I couldn't see and vice versa. Effective teamwork like this can keep you honest and help everyone do their best work.

Thanks for the comment. It led to further insights spurred on by your book and its themes.