Skip to main content

David's notes on "Drive"

- "The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us" by Dan Pink.

What I notice first and really like is the subtle implication in the shadow of the "i" in Drive is a person taking one step in a running motion.  This brings to mind the old saying - "there is no I in TEAM".  There is however a ME in TEAM, and there is an I in DRIVE.  And when one talks about motivating a team or an individual - it all starts with - what's in it for me.


Pink starts with an early experiment with monkeys on problem solving.  Seems the monkeys were much better problem solver's than the scientist thought they should be.  This 1949 experiment is explained as the early understanding of motivation.  At the time there were two main drivers of motivation:  biological & external influences.  Harry F. Harlow defines the third drive in a novel theory:  "The performance of the task provided intrinsic reward" (p 3).  This is Dan Pink's Motivation 3.0 foundation.  The subjects found enjoyment in the task and enjoyed solving the problems for the joy it brought them. Harlow found that one could also lessen the intrinsic drive by applying common reward and punishment on top of the intrinsic drive and thereby reduce the effects of the intrinsic drive.

So science has known and verified since 1949 the concepts of intrinsic motivation.  But business has yet to comprehend this lesson.

One of the very first persons I ever hired in software development was Bob. I hired him largely because of one of his statements. Bob said, "I would do this job for nothing, I just like programming." I had already verified that Bob was a competent programmer and could do the job, but when he gave me this insight into what made him tick, I knew instantly that he would be the person to hire. I never had to motivate Bob, just point him toward a problem we needed a program to solve and he came up with a solution. We also paid him.

Chapter 1  The Rise and Fall of Motivation 2.0

Opens with the contest of Microsoft's MSN Encarta vs Wikipedia.  Encarta with all the backing of the worlds largest corporation is now defunct, closed, nonexistent; while Wikipedia continues to grow and prosper.  What could possible explain this?  Answer: the power of intrinsic motivation and a good cause, with a touch of benevolent dictatorial leadership.

The Industrial Revolution was powered by the Motivation 2.0 (reward & punishment) methods.  Frederick W. Taylor's scientific management was created to drive the industrial complex, it is based on the carrot and stick (Motivation 2.0).  It served Ford very well in his creation of the assembly line.

See Also: Esko Kilpi's article on Productivity Revolutions - Medium. An interesting view of Taylor the socialist and troublemaker. And a prediction that "technological augmentation" is going be the next revolution in productivity for the knowledge worker.

Interesting that Taylor leads off his paper on the Scientific Management method by quoting President Theodore Roosevelt. The President said that "The conservation of our national resources is only preliminary to the larger question of national efficiency." In this Taylor takes up the great man's example of a leader and turns it into a method of leadership that does not require the great man (nor the great man theory).  Taylorism's main objective was to improve economic efficiency via labor productivity.  What we now call "working harder through doing more with less."

Pink notes that Abraham Maslow was a former student of Harry Harlow at Univ. of Wisconsin.  It is Maslow that is famous for man's hierarchy of needs (1943, A Theory of Human Motivation).

In the 1950's Fred Herzberg developed his Two-Factor Theory of Motivation.

In the 1960s the MIT management professor Douglas McGregor used Maslow's work to inform the business world that people were complex beings and required a more complex model than a two dimensional carrot or stick model to motivate them effectively.  McGregor developed the Theory X and Theory Y model.

I find it interesting that McGregor coined the term "Human Resource" thereby degrading all people to a fungible commodity in an accountant's ledger.  Where as he proposed a theory of management that would have Leader's treat people with respect and empower them to do their job well (Theory Y).  I've also read that he developed both theories as strawman theories and assumed more would be developed.  I guess no one bothered to stand up another theory after Y.  Dan Pink refers to McGregor's modest improvement to business's understanding as Motivation 2.1.

Motivation 2.0 leaves us with three "incompatibility problems."    "How we organize what we do; how we think about what we do; and how we do what we do" (p 21).

McKinsey Quarterly estimates that the US now gets only 30% of job growth from algorithmic work and 70% from heuristic work.

Dan Ariely - author of Predictably Irrational - TED speaker  addresses the band-aid problem: to rip it off quickly or slowly?

Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School has found that external rewards and punishments (carrot & sticks) work well with algorithmic tasks.  However these same motivation techniques have devastating effects for heuristic tasks.  "Amabile calls it the intrinsic motivation principle of creativity, which holds, in part: 'Intrinsic motivation is conductive to creativity; controlling extrinsic motivation is detrimental to creativity.'" In other words, the central tenets of Motivation 2.0 may actually impair performance of the heuristic, right-brain work on which modern economies depend" (p 30).

 Chapter 2:  Seven Reasons Carrots and Sticks (Often) Don't Work.

A review of Newton's first law of motion:  A object in motion will stay in motion, and an object at rest will stay at rest, unless acted on by an outside force.  Is motivation of humans a law of nature or is it something of a completely different nature entirely?  Pink reasons that even the great Issac Newton didn't get the law of motion correct in all scales of the universe and evokes Quantum Mechanics of the absurdity small world of quarks as proof.  Then reasons that perhaps we need a new law.  "When rewards and punishments encounter our third drive [intrinstic motivation], something akin to behavioral quantum mechanics seems to take over and strange things begin to happen" (p 35).

The Sawyer Effect:  some practices can transform work into play - and - rewards can transmute play into work (a double edged effect).

The name is taken from Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Aunt Polly's fence painting episode.  Tom transforms the painting of the fence into intrinsic motivation and is then begged to allow his friends to paint.  Twain's principle: "that work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do" (p 36).

Behavioral scientists have known about the double edged sward of the Sawyer Effect for 40 years.  See Edward Deci sutdy at CMU (p 5).

The Hidden Cost of Rewards  1978, edited by Mark R. Lepper & David Greene.
These guys studied pre-schoolers and their play - when the rewards turned play into work the students wouldn't play any more - see page 38.  Repeated experiments showed "over and over again, [...] that extrinsic rewards - in particular, contingent, expected, 'if-then' rewards - snuffed out the third drive" (p 39).

Alfie Kohn's Punished by Rewards (1993) reports this profound knowledge that is so often overlooked.

There is even evidence that higher rewards lead to lower performance.  See p. 40 - 41 Higher Performance.

Like rewards, goals may also have a weird behavior when applied in as Motivation 2.0 business would have them used.  Several well known business school professors write that: "Goals that people set for themselves and that are devoted to attaining mastery are usually healthy.  But goals imposed by others - sales targets, quarterly returns, standardized test scores, and so on - can sometimes have dangerous side effects" (p 50).  They suggest that goals should come with the warning label: "Goals may cause systematic problems for organizations due to narrowed focus, unethical behavior, increased risk taking, decreased cooperation, and decreased intrinsic motivation. Use care when appling goals in your organization."

See page 52 for why fines for tardness may not get people to your meetings on time - it decreases their intrinsic desire for punctuality and shifts the tardness to a transactional cost.  Punishment doesn't promote good behavior - it diminishes a sense of the group norm.

... more to come ... still reading the book ...

See RSA's rendering of Dan's speech, one of my all time favorite videos.

Was responding to a request for a beginning Product Manager's first books...  here's further reading:

A.H. Maslow, A Theory of Human Motivation, Psychological Review 50(4) (1943):370-96.

Bradford C. Johnson, james M. manyika, and Lareina A. Yee, "The Next Revolution in Interaction," McKinsey Quarterly 4 (2005): 25-26.

Related posts:

Drive: How we Used Daniel Pink’s Work to Create a Happier, More Productive Work Place - InfoQ by David Mole

A trick for motivating people


Most Popular on Agile Complexification Inverter

Exercise:: Definition of Ready & Done

Assuming you are on a Scrum/Agile software development team, then one of the first 'working agreements' you have created with your team is a 'Definition of Done' - right?

Oh - you don't have a definition of what aspects a user story that is done will exhibit. Well then, you need to create a list of attributes of a done story. One way to do this would be to Google 'definition of done' ... here let me do that for you: Then you could just use someone else's definition - there DONE!

But that would be cheating -- right? It is not the artifact - the list of done criteria, that is important for your team - it is the act of doing it for themselves, it is that shared understanding of having a debate over some of the gray areas that create a true working agreement. If some of the team believes that a story being done means that there can be no bugs found in the code - but some believe that there can be some minor issues - well, then yo…

Do You Put “CSM” After Your Name?

I’ve noticed a new trend—people have been gaining titles. When I was younger, only doctors had initials (like MD) after their names. I always figured that was because society held doctors, and sometime priests (OFM) in such high regard that we wanted to point out their higher learning. I hope it was to encourage others to apply themselves in school and become doctors also. Could it have been boastful?

The Wikipedia describes these “post-nominal initials”:
Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, are letters placed after the name of a person to indicate that the individual holds a position, educational degree, accreditation, office, or honor. An individual may use several different sets of post-nominal letters. The order in which these are listed after a name is based on the order of precedence and category of the order. That’s good enough for me.
So I ask you: is the use of CSM or CSP an appropriate use of post-nominal initials?
If your not an agilista, you may wonder …

Agile Story Estimation via Dog Grooming Exercise

Practice story estimation techniques with this exercise in dog grooming.

Related Post:
Affinity Estimating: A How-To by Sterling Barton.
Dogfood David why I feel like an expert in the concept of eating one's own dogfood.
   Slideshare:  Affinity Estimation - Size 60 Stories in about 20 Minutes.
For each dog below, estimate the work effort (size) required to groom the dog.  Assuming that you have the tools and experience to groom dogs.  Grooming includes washing, drying, combing, nail clipping, and hair triming in some cases.

Start with the ever popular:
Golden Retriever (22-24 in, 50-90 lbs).

The short haired Dachshund (15-28 lbs).

The Standard Poodle (15-18in, 40-80 lbs).

Bernese Mountain Dog (25-28 in., 65-120 lbs).

German Shepherd (23-26 in, 50-90 lbs).

Yorkshire terrier (5 in, <10 lbs).

Beagle (13-16 in, 18-35 lbs).

Boxer (26-31 in, 55-110 lbs).

Bulldog (40-55 lbs).

Labrador Retriever (21-25 in, 55-130 lbs).

Great Dane (28-38 in, 120-200 lbs).

Komondor (25-32 in, 90-130 lbs).

Situational Leadership II Model & Theory

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought the technique needed to move forward was one thing, yet the person leading (your leader) assumed something else was what was needed?  Did you feel misaligned, unheard, marginalized?  Would you believe that 54% of all leaders only use ONE style of leadership - regardless of the situation?  Does that one style of leading work well for the many levels of development we see on a team?

Perhaps your team should investigate one of the most widely used leadership models in the world ("used to train over 5 million managers in the world’s most respected organizations").  And it's not just for the leaders.  The training is most effective when everyone receives the training and uses the model.  The use of a ubiquitous language on your team is a collaboration accelerator.  When everyone is using the same mental model, speaking the same vernacular hours of frustration and discussion may be curtailed, and alignment achieved, outcomes …