· 2 min read · Features

Review of Drive: The surprising Truth of What Motivates Us, by Dan Pink


This book is better at explaining what motivation is than how to improve it, says Sean Howard, vice-president of SHL. But it provides great support and reference points for improving people management.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Author: Dan Pink
Publisher: Canongate Books
Price: £12.99
Stars: 5 out of 5

Napoleon Bonaparte famously said: "A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of coloured ribbon." For some this raises more questions than provides answers to what drives people, but it summarises the central argument outlined by Dan Pink in this excellent book - that if you want to get to bottom of why, you need to look at people's emotions.

The former speech writer to Al Gore does not surprise us when he says financial incentive is not the best way for organisations and managers to motivate an individual. There are other more deep-rooted motivational triggers that should be pulled, he says, and he is able to cite many fascinating examples, including a piece of London School of Economics research, which pieced together the results of 51 studies of performancerelated pay schemes. Pink reinforces his points with many references to both management gurus and acclaimed psychologists (Peter Drucker, Gary Hamel, Douglas McGregor et al). And the evidence he builds up is overwhelming; that the world has changed but we continue to apply the same old (and normally ineffective) practices to people management.

Drive is broadly split into two halves: the first focuses on the 'what' of motivation, with the second on the 'how'. The 'what' is the interesting part. Pink focuses on three aspects of motivation: autonomy (people want to have control over their work); mastery (people want to get better at what they do); and purpose (people want to be part of something that is bigger than they are). Sometimes his point of view and writing style is extreme. He uses a headlinegrabbing approach and it is possibly a little one-sided. But it is very effective in getting the attention of the right people - those managers and leaders for whom staff motivation is business-critical. The 'how' part of the book does tend to drift somewhat as Pink outlines his manager toolkit, but the quality and strength of the front end helps this book stand out from the crowd.

In Pink's own words: "If we bring our notions of motivation into the 21st century, if we get past this lazy, dangerous, ideology of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen our businesses ... and maybe, maybe we can change the world. I rest my case."

It's an excellent read and provides great support and reference points for those of us that try so hard to improve people management.