Book Review: Drive by Daniel Pink -- The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Posted in: Global Ag     

Welcome to Motivation 3.0. 

It turns out that human beings, just like computers, have operating systems that drive our behaviours.

Motivation 1.0 was about survival; our ancestors were just trying to stay alive. As the human race evolved, its OS upgraded to Motivation 2.0, which is about more than just biological urges but also the drive to seek reward and avoid punishment. 

This OS has been driving global economic progress over the last two centuries.

Now we need a new upgrade. 

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink flips the traditional notion of what motivates people on its head. 

It turns out we’re not motivated by money or power. “We’ve configured our organizations and constructed our lives around this bedrock assumption,”says Pink, who has penned five bestsellers about the changing world of work. “The way to improve performance, increase productivity and encourage excellence is to reward the good and punish the bad.”

Until it’s not. 

In Drive, Pink argues that this OS doesn’t work anymore. “Our current business operating system —which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators —doesn’t work and often does harm,”says Pink. “We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way.”

Ultimately, Pink says what we’re all after in our work is autonomy (the desire to direct our own lives), mastery (the urge to make progress and get better at something that matters) and purpose (the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves).

This isn’t just a feel-good theory. In this clever book, Pink sets out case study after case study showing that our conventional notions about motivation are totally off base.

The reason, he says, is that our motivations have changed. 

For example, scientific research has shown that beyond a certain baseline level, we are not motivated by money —but rather purpose. 

“Motivation 2.0 assumes we’re the same robotic wealth-maximizers I was taught we were a couple of decades ago,”says Pink. “But we’re intrinsically purpose maximizers.”

Extrinsic rewards such as money can perform a weird sort of behavioural alchemy, says Pink. “They can send performance, creativity and even upstanding behaviour toppling like dominoes.”

He tells us how the latest research reveals that extrinsic rewards meant to increase motivation can actually have the opposite effect. For example, a Swedish study found that 30 percent of people decided to donate blood when a small financial reward was offered, versus 52 percent when it was not.

“Adding a monetary incentive didn’t lead to more of the desired behaviour, it led to less. The reason: it tainted an altruistic act and ‘crowded out’the intrinsic desire to do something good.”

Pink’s advice to anyone paying compensation is to take money off the table.

“Think of this new approach as the Zen of Compensation,”he writes. “The more prominent salary, perks and benefits are in someone’s work life, the more they can inhibit creativity and unravel performance.”

How does all of this translate to agriculture? One could argue few industries have a stronger ‘purpose’card. Certainly many farmers would say it’s why they’re in the business.

This industry also has the ‘autonomy’aspect well covered. Most farm operators are making decisions autonomously on an hourly basis.

The key take-away from Pink’s book may be his emphasis on mastery —finding that ‘flow’in your work allows us to transcend the normal annoyances and frustrations of any job. 

As Pink puts it, “This move to accompany profit maximization with purpose maximization has the potential to rejuvenate our businesses —and remake our world.”


About the Author
Tracy Tjaden

Tjaden is a Canadian journalist who has spent the majority of her career writing and editing for magazines, primarily business-related titles.

She grew up on a farm near Winnipeg, worked at several newspapers in Canada before specializing in magazines, with a focus on business, finance and agriculture.

Tjaden was Editor of BCBusiness Magazine in Vancouver and Managing Editor of a financial magazine in New York City before returning to Winnipeg. She is currently editor of the AgAdvance Journal and agadvance online, and can be reached at


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