August 3, 2010 Tony Morgan

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

I recently finished reading Daniel Pink’s most latest book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. If you lead people, this book will probably change the way your approach leadership. The book highlights a number of scientific research projects that challenge our traditional approaches to managing and motivating employees.

Here are some of the thoughts that grabbed my attention:

  • “Rewards can perform a weird sort of behavioral alchemy: They can transform an interesting task into a drudge. They can turn play into work. And by diminishing intrinsic motivation, they can send performance, creativity, and even upstanding behavior toppling like dominoes.”
  • “For more right-brain undertakings—those that demand flexible problem-solving, inventiveness, or conceptual understanding—contingent rewards can be dangerous.”
  • “Carrots and sticks can promote bad behavior, create addiction, and encourage short-term thinking at the expense of the long view.”
  • “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.”
  • “The people on your team must have autonomy, they must have ample opportunity to pursue mastery, and their daily duties must relate to a larger purpose. If these elements are in place, the best strategy is to provide a sense of urgency and significance—and then get out of the talent’s way.”
  • “The more feedback focuses on specifics (“great use of color”)—and the more the praise is about effort and strategy rather than about achieving a particular outcome—the more effective it can be.”
  • “Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”
  • “People must be paid well and be able to take care of their families… But once a company meets this baseline, dollars and cents don’t much affect performance and motivation.”
  • “Researchers at Cornell University studied 320 small businesses, half of which granted workers autonomy, the other half relying on top-down direction. The businesses that offered autonomy grew at four times the rate of the control-oriented firms and had one-third the turnover.”
  • “Encouraging autonomy doesn’t mean discouraging accountability. Whatever operating system is in place, people must be accountable for their work.”
  • “The more that people share a common cause—whether it’s creating something insanely great, outperforming an outside competitor, or even changing the world—the more your group will do deeply satisfying and outstanding work.”

If you are interested in reading more of Pink’s insights on motivation, you can pick up Drive by following my Amazon link.

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Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

Comments (5)

  1. Hi Tony,

    I found this book fascinating too. It’s affecting some of my thoughts on parenting in addition to church leadership. One of the points he made and you hint at it with your second quote is that although contingent rewards can be damaging to creative tasks, surprise rewards are actually very motivating.

    My application was that at the end of the school year when our church says “thank you” to the children’s Sunday school teachers. We usually give them a silly little gift as a recognition. This year we surprised them with something substantive gift. A surprise reward for jobs well done in important ministry. It did wonders for our teacher recruiting for the following year!

    Thanks for highlighting an important book.

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