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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Book Review: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

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

Did this book in audio one and a half times. I'll explain the half, I promise.

I think this book was recommended to me through someone on the Personal Defense Readiness team. Certainly, the themes of the book resonate with many of the ideas and concepts that we talk about in the PDR. While the book is primarily directed at a business audience, the concepts are general enough that they are applicable to anyone, including martial artists.

The central thesis of Drive is this: the commonly held view of motivation is incorrect, and ultimately, self-defeating. Rather than focusing on extrinsic rewards as a motivator, Pink argues that we need to focus on intrinsic motivation. To support this thesis, Pink draws on a number of psychological studies and research papers, along with numerous examples of businesses that have experimented with alternative ways of structuring themselves to successfully motivate employees.

The book begins with Pink outlining his view of motivation as being composed of three progressively better "operating systems".  Motivation 1.0 is basic survival needs: you are motivated to do something because if you don't, you will die. Motivation 2.0 is focused on rewards and punishments (which Pink calls carrots and sticks), to produce results. It is, according to Pink, the most common motivational tool, but an extremely limited one. Motivation 3.0 focuses on internal or intrinsic motivation, which Pink argues produces better, more effective results than the other two.

The book begins with Pink outlining the issues that he sees in the Motivation 2.0 paradigm (the rewards and punishment model). A large part of his argument is centered around the idea that these rewards and punishments don't really affect long-term behavior: they can be very effective in causing short-term changes, but once the reward is achieved, the motivation dies with it. I couldn't help but think about the endless complaint of martial arts instructors who observe that students will earn a black belt, and then promptly stop training. There's an assumption that the problem is in the student, but Drive suggests the problem might be in the model. If students are taught to chase belts, when the chase ends, there's nothing left to motivate them.

The next section of the book outlines the essential characteristics of Pink's Motivation 3.0: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. The emphasis on the importance of seeking mastery resonates with the work of George Leonard, Dan John, and Pavel among others, and has a lot of import for coaches and students of the martial arts. The idea of having purpose is similarly resonant.

Pink's emphasis on the importance of autonomy is interesting, as autonomy is one thing that is usually absent from most martial arts training. Many people may train with purpose and mastery in mind, but they still do it the way Sensei tells them too. Rare is the teacher who lets his students direct the flow of a class, or an entire course of study. There's good reasons for that, at times (it's hard to have someone who doesn't know anything direct themselves), but it's interesting to consider.

The last chunk of the book is devoted to the "Type I" toolkit--essentially, it's a big annotated bibliography. This is the part where I stopped listening on the second go around, not because it's bad, necessarily, but I just didn't feel like listening to it again. It mostly functions as a "further resources" list, and I'd just as soon use my time checking out those resources as I would re-listening to the list of them.

All in all, Drive is an interesting book. While it's clearly written for a business audience, the ideas about motivation and how it works are very transferable to the coaching realm, and worth thinking about. Check this one out.

Further Reading

The "Type I Reading List" is a group of books suggested by Pink for those interested in exploring his ideas further.

Pink's TED Talk on Motivation

[A personal request: if this review induced you to buy this book, please consider clicking on the link above to do it. Yes, I get some small fraction of profit off of you doing so, but hey, I convinced you to buy the book...that should mean something, right?]


Maija said...

I like autonomy as a motivator, though it is probably the hardest to run with as it implies taking full responsibility for self, gasp!

I think mastery is viewed by many as a carrot, a destination, not an on going process, and 'purpose' ... That one is even harder in martial arts to sustain. I mean I have accepted I do what I do (this out of date esoteric weirdness with swords) because .... apparently I am fascinated by it ... because I'm still doing it.
Perhaps it's always the next question that begs for an answer that keeps me moving? Mystery perhaps and the tantalizing prospect of discovery ...?
Hard to say, but I do know that it's way more fun when one gets to interact with others on the same quest

Jake said...

Yeah, autonomy is a very tough one, especially in activity that many people seem to view as a "hobby". Why that translates to "spoon feed me the info", I don't know, but it seems to.

Pink describes mastery as an "asymptote" - something to be constantly sought, but never reached. It is a fascinating journey, with a lot of bumps along the way.

It's always nice to find others on the same path.