Home All Upgrading the Motivation Operating System: Drive: (Book Review)

Upgrading the Motivation Operating System: Drive: (Book Review)

written by Louisa Jewell 16 May 2011

Louisa Jewell, MAPP '09, is president of Positive Matters and a consultant, facilitator and speaker who works with organizations around the world to develop positive leaders and nurture productive teams. Listen to Louisa's podcasts on positive matters, collected from a radio show she hosted. Full bio.

Louisa's PositivePsychologyNews.com articles are here.

“For too long, there’s been a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. The goal of this book is to repair that breach.”

I became a fan of Daniel Pink’s writing after I read Free Agent Nation almost a decade ago. Drive; The Surprising Truth about What Motives Us by Daniel Pink is an intriguing and  informative read for anyone interested in learning more about human motivation.

The book is divided into three parts:

Part I : A New Operating System looks at the flaws in our reward and punishment system and proposes a new way to think about motivation.

Part II: The Three Elements examines three important drivers of intrinsic motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Part III: The Type I Toolkit is a comprehensive set of resources to help people create the conditions in which intrinsically motivated behavior (Type I) can flourish. The toolkit is almost half the book content. It is filled with book suggestions, exercises, and strategies.


In the introduction, Pink describes three drives that we have as human beings: biological (the need for food, drink, survival etc.); reward and punishment; and the third drive which is doing things for the pure enjoyment and satisfaction of performing the task. He claims that it is this kind of drive we need to tap into if we really want to motivate people in today’s world.

Carrots and Sticks

Carrots and Sticks

Pink argues that motivating people with carrots or sticks, which he calls Motivation 2.0, does not always work when people have more conceptual and creative tasks. Carrots and sticks actually decrease intrinsic motivation in the long term. He associates Motivation 2.0 with Type X behavior – behavior that is fueled by extrinsic desires. The Motivation 3.0 operating system is the upgrade needed to meet the challenges of work in the knowledge economy. This kind of work depends on Type I behavior which is fueled by the inherent satisfaction of performing the activity itself.

Pink turns to studies performed by Edward Deci who discovered that when money was used as an external reward for some activities, the study participants lost intrinsic interest in the activity. Deci found that rewards do deliver a short-term boost, but the effect wears off and – worse – reduces participants’ longer-term motivation to continue the activity.

Pick Me! Pick Me!

Punished by Rewards

This is an important finding especially for those who believe in giving children incentives for learning. Alfie Kohn, in his book Punished by Rewards, warns against giving incentives to children for good behavior or good grades because these incentives only produce temporary obedience and are ineffective over the long run. Drawing from hundreds of studies, Kohn argues that…“Rewards turn play into work, and work into drudgery.”

Pink also cites the work of Teresa Amabile who found that external rewards and punishments work nicely for some tasks, such as algorithmic tasks in which you follow a set of established instructions down a single path to one conclusion – much like working as a cashier at a grocery store. Amabile found that a carrots and sticks approach was devastating for the motivation of people performing heuristic tasks, in which you need to devise a novel solution that requires at least some creative thought.

As our work has become more creative and less routine, it is important for leaders to recognize that new ways of thinking about motivation need to be considered.

3 Essential Elements of Motivation

Mainly drawing from the work of Richard Ryan and Edward Deci, Pink describes three essential elements for motivating people:

Autonomy: Providing people with freedom and flexibility to choose how, when, and where they complete their work. Pink writes about a computer software company called Meddius that has created a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). People come and go as they please. As a result, productivity has increased, and stress has declined.

Mastery: People have a desire to get better at what they do. Assigning them a FLOW type formula where the work they are doing is matched to their skillset but challenging enough to allow them to stretch and grow, will improve intrinsic motivation.

Purpose: This is really our yearning to be part of something larger than ourselves. People desire work that gives meaning to their lives.

Leaders who can create a culture and a working environment that incorporate all three of these elements will cultivate a more motivated workforce.

Show me the money

Do not give up on incentives just yet…

There are others who would disagree with Pink. Researchers at The International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) performed a meta-analysis that indicated that it is not that incentives don’t work, but that incentive plans are not always implemented correctly. Often incentive plans are not designed to elicit the performance improvement outcomes that companies are looking for. Even Teresa Amabile admits that extrinsic motivators can be conducive to creativity when used properly.

Also, Pink states that 70% of the growth of new jobs will require more of this right-brain type thinking, but a good percentage of our labor force still performs algorithmic tasks. You can see this, for example, in the make up of the Canadian economy .


I found the toolkit to be extremely rich with great ideas for rethinking motivation in the workplace. Pink helps us to understand when incentives work and when they don’t. He challenges the conventional wisdom that everyone is driven by money. I would recommend this book for its eye-opening perspectives. Pink’s writing is not only informative and interesting, but highly entertaining. He does not disappoint.

  See Daniel Pink’s engaging TED talk here. There’s also an RSA animate video about the book, Drive included below:




Amabile, Teresa. (1996). Creativity In Context: Update To The Social Psychology Of Creativity. Boulder, Co: Westview Press.

Deci, E.L, (1971). Effects of Externally Mediated Rewards on intrinsic motivation, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 18.

Deci, E.L, (1972). Intrinsic Motivation, Extrinsic Reinforcement, and Inequity, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 22.

Deci, E.E., Ryan, R.M., and Koestner, R. (1999). A Meta-Analytic Review of Experiments examining the Effects of Extrinsic Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation, Psychological Bulletin, 125, no. 6.

Kohn, A., (1999). Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Pink, Daniel (2010). Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Riverhead Trade.

Stolovitch,Harold D., Clark, Richard E., and Condly, Steven J.(2002). Incentives, Motivation and Workplace Performance: Research & Best Practices. Research sponsored by The International Society for Performance Improvement and funded by The Incentive Research Foundation. Paper found here.

Carrot + Stick courtesy of opensourceway
Show me the money courtesy of Courtenay Carmody
Pick Me! Pick Me! courtesy of cole24_

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Margaret Greenberg 16 May 2011 - 2:30 pm

Thank you Louisa for a well-written summary of Pink’s new book. I just finished reading it over the weekend. I loved how he cites the research and then offers practical advice (much like Profit from the Positive that I’m co-authoring with Senia). I already emailed two clients on the notion of “encore careers” that he writes about. Now, instead of just recommending the book to clients, I have a book review I can send them – thank you!

Louisa Jewell 16 May 2011 - 8:08 pm

Thank you Margaret. I am looking forward to reading Profit from the Positive when it comes out!

oz 17 May 2011 - 8:55 am

Louisa – I’m glad you put the reality check in place re incentives. Pinks model only applies if )a you are paid enough and b) your role requires heuristic thinking. So it might apply to less than 5% of the workforce at a guess?

His thoughts are interesting but not that relevant

Louisa Jewell 18 May 2011 - 8:13 am

Hello Oz,
Yes, I think Pink’s ideas are interesting and entertaining but we also have to be practical and know what works in the real world. Also, when certain industries pay incentives as a standard practice, if you don’t pay incentives, it’s a de-motivator right out of the gate. I also found it interesting that the ISPI found that team incentives worked significantly better than individual incentives, making us think that there is something about peer pressure or wanting to be a contributing participant to something greater than ourselves.
Thank you Oz.


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