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Drive - Book summary

Reward “good” behaviours and punish “bad” behaviours – that’s the carrot-and-stick approach to motivation that most of us are familiar with. In “Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us”, Daniel Pink draws on four decades of scientific research to reveal the elements of true motivation – autonomy, mastery, and purpose. These can truly release people’s innate drive to improve productivity and fulfillment.  In this Drive book summary, we’ll summarize some of the key highlights from the book, with an overview of ingredients for intrinsic motivation or drive. For more details, do get a copy of the book or our full book summary bundle.

drive summary - book summary bundle

Societies as Operating Systems

Like computers, societies have operating systems – our laws and social-economic frameworks are built on assumptions of how things work and how humans behave. Pink traces how these underlying assumptions (and consequently society’s operating systems) have evolved over time:
Daniel Pink Drive summary_Operating SystemsFor the 21st century, Daniel Pink recommends a full upgrade to the “third drive” or Motivation 3.0, which is built on the assumption that, besides biological urges and extrinsic motivation, humans also have a desire to learn, to create, and to make the world a better place. In short, it recognizes the power of intrinsic motivation.

The Three Elements of Motivation 3.0

Self-Determination Theory (SDT)

Motivation 3.0 is built on the self-determination theory (SDT), which says that human beings have an innate drive to be autonomous, self-determined and connected. If we focus on creating environments where this drive can be expressed, people are more productive, fulfilled and happy. To create such an environment, you need to focus on the 3 elements of intrinsic motivation.

The 3 Elements of Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation essentially involves 3 elements:
• Autonomy: The desire to direct our own lives;
• Mastery: The desire to get better and better at something that matters; and
• Purpose: The desire to serve something larger than ourselves.
Daniel Pink Drive summary_intrinsic motivationIn the book, Pink elaborates on how you can inject all 3 components into the workplace to unleash the inner drive.  You can also get more details at a glance with our complete 9-page summary.

Buy the book for details on how to unleash your inner drive!

The Role of Extrinsic Rewards

While tapping on intrinsic motivation can truly release people’s innate drive to improve productivity and fulfillment, it doesn’t  mean that we should do away with extrinsic rewards altogether.  We’ll now take a closer look at the importance of “baseline rewards” and how to tailor the right rewards to match a job.

When and How to Use Carrots and Sticks

Rewards (especially contingent or “if-then” rewards) tend to narrow our focus. This is helpful for mundane or algorithmic tasks but could hinder right-brain thinking or creative solutions.

The Starting Point : Baseline rewards

“Baseline rewards” (like salary, some perks and benefits) are pre-requisites to motivation, i.e. people must minimally be paid a fair and equitable amount. Without a healthy baseline, there is no motivation to speak of. However, beyond that baseline, money or carrots and sticks can actually dampen rather than increase motivation.

Digest these powerful insights at a glance with our book summary and infographic!


Using rewards effectively

The key is match the right type of rewards to the job.

If then-rewards can be effective for people performing routine, dull tasks that involve only mechanical skills.  Check out our full book summary for additional tips on how to apply such rewards to boost performance.

Now-then rewards: For non-routine conceptual tasks, offer “now-then” rewards, i.e. offer rewards as a surprise or bonus after the task is completed. This is assuming the basic compensation and the 3 elements of autonomy, mastery and larger purpose are already in place. Again, do check out our Drive book summary bundle or the book for additional tips for administering such rewards.

Other Details in “Drive”

Daniel Pink’s concept of Motivation 3.0 is built upon 4 decades of scientific research, and he shares in details many experiments and studies that support the ideas in his book. He dedicates some 80 pages of his book to the “Type I Toolkit”, which is a guide to putting his ideas into action. You can also assess if you are Type I or Type X by taking a free online assessment at

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