“Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us” by Daniel Pink

Book review by Will Wiles-Skeels, Business Manager at Kurzweil/IntelliTools

Drive The Inspiring Truth about What Motivates usI have been meaning to read Drive since it was released in 2009. After finally reading it, now I wish I had made time for it earlier. 

The basic premise of Drive is that the old science of motivation depended on a carrots-and-sticks approach. Newer studies show a better method of motivation. Pink argues that this is based on three ingredients:

  • Autonomy: the ability to work on the tasks you want, when, how, and with whom you want.
  • Mastery: requires engagement in your task, and Pink says “making progress one’s work turns out to be the single most motivating aspect of many jobs.”  
  • Purpose: contribute to a cause greater than yourself.

There is a lot of food for thought in the book about individual motivation, and ideas you may wish to try out within your organization.

While much of the book focuses on the role of motivation in the workplace, the concepts in Drive are very applicable to education. Pink helpfully includes a short section of ten ideas for parents and educators to apply the themes presented in Drive. The link between autonomy and education was actually the portion of the book that most engaged me. Many educators will be familiar already with these ideas, such as differentiated instruction or Universal Design for Learning. Even for non-educators, Pink makes very clear the tie from autonomy to multiple means of engagement, representation, and expression. Likewise, Pink stresses their importance or relevance, and links that to his third ingredient of drive, Purpose. 

In addition to the sections applicable to student learning, educators may also see some ties to the debate on merit pay. Pink is not a fan, and his case against it is one of his more convincing. Drive lays out the case for paying a fair wage, and then avoiding monetary incentives. This keeps the focus on the intrinsic rewards of a task. Since so many teachers join the profession because they enjoy it, this is a fairly persuasive argument.

While I wish more ink had been devoted to opposing points of view – for example, Pink does not address at length how extrinsic rewards can be useful – the book was very interesting. I highly recommend it to educators. Or, if you’re looking for the short version, check out this 11 minute video on the essence of Drive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=u6XAPnuFjJc.

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