Drive Book Summary

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A book by Daniel Pink

Have you ever struggled to keep your motivation up? I certainly have. In this book, you will learn a lot about motivation. You will gain an understanding of what is killing your inner driving force and what carrots and sticks have to do with it.

Drive Book Summary

Daniel Pink worked as an editor for the online magazine Wired and carries a Bachelor of Arts degree in Linguistics. Pink had been the chief speechwriter for Al Gore. Therefore alone, he knows a lot about motivation. So, if you want to learn how to motivate, then this book is for you. Read the book if you have employees working for you.   These are the things I learned by reading the Blinks:

  • External rewards are bad
  • Use perfectionism as a motivational tool
  • Praise the effort, not the talent

This post is based on the Blinks I listened to while walking to work. I learn from Blinkist’s content each and every day. So if you enjoy this post, you will like their content even more. Check out Blinkist; I highly recommend their service to you.

Key Ideas

Daniel Pink speaks of two different kinds of motivation: Motivation 1.0 and Motivation 2.0.

In the old ages, humans had only one driving force: survival. Also labeled as Motivation 1.0 by the author.

Since the industrial age, man started to rely on what Daniel Pink calls Motivation 2.0: extrinsic motivation.

Motivation 2.0 is known by us as the carrot and the stick. The carrot being the reward and the stick the punishment.

In our modern work environments, the workers are labeled as not being eager when they do not respond to the stick and the carrot. Therefore, the managers think they need to be in control of these innately unmotivated workers.

Today, workers in most companies are motivated through incentives and sanctions.

There is a better type of motivation, called Motivation 3.0, the intrinsic motivation.

An example of Motivation 3.0 in action is the Wikipedia project. Thousands of people help to write and improve articles for Wikipedia. But why? Surely not because survival is a driving force. You do not get a carrot as a reward, and you will not receive punishment if you do not help to improve Wikipedia. The answer is that those volunteers have intrinsic motivation.

If you are intrinsically motivated, you do not need somebody to tell you what you should work on. Or at what time you should carry out your profession. You do not need a director. You make your contribution because you enjoy doing it.

External incentives are often detrimental to the goal you want to achieve. There was an experiment conducted where people should hit targets with a ball. Participants were paid different amounts of money if they succeeded. We would expect that those candidates who get paid best would also perform best. But the experiment showed those receiving the highest payment hit the lowest number. It seems that the financial reward put too much pressure on them to perform well.

External incentives can work in certain environments, but will lead to worse results in other settings. External motivation works best when the work is routine work, like a job on an assembly line.

Punishment and reward can even lead to negative results as shown in various experiments. If you lack the internal motor but do something only for the money, or any other incentive for that matter, you will start to game the system.

Children are intrinsically motivated. You can observe this while they are playing for example. When children grow older, they somehow lose their intrinsic motivation. Experiments were conducted to examine why this happens. The findings showed that extrinsic motivation kills intrinsic motivation.

Let me repeat this: extrinsic motivation kills intrinsic motivation.

Society educates us to do things only for a reward, but not because something is fun or intriguing.

Professionals strive to get better at what they do. Photographers, for example, want to shoot better pictures. They are committed and have that inner urge to get better.

The longing to achieve perfection is an essential part of Motivation 3.0.

Painters are so concentrated that they forget the world around them. They are in a state where they forget their environment and even the sense of time. This state is called the flow state.

I do have that flow state, the author is speaking of, from time to time, when I develop software. As a kid, I experienced this state a lot while stacking my Lego bricks, for example.

People with a fixed mindset, those who believe that talent decides over what we can achieve, are hard to motivate. But persons who believe that they can improve their skills work hard to get better.

Perfection is often labeled as not being good. In Drive, the author argues that perfection is needed, because if one strives for perfection, passion and dedication will come along.

Meaningfulness is a moving power and boosts our intrinsic motivation.

Another critical component of intrinsic motivation is self-determination. The employees who can decide when they work and how they conduct their work are more motivated.

Most companies still rely on the carrot and stick motivation, although intrinsic motivation is not a secret anymore.

Creative workers do their best work when they are intrinsically motivated, as has been proved by many studies. But how can you increase intrinsic motivation? Small changes like additional attention, spontaneous praise, and constructive feedback can be useful tools.

My First Learning: External rewards are bad

One source of frustration in the workplace is the frequent mismatch between what people must do and what people can do. When what they must do exceeds their capabilities, the result is anxiety. When what they must do falls short of their capabilities, the result is boredom. But when the match is just right, the results can be glorious. This is the essence of flow.

External rewards are not good because they are killing motivation and only work in the short term. Incentives can even lead to negative behavior because we humans have the tendency to make shortcuts. So, if bankers see an opportunity to get to their bonuses quicker, they probably will, even if high risks are involved.

Managers should replace external rewards, like bonus payments, by more meaningful work. Giving meaning to work spurs intrinsic motivation.

My Second Learning: Use perfectionism as a motivational tool

Effort is one of the things that gives meaning to life. Effort means you care about something, that something is important to you, and you are willing to work for it. It would be an impoverished existence if you were not willing to value things and commit yourself to working toward them. — Carol Dweck

I always have seen perfectionism as a bad thing, because I will never get to the point where I consider my work as being perfect and therefore will never ship it, or reveal it to the public. My mantra has been more of the sort good enough is good enough.

It is a compelling thought that striving for perfectionism is a good thing because it adds passion and dedication to what you do.

My Third Learning: Praise the effort, not the talent

Children who are praised for being smart often believe that every encounter is a test of whether they really are. So to avoid looking dumb, they resist new challenges and choose the easiest path. By contrast, kids who understand that effort and hard work lead to mastery and growth are more willing to take on new, difficult tasks.

I think this learning is especially important when you have children. Knowing that praising your kids for being smart will kill their motivation is important. Always try to praise your kid for the effort and not so much for being smart.


  • Whenever possible try to avoid extrinsic motivation, as it kills intrinsic motivation.
  • Make work meaningful.
  • Avoid incentives and punishment as a tool to stimulate motivation.
  • Praise the effort, not the talent.
  • Try to make what you do perfect, but still ship it.


Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Drive is a book on a fascinating topic. My main takeaway is that rewards from outside destroy your inner driving force. I had hoped to learn more about how I can find tricks to motivate myself. But if you have employees to motivate, I consider Drive a must read.

Other books by Daniel Pink are A Whole New Mind and To Sell Is Human.

Posted on CuteMachine in Productivity, Mindset

Jo's Profile ImageWritten by Jo Meenen who lives and works in Frankfurt building digital doodah. Stalk him on Twitter