Forget everything you thought you knew about how to motivate people--at work, at school, at home. It's wrong. As Daniel H. Pink explains in his new and paradigm- shattering book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, the secret to high performance and satisfaction in today's world is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.
Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does--and how that affects every aspect of our lives. He demonstrates that while the old-fashioned carrot-and-stick approach worked successfully in the 20th century, it's precisely the wrong way to motivate people for today's challenges. In Drive, he reveals the three elements of true motivation:
*Autonomy- the desire to direct our own lives
*Mastery- the urge to get better and better at something that matters
*Purpose- the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves
Along the way, he takes us to companies that are enlisting new approaches to motivation and introduces us to the scientists and entrepreneurs who are pointing a bold way forward.
Drive is bursting with big ideas-- the rare book that will change how you think and transform how you live.
The Puzzling Puzzles of
Harry Harlow and Edward Deci
In the middle of the last century, two young scientists conducted
experiments that should have changed the world— but did not.
Harry F. Harlow was a professor of psychology at the University
of Wisconsin who, in the 1940s, established one of the world’s first
laboratories for studying primate behavior. One day in 1949, Harlow
and two colleagues gathered eight rhesus monkeys for a two- week
experiment on learning. The researchers devised a simple mechanical
puzzle like the one pictured on the next page. Solving it required
three steps: pull out the vertical pin, undo the hook, and lift the
hinged cover. Pretty easy for you and me, far more challenging for a
thirteen- pound lab monkey.
Harlow’s puzzle in the starting (left) and solved (right) positions.
The experimenters placed the puzzles in the monkeys’ cages to
observe how they reacted— and to prepare them for tests of their
problem- solving prowess at the end of the two weeks. But almost
immediately, something strange happened. Unbidden by any outside
urging and unprompted by the experimenters, the monkeys began
playing with the puzzles with focus, determination, and what looked
like enjoyment. And in short order, they began figuring out how the
contraptions worked. By the time Harlow tested the monkeys on
days 13 and 14 of the experiment, the primates had become quite
adept. They solved the puzzles frequently and quickly; two- thirds of
the time they cracked the code in less than sixty seconds.
Now, this was a bit odd. Nobody had taught the monkeys how
to remove the pin, slide the hook, and open the cover. Nobody had
rewarded them with food, affection, or even quiet applause when
they succeeded. And that ran counter to the accepted notions of how
primates— including the bigger- brained, less hairy primates known
as human beings— behaved.
Scientists then knew that two main drives powered behavior. The
first was the biological drive. Humans and other animals ate to sate
their hunger, drank to quench their thirst, and copulated to satisfy
their carnal urges. But that wasn’t happening here. “Solution did not
lead to food, water, or sex gratification,” Harlow reported.1
But the only other known drive also failed to explain the monkeys’
peculiar behavior. If biological motivations came from within,
this second drive came from without— the rewards and punishments
the environment delivered for behaving in certain ways. This was
certainly true for humans, who responded exquisitely to such external
forces. If you promised to raise our pay, we’d work harder. If you
held out the prospect of getting an A on the test, we’d study longer.
If you threatened to dock us for showing up late or for incorrectly
completing a form, we’d arrive on time and tick every box. But that
didn’t account for the monkeys’ actions either. As Harlow wrote, and
you can almost hear him scratching his head, “The behavior obtained
in this investigation poses some interesting questions for motivation
theory, since significant learning was attained and efficient performance
maintained without resort to special or extrinsic incentives.”
What else could it be?
To answer the question, Harlow offered a novel theory— what
amounted to a third drive: “The performance of the task,” he said,
“provided intrinsic reward.” The monkeys solved the puzzles simply
because they found it gratifying to solve puzzles. They enjoyed it.
The joy of the task was its own reward.
If this notion was radical, what happened next only deepened the
confusion and controversy. Perhaps this newly discovered drive—
Harlow eventually called it “intrinsic motivation”— was real. But
surely it was subordinate to the other two drives. If the monkeys
were rewarded— with raisins!— for solving the puzzles, they’d no
doubt perform even better. Yet when Harlow tested that approach,
the monkeys actually made more errors and solved the puzzles less
frequently. “Introduction of food in the present experiment,” Harlow
wrote, “served to disrupt performance, a phenomenon not reported
in the literature.”
Now, this was really odd. In scientific terms, it was akin to rolling
a steel ball down an inclined plane to measure its velocity—
only to watch the ball fl oat into the air instead. It suggested that
our understanding of the gravitational pulls on our behavior was
inadequate— that what we thought were fixed laws had plenty of
loopholes. Harlow emphasized the “strength and persistence” of the
monkeys’ drive to complete the puzzles. Then he noted:
It would appear that this drive . . . may be as basic and strong
as the [other] drives. Furthermore, there is some reason to
believe that [it] can be as efficient in facilitating learning.2
At the time, however, the prevailing two drives held a tight grip on
scientific thinking. So Harlow sounded the alarm. He urged scientists
to “close down large sections of our theoretical junkyard” and
offer fresher, more accurate accounts of human behavior.3 He warned
that our explanation of why we did what we did was incomplete. He
said that to truly understand the human condition, we had to take
account of this third drive.
Then he pretty much dropped the whole idea.
Rather than battle the establishment and begin offering a more
complete view of motivation, Harlow abandoned this contentious
line of research and later became famous for studies on the science
of affection.4 His notion of this third drive bounced around the psychological
literature, but it remained on the periphery— of behavioral
science and of our understanding of ourselves. It would be two
decades before another scientist picked up the thread that Harlow
had so provocatively left on that Wisconsin laboratory table.
In the summer of 1969, Edward Deci was a Carnegie Mellon University
psychology graduate student in search of a dissertation topic.
Deci, who had already earned an MBA from Wharton, was intrigued
by motivation but suspected that scholars and businesspeople had
misunderstood it. So, tearing a page from the Harlow playbook, he
set out to study the topic with the help of a puzzle.
Deci chose the Soma puzzle cube, a then popular Parker Brothers
offering that, thanks to YouTube, retains something of a cult
following today. The puzzle, shown below, consists of seven plastic
pieces— six comprising four one- inch cubes, one comprising three
one- inch cubes. Players can assemble the seven pieces into a few million
possible combinations— from abstract shapes to recognizable
The seven pieces of the Soma puzzle unassembled (left) and then fashioned into one of
several million possible configurations
For the study, Deci divided participants, male and female university
students, into an experimental group (what I’ll call Group
A) and a control group (what I’ll call Group B). Each participated in
three one- hour sessions held on consecutive days.
Here’s how the sessions worked: Each participant entered a room
and sat at a table on top of which were the seven Soma puzzle pieces,
drawings of three puzzle configurations, and copies of Time, The New
Yorker, and Playboy. (Hey, it was 1969.) Deci sat on the opposite end
of the table to explain the instructions and to time performance with
In the first session, members of both groups had to assemble the
Soma pieces to replicate the configurations before them. In the second
session, they did the same thing with different drawings— only
this time Deci told Group A that they’d be paid $1 (the equivalent
of nearly $6 today) for every configuration they successfully reproduced.
Group B, meanwhile, got new drawings but no pay. Finally,
in the third session, both groups received new drawings and had to
reproduce them for no compensation, just as in session one. (See the
The twist came midway through each session. After a participant
had assembled the Soma puzzle pieces to match two of the three
drawings, Deci halted the proceedings. He said that he was going to
give them a fourth drawing—but to choose the right one, he needed
to feed their completion times into a computer. And— this being the
late 1960s, when room- straddling mainframes were the norm and
desktop PCs were still a decade away— that meant he had to leave
for a little while.
On the way out, he said, “I shall be gone only a few minutes, you
may do whatever you like while I’m gone.” But Deci wasn’t really
plugging numbers into an ancient teletype. Instead, he walked to
an adjoining room connected to the experiment room by a one- way
window. Then, for exactly eight minutes, he watched what people
did when left alone. Did they continue fiddling with the puzzle,
perhaps attempting to reproduce the third drawing? Or did they do
something else— page through the magazines, check out the centerfold,
stare into space, catch a quick nap?
In the first session, not surprisingly, there wasn’t much difference
between what the Group A and Group B participants did during
that secretly watched eight- minute free- choice period. Both continued
playing with the puzzle, on average, for between three and a
half and four minutes, suggesting they found it at least somewhat
On the second day, during which Group A participants were paid
for each successful configuration and Group B participants were not, the
unpaid group behaved mostly as they had during the first free- choice
period. But the paid group suddenly got really interested in Soma puzzles.
On average, the people in Group A spent more than five minutes
messing with the puzzle, perhaps getting a head start on that third
challenge or gearing up for the chance to earn some beer money when
Deci returned. This makes intuitive sense, right? It’s consistent with
what we believe about motivation: Reward me and I’ll work harder.
Yet what happened on the third day confirmed Deci’s own suspicions
about the peculiar workings of motivation— and gently called
into question a guiding premise of modern life. This time, Deci told
the participants in Group A that there was only enough money to
pay them for one day and that this third session would therefore be
unpaid. Then things unfolded just as before— two puzzles, followed
by Deci’s interruption.
During the ensuing eight- minute free- choice period, the subjects
in the never- been- paid Group B actually played with the puzzle
for a little longer than they had in previous sessions. Maybe they
were becoming ever more engaged; maybe it was just a statistical
quirk. But the subjects in Group A, who previously had been paid,
responded differently. They now spent significantly less time playing
with the puzzle— not only about two minutes less than during
their paid session, but about a full minute less than in the first
session when they initially encountered, and obviously enjoyed, the
In an echo of what Harlow discovered two decades earlier, Deci
revealed that human motivation seemed to operate by laws that ran
counter to what most scientists and citizens believed. From the office
to the playing field, we knew what got people going. Rewards—
especially cold, hard cash— intensified interest and enhanced performance.
What Deci found, and then confirmed in two additional
studies he conducted shortly thereafter, was almost the opposite.
“When money is used as an external reward for some activity, the
subjects lose intrinsic interest for the activity,” he wrote.5 Rewards
can deliver a short- term boost— just as a jolt of caffeine can keep
you cranking for a few more hours. But the effect wears off— and,
worse, can reduce a person’s longer- term motivation to continue the
Human beings, Deci said, have an “inherent tendency to seek
out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise their capacities,
to explore, and to learn.” But this third drive was more fragile than
the other two; it needed the right environment to survive. “One
who is interested in developing and enhancing intrinsic motivation
in children, employees, students, etc., should not concentrate on
external- control systems such as monetary rewards,” he wrote in a
follow- up paper.6 Thus began what for Deci became a lifelong quest
to rethink why we do what we do— a pursuit that sometimes put
him at odds with fellow psychologists, got him fired from a business
school, and challenged the operating assumptions of organizations
“It was controversial,” Deci told me one spring morning forty
years after the Soma experiments. “Nobody was expecting rewards
would have a negative effect.”
This is a book about motivation. I will show that much of what
we believe about the subject just isn’t so— and that the insights that
Harlow and Deci began uncovering a few decades ago come much
closer to the truth. The problem is that most businesses haven’t
caught up to this new understanding of what motivates us. Too many
organizations— not just companies, but governments and nonprofits
as well— still operate from assumptions about human potential and
individual performance that are outdated, unexamined, and rooted
more in folklore than in science. They continue to pursue practices
such as short- term incentive plans and pay- for- performance schemes
in the face of mounting evidence that such measures usually don’t
work and often do harm. Worse, these practices have infiltrated our
schools, where we ply our future workforce with iPods, cash, and
pizza coupons to “incentivize” them to learn. Something has gone
The good news is that the solution stands before us— in the
work of a band of behavioral scientists who have carried on the pioneering
efforts of Harlow and Deci and whose quiet work over the
last half- century offers us a more dynamic view of human motivation.
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
Drive has three parts. Part One will look at the fl aws in our
reward- and- punishment system and propose a new way to think
about motivation. Chapter 1 will examine how the prevailing view
of motivation is becoming incompatible with many aspects of contemporary
business and life. Chapter 2 will reveal the seven reasons
why carrot- and- stick extrinsic motivators often produce the
opposite of what they set out to achieve. (Following that is a short
addendum, Chapter 2a, that shows the special circumstances when
carrots and sticks actually can be effective.) Chapter 3 will introduce
what I call “Type I” behavior, a way of thinking and an approach to
business grounded in the real science of human motivation and powered
by our third drive— our innate need to direct our own lives, to
learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our
Part Two will examine the three elements of Type I behavior and
show how individuals and organizations are using them to improve
performance and deepen satisfaction. Chapter 4 will explore autonomy,
our desire to be self- directed. Chapter 5 will look at mastery,
our urge to get better and better at what we do. Chapter 6 will
explore purpose, our yearning to be part of something larger than
Part Three, the Type I Toolkit, is a comprehensive set of resources
to help you create settings in which Type I behavior can fl ourish.
Here you’ll find everything from dozens of exercises to awaken
motivation in yourself and others, to discussion questions for your
book club, to a supershort summary of Drive that will help you
fake your way through a cocktail party. And while this book is
mostly about business, in this section I’ll offer some thoughts about
how to apply these concepts to education and to our lives outside of
But before we get down to all that, let’s begin with a thought
experiment, one that requires going back in time— to the days when
John Major was Britain’s prime minister, Barack Obama was a skinny
young law professor, Internet connections were dial- up, and a blackberry
was still just a fruit.
"Pink makes a convincing case that organizations ignore intrinsic motivation at their peril."
"Persuasive . . .Harnessing the power of intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic remuneration can be thoroughly satisfying and infinitely more rewarding."
"These lessons are worth repeating, and if more companies feel emboldened to follow Mr. Pink's advice, then so much the better."
-Wall Street Journal
"Pink is rapidly acquiring international guru status . . . He is an engaging writer, who challenges and provokes."
"Pink's ideas deserve a wide hearing. Corporate boards, in fact, could do well by kicking out their pay consultants for an hour and reading Pink's conclusions instead."
"Pink's deft traversal of research at the intersection of psychology and economics make this a worthwhile read-no sticks necessary."
"[Pink] continues his engaging exploration of how we work."
"Pink's a gifted writer who turns even the heaviest scientific study into something digestible-and often amusing-without losing his intellectual punch."
-New York Post
"A worthwhile read. It reminds us that those of us on the right side of the brain are driven furthest and fastest in pursuit of what we love."
-Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Pink's analysis--and new model--of motivation offers tremendous insight into our deepest nature."
"Important reading...an integral addition to a growing body of literature that argues for a radical shift in how businesses operate."
"Drive is the rare book that will get you to think and inspire you to act. Pink makes a strong, science-based case for rethinking motivation--and then provides the tools you need to transform your life."
-Dr. Mehmet Oz, co-author of YOU: The Owners Manual
INTRODUCTION: The Puzzling Puzzles of Harry Harlow and Edward Deci
A New Operating System
Chapter 1. The Rise and Fall of Motivation 2.0
Chapter 2. Seven Reasons Carrots and Sticks (Often) Don't Work...
Chapter 2A. ...and the Special Circumstances When They Do
Chapter 3. Type I and Type X
The Three Elements
Chapter 4. Autonomy
Chapter 5. Mastery
Chapter 6. Purpose
The Type I Toolkit
Type I for Individuals: Nine Strategies for Awakening Your Motivation
Type I for Organization: Thirteen Ways to Improve Your Company, Office, or Group
The Zen of Compensation: Paying People the Type I Way
The Zen of Compensation Reconsidered: Are Salespeople Different?
Type I for Parents and Educators: Ten Ideas for Helping Our Kids
The Type I Reading List: Fifteen Essential Books
Listen to the Gurus: Seven Business Thinkers Who Get It
The Type I Fitness Plan: Four Tips for Getting (and Staying) Motivated to Exercise
Drive: The Recap
Drive: The Glossary
The Drive Discussion Guide: Twenty Conversation Starters to Keep You Thinking and Talking
Find Out More—About Yourself and This Topic