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  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
  • by Daniel H. Pink
  • Read: Feb 14, 2020
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us book cover

I really liked especially the first part of the book that focuses on the science and research of motivation. It was very interesting to read about the history of behavioral psychology and how in various stages scientists ran different experiments to understand the psychology of motivation.

Wikipedia’s triumph seems to defy the laws of behavioral physics

One of the more prominent examples of intrinsic motivation in the book is contribution to open source. At that part it shows that the book was written over 10 years ago. Because the discussion of open source is solely focused on the positive effects of honing skills, furthering one’s career through the work, and the intrinsic “feel good” motivation of giving back and contributing. However over the last 10 years the problem of burn out with open source maintainers has become a major topic that is completely absent here. And there is also no real acknowledgement of maintainers vs contributors and the difference in demand, work, and rewards. But I don’t think that detracts from the points the book is making, merely something I immediately jumped to when reading these packages as some missing nuance in the argument.

… rewards can perform a weird sort of behavioral alchemy: They can transform an interesting task into a drudge. They can turn play into work

Large parts of the book then deal with the detrimental effects of the “carrot and stick” approach to management. It was interesting to read about flow state, rewards, and how - depending on how they are used - they can be actually detrimental to motivation. This part contained an interesting short lesson in management history and that the idea of creating space for autonomy for workers has come up a couple of times in the past but never got a lot of traction. And that the new way of granting autonomy and letting workers have more urgency over their work is improving motivation. However there are also a couple of dangerous ideas the author arrives at. That can easily be read as management being a problem, rather than the fact that it is a craft that needs to honed just as any other work

Perhaps management is one of the forces that’s switching our default setting and producing that state [of passive inertia]

Finally there is a discussion about mastery and putting effort into something that I found very interesting based on Carol Dweck’s - a psychology professor at Stanford - research. The discussion of mastery being a mindset rather than a set goal resonated a lot with me. Especially the idea that intelligence is not a set entity within people but a resource that can be increased via learning.

That is the nature of mastery: Mastery is a mindset

And finally the idea that mastery is an infinite pursuit. That even if you spend a lifetime doing something, you can never truly master something. There will always be more to learn, more to practice, more to … master.

Overall I really enjoyed the book. Even though there are definitely parts that haven’t aged quite so well over the last 10 years and with all the things we’ve learned from tech startups left and right misunderstanding the importance of structure, management, and Human Resources. There were many parts that I really enjoyed reading and learned a bunch of things from.