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Summary of Drive 

Short summary

Motivation theory would have us believe there are two main drivers of human behavior — the biological — our need to satiate our hunger, thirst and our sex desires; and rewards and punishment — our need to earn society’s rewards and avoid its punishments. In 1940, Professor of psychology Harry F. Harlow of the University of Wisconsin, conducting a study with rhesus monkeys, “stumbled upon” a third drive — intrinsic motivation; our push to do tasks for the inherent satisfaction we derive from doing them. This third drive is more valuable than the other two, but is more fragile because it requires the right environment to thrive. Daniel H. Pink, in “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” elaborates on what this third drive is all about, how we had it by default at birth and lost it, how we cannot be the best we ought to be without it, and what we can do to bring it all back.

Key points


Our behavior cannot be fully explained by our need to satisfy our biological cravings or to seek reward and avoid punishment

Starting out on earth as a species, the need to survive drove our behavior. We gathered food, hunted animals, and ran for shelter when we sensed danger because of this primal, biological drive. This was Motivation 1.0 era for the human race, and it worked for a while; until our society became complex.

In a complex society, co-operation became essential for everyone’s security and sanity. The biological drive, Motivation 1.0, was there, but it was constrained by society’s rules and regulations. That way, Mr. A would not end up snatching the food meant for Mr. B and his family. Thus, the need to seek society’s rewards and avoid its punishments also became a driver of our behavior — Motivation 2.0.

Motivation 1.0 ensured we survived in the wild and evolved to live in viable, self-sustaining communities, while Motivation 2.0 brought us unparalleled economic progress engineered by such innovations as the Industrial Revolution and Scientific Management.

Motivation 2.0 is easy to understand, simple to monitor and straightforward to enforce. But as the dotcom bust and the subprime mortgage crisis at the beginning of the 21st-century shows, our society’s complexity is outgrowing it for three reasons.

One, open-source is the way we now organize what we do. Examples abound around us — Wikipedia, with hundreds of millions of regular users; Firefox browser, with 350 million users; Linux operating system, powering 1 out of every 4 corporate servers, and the Apache web server, which powers 52% of all corporation servers.

Two, irrationally is how we now think about what we do. We used to believe we, as economic agents, made rational wealth-maximizing choices every time. That changed in 2002 with the award of the Nobel Prize for Economics to Daniel Kahneman, an American psychologist, for his work in demonstrating that we do not necessarily make wealth-maximizing choices every time we act as economic agents; which is an irrational thing for us to do. That, of course, made us question every assumption Motivation 2.0 was based on.

Three, heuristically is how we now do what we do. Work has become more complex — there are now more jobs that is heuristic or creative in nature than algorithmic or routine; and as a result, more interesting and more self-directed. Motivation 2.0 would work perfectly for algorithmic or routine work but would impair heuristic or creative work.

Heuristic or creative work requires another kind of drive, a third drive, the one Professor of psychology Harry F. Harlow termed ‘intrinsic motivation’ — the need to perform creative work simply for the intellectual fulfillment one gets for doing it. In that context, the rewards and punishments of Motivation 2.0 become totally irrelevant.

Welcome to Motivation 3.0!

Research shows that Motivation 2.0’s rewards and punishments will not result in intended outcomes in the complex world we live in now

In Motivation 2.0’s context, rewarding or punishing an activity will get you more or less of it, respectively. In Motivation 3.0’s world, rewards and punishments cause weird things to happen. The opposite of every intention is what becomes obtainable. Motivation dampens. Creativity reduces. Negative behaviors such as selfishness, cheating, addiction, and myopic thinking increase.
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Between Type X and Type I behavior, Type I is more desirable


The greater the autonomy we have over our work, the more productive we are at it


Mastery at the work we do results from a state of flow


Our lives, either as corporations or as individuals, have no meaning without purpose


There are simple, everyday tasks you can do to help you achieve a Type I lifestyle


Organizations can create workplaces that allow Type I behavior thrive by creating time outs for “uncommissioned” work


A Type I organization will get its compensation policies right, and then get it out of sight


With a little bit of thoughtfulness, parents and teachers can work together to raise Type I kids



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