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Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Daniel H. Pink · 14 HN comments
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The New York Times bestseller that gives readers a paradigm-shattering new way to think about motivation from the author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing Most people believe that the best way to motivate is with rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That's a mistake, says Daniel H. Pink (author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others). In this provocative and persuasive new book, he asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction-at work, at school, and at home—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 life. He examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose-and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.
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I had already covered that with the sentence that followed the one you quote-replied to.

To explain: I said it doesn't work with people who are X. Then I posited that it only works in condition Y. Y covers all cases, including non-X, and therefore answers your question (with respect to what I'd posit).

If your mental model of humanity is deeply flawed, you expect carrot-and-stick motivations to work. It doesn't matter if they're self-actualized.

If anyone is still confused, this might be worth a read:

So true. Most of these ideas are all about setting goals for yourself and finding ways to keep yourself on those goals (Do one thing at a time, Make it Real, etc). I'm glad you're finding way to keep up with your learning goals! If you're into pop-psychology, Daniel Pink's "Drive" is so good!
It is normal. Make sure you have all of these. Autonomy, Purpose and Mastery.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (

Throws out a new perspective on what motivates people.

I think author got it from this book:

I haven't read it, but at least for me it seems like common sense that these 3 things have positive effect on motivation.

If you have autonomy over how you complete your tasks for example, you will do it in, according to you, most efficient way, and that will make you feel satisfied. Mastery is from the same desire to be as efficient as you can. Purpose is something different, but you can clearly imagine how much more willing to do your best you are when you know that the thing you do will be seen and used by other people and how it will make people's life easier, for a primitive and simple example.

Compare it to my job - software is bloated, something I myself would never use, our customers are actually forced to used, almost nobody, except the people who earn money from it at the management, likes it, and often you find out that some bug that existed for a year and that completely disabled some functionality was never noticed because no one, not even testers bothered to check those parts of the system. Combine that with heavy restrictions on what can be done, both by time restraints on tasks and by accumulated technical debt that makes any improvements economically not viable, and add the natural tendency of such systems to resist to anything new and you get individuals with gradual decline in motivation over time.

I understand why there's such an ageism "problem" in the industry - the only way to make these companies with these systems afloat is to hire only young people who aren't worn out from these things yet to keep it alive. From my experience, I don't know how it was a couple of decades ago, but it seems like younger and younger people are getting their motivation destroyed by such environments.

You don't often see occupations where people are already sick of their job in general by late twenties to the point of considering switching profession that would pay considerably less.

Hi there, I'm quite new to engineering management as well, with approximately one year of experience. I've had some great mentors, as well as a reading list passed down to me. I'll highlight those I found as having the most impact for me.

At the top of the list is "Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager" by Michael Lopp[1], which was recommended to me by a manager who helped me get my start in engineering management. This book touches on a lot of the nuances in dealing with people and, as an introvert, I found this really helpful. The same author blogs under "Rands in Repose[2]" which has much of the content from the aforementioned book available for free.

While in the people category you'll also get a lot of recommendations for "Drive!" by Daniel Pink[2], which is a book about intrinsic motivators (autonomy, mastery, purpose) and how they are more important and effective than extrinsic motivators (e.g. money), particularly for knowledge workers. My personal advice, however, is to watch his TED talk[3] which is a great summary of basically the entire book. In this same category I could also recommend "The Great Jackass Fallacy" by Harry Levinson[5].

Now on the wall between people management and engineering/project management is "Slack" by Tom DeMarco[6], which is about how organizations and managers tend to run their staff at 100% capacity. As the book points out, however, this is a good way to not only burn people out, but it also sends response times through the roof (from queuing theory), and stifles change ("too busy to improve"). You can read this one on a plane. For some shameless self promotion, I've also written a tiny blog post relating Slack and the need for upkeep (software operations and maintenance)[7].

Next, fully in engineering/project management, I have to recommend "Waltzing with Bears" by Tom DeMarco and Anthony Lister[8], which is specifically about managing risk on software projects. The authors highlight the common practice of project/engineering managers communicating their "nano date", which they point out is typically the lowest point on the uncertainty curve. In other words, the project has the lowest possible chance of shipping by this date when you look at the possible timeline as a probability distribution. This book changed the way I talk about projects and the way I manage my team's various risks and I have been more successful as a result.

One final recommendation I'll make, since you're in the midst of a transition, is "The First 90 Days" by Michael Watkins[9]. It's a wonderful book that outlines how and why one should develop a transition plan in order to hit the ground running - and in the right direction. For my last engineering management opportunity, developing a preliminary 90 day plan as part of a "starter project," was a major factor in being given the job.

I believe that a subset of these will give you a great start. After that, you should read on the areas you feel the need for the most amount of help with or the areas that interest you. If you are avidly interested in project management, for example, you should read books on various methodologies, particularly the one that you or your organization practice.










Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us :

First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently :

Managing software projects : The TimeBlock Method by Me :)

I struggled for many years of lack of motivation. One source of insight into motivation is "Drive: The surprising truth..."

The main takeaway is that you want internal motivation, not external!

I found my internal motivation through finding my "why", read "Start with why" for an explanation

I was just about to suggest Daniel Pink's book [1] when I clicked through and saw that a talk from him is a segment on the podcast.

In any case, the book is worth a read. I had a copy forced on me years and didn't crack it open for ages - I wish I'd started reading it sooner.


I like the intention -- making software more secure is really worthwhile.

The reward scheme is dubious though: I love working on open source because it's intrinsically rewarding. But if you try to pay me a few bucks, chances are I'll lose interest because my day job pays better.

Extrinsic motivation killing intrinsic motivation is a known phenomenon in psychology: It means that splashing money around to get people to do stuff can have the opposite effect. Also see the book Drive by Daniel Pink:

Apr 03, 2013 · shadowmatter on Stop working so hard
It's been awhile since I've read it, but I remember reading something along those lines in "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" ( The thesis is that our motivation to do things is along a spectrum of intrinsic (for the love of the work) vs extrinsic (e.g. money). Generally the former yields better results. Some studies even showed that paying people to do things they love can be detrimental, because you're now adding an extrinsic motivator to something that they are intrinsically motivated to do, thereby making what they love feel like "work."
Sep 12, 2011 · mbesto on Balsamiq : Salary Policy
Just read Dan Pink's Drive where this idea comes to fruition and it makes complete sense (especially in my own life). From Drive[1]:

Instead of paying employees the wages that supply and demand would have predicted, they gave their workers a little more. It wasn't because they were stupid. It was because they were savvy. Paying great people a little more than the market demands, Akerlof and Yellen found, could attract better talent, reduce turnover and boost productivity and morale.

Highly recommend reading Pink's book.

[1] -

There are some excellent studies out there that suggest this to be false.

One source[1] showed that:

- For highly creative jobs, respect and autonomy to function and just enough $ to cover comfortable living expenses produced the best results.

- As you add more money, the performance for these jobs decreased.


- For highly repetitive jobs, performance increased with pay almost linearly.

- Offering more autonomy for lower pay in these types of jobs lowered performance.

Programming is a highly creative job. While you are making very logical assumptions (more $ == more work) I would argue that after the first month or so, that would no longer be the case.

You would then just be equating (more $ == more HOURS working) but not necessarily producing.

The findings of the study did hinge on the person seeking autonomy to make enough to cover their living expenses such that the concern for money was off the table.

Really interesting stuff.

I think from my own experience, after the honeymoon period of the giant paycheck wears off, this tends to be absolutely true.

As for passion, it has to come from the top down.


Thanks to yengz for the reminder where this study came from!

Dan Pink's RSA talk came to mind for me:

He mentions a couple of studies.


  There are some excellent studies out there that suggest this to be false.
He used the words "me" and "my". Unless those studies involved him, I think the results are worth little compared to his own experience. If he had used the words "people" and "they", I think the results of those studies would be more relevant.
Daniel Pink also has a book called Drive which goes into this in detail. Highly recommended read.
Ahhh! Eric that is exactly where I got that info from, I couldn't place it, but I finished reading "Drive" a few months ago so that must be where it came from.
The "excellent studies", which engineering management uses to claim that low salaries, but enough to survive, are optimal, are a crock. Where are the top CEOs making just enough to survive?

Here is the flaw. If you are properly compensated and don't have any other options, giving you a big fat raise doesn't improve your productivity, that's true and that's what the studies measure. Hey are you a developer? Here's an extra ten bucks, will you now come up with a better algorithm? No, of course not, because money doesn't make you a better developer, just as paying existing public school teachers more doesn't make them any less severely incompetent.

However, if you want to attract more productive people in the first place, you have to pay them more money because there is a competitive environment. The "excellent studies" try to prevent readers from noticing that that's not what they looked into, and it's clear they do this intentionally.

Do you think that Google would attract the same caliber of developers by paying what McDonalds pays its line workers? You must believe that if you really believe that these studies are correct in their claims that there is no advantage to paying more than survival wages.

The simple fact is that sustenance wages are not in fact ideal for attracting the best developers, designers, writers, actors and inventors.

If you don't recognize that, but continue to insist that the opposite is true, then you are intentionally seeking to deceive people.

I think you're conflating wages for "comfortable living" with "sustenance" wages.
Mmmm, the actual amount isn't all that relevant to the argument. But as far as "comfortable living" goes, the average $90,000 salary in Silicon Valley, minus the high California tax burden, does not provide "comfortable living" when a run down 3 bedroom home costs on average $860,000, vastly above the ability of said $90,000 wage earner to afford. It barely provides sustenance living. This is why many of these average paid developers have 3-4 hour commutes from far away, and others are living packed 5 to a room, and few are able to attract a mate.

This is completely a different topic from the discussion though so I'd prefer not to continue with it, if you would like to, it would be best to start a new thread.

Developers in many other parts of the country can live comfortably with an average wage. But watch out if you get sick. Sickness is for the rich. As we found out last month, if you are a long term employee at Microsoft and you get brain cancer, they give you a bad review and then declare you ineligible for disability benefits. Shouldn't have gotten cancer!

My idea of comfortable living is you can afford a house, to marry, and to afford health care. Others may disagree, but I don't consider that to be even worth debating.

I'm not disagreeing with anything you said but my understanding of the studies that rkalla is talking about is that the extra $$$ won't make your life significantly better so you'd be willing to forgo that money for "better" (I'm being intentionally vague here) work. Obviously, in the situation you're referring to the extra money makes a big difference in quality of life.

Perhaps you're suggesting that there are no cases where this is true? (i.e., one will always be happier with the extra $$$).

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