I just spent a couple hours reading Daniel Pink's new book, DRIVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Dan's publisher sent me an advanced copy of the book and I became very interested in it after seeing his splendid TED talk, which I blogged about some weeks back. The book is even better than the talk, as Dan does a masterful job of boiling down the results of a huge body of behavioral science research, presenting in way that is extremely engaging, and showing how it has profound implications for managers, teachers, parents or anyone else who wants to motivate others (and themselves) to be as effective as possible. It will be for sale in about two weeks.
He does a masterful job of showing the limits and drawbacks of widely accepted assumptions about motivation -- showing the limits of carrots and sticks, and then showing the power of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. In addition to his compelling use of stories and examples (you don't want to miss his "Tom Sawyer" effect and explanations of why so many lawyers dislike their jobs so much), I especially liked his toolkit at the end of the book, which offers fantastic evidence-based advice. Check out the idea for peer-to-peer bonuses, illustrated by a civil engineering firm where at any time anyone can award a $50 bonus to one of his her colleagues. I also like the steps he offers managers for giving-up control, which is also based on piles of evidence about what really motivates people -- consider his argument that the best bosses are careful to avoid not controlling language when possible. Using words like "must" or "should" can undermine the perception of autonomy and control that is so motivating to people. And we all like his advice that employers should pay above the industry average --- which is based on research showing that the motivational gain is so high that doing so REDUCES company costs.
Drive provides a splendid summary of the best research on motivation, but never seems like a textbook, it carries you along as Dan adds his little creative twists to show why we as parents and managers are doing so many things wrong that seem so right -- and how the best solutions to motivating people are usually so simple and so inexpensive. Millions of people take introduction to psychology courses each year and nearly as many take introduction to organizational behavior classes: If you teach one of these classes, you might consider using Dan's book in place of or as a supplement your text for part of the course -- your students will love it. And anyone who wants to motivate others -- which is pretty much all of us -- can learn a lot from this book.