Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Review

7.0 Easy to Read

Higher monetary reward hampers productivity? People actually do a worse job when incentivized with higher monetary rewards? This is the type of revoking questions this book tries to explore.

In one example given in the book, participants were rewarded with different monetary prizes to do certain tasks. The one received medium rewards performed no better than the one received smaller rewards and the one received large rewards did worst of all. In another experiment, children were asked to perform a certain task. One group was told clearly how its task was incentivised, while the other group wasn’t. Although both group performed the tasks with equal efficiency, the group that was not incentivised demonstrated higher initiative and curiosity. In another real life example quoted in the book, companies are pioneering ROWE – Result Only Work Environment where their staffs can come and leave at any time and approach their tasks in ways they choose. In software development companies, employees were given a certain time off every week to work on any thing of their interests. The unorthodox management have yield remarkable result.

External motivation get people very focused on the task on hand but may hinder people’s ability to harness their internal energy. The stick and carrot approach works the best for routine, mundane tasks; but for work that requires lateral thinking and creativity, it may actually do more harm than good. Money is important only to the degree that people should be paid fairly (being treated unfairly can induce strong negative emotions). Then people need something else to motivate them:


People do not like to be treated like machine; people enjoy being good at something and people definitely need to see the purpose in whatever they are doing. This renewable internalised motivation is what drives people to achieve greatness.

After convincingly stated its proposition, the author went on to share some practical approaches about team, management and even family. It is scary to read that the current model of education may have got it all wrong! The children who are getting used to be paid to perform better in school, join the football team or to mow the lawn are losing their ability to be self-motivated. When the monetary incentive no longer keep up with their rising expectation, they do not see any other reason to perform, to learn and even to communicate.

After finished reading book, I start noticing the pervasive carrot and stick approach around me. Where people were thought to innately hate doing any job, and they inch towards it when either the reward is large or the stick is sharp. People were thought to be mediocre and lazy. And there they are, they become mediocre and lazy. Unfortunately, the system has gained so much footing that it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Can we approach it differently? How do we create a “flow” friendly environment?

While it can be massively rewarding, it will take more than just a book, or a couple of pioneering companies to challenge the traditional thinking.


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