Rating: 4/5 Stars

Suggested Audience: Teachers, administrators, anyone interested in business

One of the problems I see with many students is low motivation. There are days that it can become downright aggravating. A colleague of mine recently recommended a couple of books to me that had been recommended to her on this topic. This was the first book of the two that I read, and it has been a book I had wanted to read for some time because I had heard it mentioned on some of the business leadership podcasts that I listen to.

The body of the book itself is only 145 pages, so it’s a pretty easy read for anyone that may want to give it a try. There is some additional 85 pages in what Pink calls the Type I toolkit. The book is simple in its construction, but fairly profound in its implication.

This is one of those books that really stretch your thinking a little bit. Pink argues that societies have operating systems. Continuing with the technical analogy he establishes that humans started with Motivation 1.0 which was pretty much survival. Motivation 2.0 came along and moved society forward greatly. It was based primarily on external rewards and punishment (carrots and sticks). We have come to a point in societal evolution that we need a new operating system that is based on more.

Pink argues in the book that carrots and sticks do work effectively for rule-based, routine tasks. This is one of the reasons Motivation 2.0 has worked so well. Much of the Industrial Revolution until the Information Age needed compensation based upon this type of approach. When you are making a bunch of widgets, you pay more for more widgets.

The challenge that lies ahead of us now is that the economy that we are heading into is far more complex and calls for a system that approaches motivation differently. Pink argues that Motivation 2.0 was best suited for what he terms Type X behavior (extrinsic) and Motivation 3.0 needs Type I behavior (intrinsic). Type I behavior is focused more on the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself. I’d argue he is right on this point. You see a definite need and more people who want to pursue purpose as opposed to wage.

There are three elements necessary for Type I behavior in business (I think this part of the book translates well to the classroom, too.) The first is autonomy. Individuals require autonomy over task, time, team, and technique. Throughout this part of the book he sites some interesting anecdotes from companies who have applied this to their companies.

The second element is mastery. “Mastery begins with “flow”–optimal experiences when the challenges we face are exquisitely matched to our abilities.” One of the most refreshing parts of this section was the emphasis he put on the importance of grit and persistence. Mastery is not easy! We live in a society that seems to value instant gratification. Well, important newsflash, anything worth mastering requires hard work even on the most mundane components.

The final element is purpose. Instead of focusing on profit maximization, businesses should instead focus on purpose maximization. A direct benefit of this purpose motive may actually be the fulfillment of  the profit motive. Personally, I think this an outstanding point and there are several companies that I can think of that are becoming highly successful because of this approach. In a sense, what Pink is arguing here is that capitalism needs a purpose driven soul to function.

I think the most significant thing I pulled from this book is that the argument in Drive is why standardization of education is not going to do anything to improve education in this country. Common Core will fail in the end because it is the last gasp of Motivation 2.0 in education. Sadly, we will have to endure the pain of its failure before people realize it. But then again, it may be the only way we move education forward to the point where it matches the emerging economy we actually need to prepare kids for.

As I said above, this book really makes you think a little bit. It has really made me think about lesson planning and what I ask of my students especially with regards to autonomy and purpose. Have you read it? What do you think of Pink’s argument in the context of education?


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