Motivating the modern workforce.

Author:Kavanagh, Shayne
Position:Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us - Book review

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us

Daniel Pink

Riverhead Hardcover

2011 (paperback edition), 288 pages, $16


This review was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Government Finance Review. We are including it in this issue because the book informed the articles on resiliency in this issue.

The traditional view of what motivates employees is simple: Reward good behaviors and punish bad ones. In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink challenges the conventional wisdom, suggesting that we need to find new ways to attract and retain satisfied, motivated employees. To improve performance and increase productivity, managers need to abandon the old carrot-and-stick system in favor of new strategies that manipulate what he calls the Four Ts: task, time, team, and technique.


Why is the old system no longer effective? Pink posits that the traditional view of motivation is incompatible with the modern workplace in three ways. First, volunteer efforts are increasingly important in getting work done. A striking example is Wikipedia, a voluntary effort that that has essentially made the traditional encyclopedia obsolete. This trend also extends to governments, which are increasingly pursuing public-service objectives through third-party for-profit organizations like charities and social entrepreneurs. Some governments are even crowdsourcing by sponsoring hackathons to build mobile applications that solve social problems. The traditional reward-and-punishment perspective does not help us understand why these new volunteer-driven methods of work even are possible, much less how to use them to their maximum potential.

Second, the reward-and-punishment view of motivation is strongly linked to an outdated view of economics -namely, that people calculate how to maximize their own self-interest and then act accordingly. If this were true, a system of rewards and punishments that appeal to self-interest would be an effective management strategy. However, a raft of experimental evidence suggests that people are not purely self-interested, rational utility maximizers. If classic economics insufficiently explains human behavior, it stands that a system predicated on rewards and punishments is also insufficient.

Third and finally, the old system is no longer effective because the nature of the work itself has changed. In the heyday of traditional motivation, most...

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