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A Review of Daniel Pink’s Drive

Link to the Podcast


Book reviewed

Pink, D. H. (2012). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from


Author’s background

According to Daniel Pink’s website,, he is the author of six books on business and motivation. His TED Talk videos have garnered over 30 million views. From 1995 to 1997 he worked as a chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University and a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School (Pink, 2017). Pink wrote Drive to explain the value of intrinsic motivation.



Daniel Pink (2012) explains why intrinsic motivation is usually more effective than extrinsic motivation. He Introduces book with a discussion of experiments by Harry Harlow and Edward Deci.  Harlow observed monkeys solving puzzle boxes without a reward of any kind. Deci found that rewarding people for solving puzzles resulted in less engagement when the subjects thought no one was watching. In Part One Pink describes intrinsic motivation as a new operating system for society. He labels intrinsic motivation as Motivation 3.0. Pink contrasts intrinsic motivation with extrinsic motivation, which he calls Motivation 2.0. Motivation 1.0 refers to basic biological drives. To build communities, systems of punishments and rewards called laws developed to permit people to live in something better than the state of nature. Pink argues that as we automate routine tasks and work shifts from the algorithmic to the heuristic, it is time to move past the punishments and rewards of Motivation 2.0 and ascend to the intrinsic Motivation 3.0. Pink explores the failures of if-then rewards but does include a brief section on when extrinsic rewards may be effective when algorithmic, routine work must be done. Pink compares Type I and Type X behaviors. Type I behaviors are intrinsically motivated. Type X behaviors are extrinsically motivated. Pink provides evidence that Type I behavior results in higher effectiveness and ethics in the long-term. He makes the case that Type I behavior can be learned. In Part Two Pink presents autonomy, mastery, and purpose as the three elements of intrinsic motivation. Pink argues that students and employees need greater autonomy to reach their potential and highest performance. Pink claims that mastery, developing skill in something that matters, is a better motivator than compliance. Pink discusses the optimal psychological state of flow as requiring a close match of skill to task so that neither boredom with too simple a task or overwhelming frustration with too difficult a task prevents the development of mastery. Mastery comes through diligence, determination, and careful practice that provides actionable feedback to improve specific skills. He notes it is impossible to master any valuable skill fully. Pink claims that Motivation 2.0 organizations see purpose as a nicety but not a necessity. Pink states that purpose is necessary to reach the highest levels of Motivation 3.0 and give supporting examples of companies that make a profit while making a difference.



Within the genre of pop psychology, Drive is one of the better works that I’ve read. Pink is a popularizer, not a scientist, and claims nothing more for himself.  He presents real research from well-regarded scholars in a breezy, easy-to-read format accessible to the general public.

Overall Pink makes a good case for intrinsic motivation. Critics could challenge some examples by questioning the amount of reward offered, but Pink anticipates this challenge and presents other examples where much higher rewards resulted in far worse performance. Pink’s view of motivation is not overly simplistic. He realistically examines the exceptions to this rule and even provides steps to implement more successful extrinsic motivation programs where such are warranted. He presents a flowchart to determine whether intrinsic or extrinsic rewards are appropriate to a situation. The labels Pink devises, such as Motivation 3.0 and Type I behavior are memorable shorthand for the ideas he describes. In his TED Talk, Pink acknowledges that is law school experience informs Drive since he makes a case. In my judgment, he wins.


Rating with rationale

When I finished reading the Kindle edition, the app prompted me to rate and review the book. I gave Drive 4 out of 5 stars, which is an endorsement. I would strongly encourage educators, both in the classroom and in administrative offices, to read the book. Pink is an excellent popularizer of other people’s research. I considered giving him all five stars, but I usually reserve that for those who conducted the research rather than the popularizers, even when they are as good as Daniel Pink. Without the constraints of the app, I give it 4 ½ stars. His recommendation to fire the bad teachers without defining what makes them bad did not provide actionable information. His proposal to pay educators a living wage, while indeed welcome, did not specify a way to calculate that salary or pay for it. The first 60% or so of the book was well written and made a thoughtful argument. The last 40% of the book seemed like a compilation of blog posts included to pad the page count.  There was useful information in the final section; it just seemed a little disjointed.  I would recommend that readers thumb through the third part of the book and skim for details of interest rather than read straight through.