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I'm Going to Start Paying You to Read This Blog...(The Review of Dan Pink's "Drive")

If I could afford to pay you to read this blog, would that be a good decision?  Would it motivate you to consume the daily fodder here, or would you simply become addicted to the payment and demand increasing rewards in exchange for continued patronage?  Or would you lose interest in reading the Capitalist regardless of the continued payments, stripped of your intrinsic drive to improve your knowledge by presence of cash exchange?

If you haven't figured it out by know, I'm reading Dan Pink's "Drive", which basically tries to debunkDrive_book-by-daniel-pink_danpinkdotcom everything we know about rewards and motivation and makes a strong case that the secret to high performance and satisfaction - at work, at school and at home - is the deep human need to direct our own lives, learn and create new things and do better for ourselves and the world.

It's a pretty radical book that basically says if you're trying to pay someone to motivate them to do more, you're setting yourself up for failure, especially in a knowledge economy where creativity is required to perform at a high level.  My CEO gave me the book and I'm only about 70 pages through it right now.  Still, I remembered that a rewards and motivation guy I respect - Paul Hebert of I2I and Fistful of Talent, reviewed the book during Christmas of 2009 and had this to say:

"Yesterday I gave you the short answer on Dan Pink’s new book “Drive.”   Good book, but not the be-all and end-all of books on motivation. That is an important sentence.  

Do not use this book as your bible for employee motivation.  While the book’s main point is well made – people perform better when they have control over their work, see progress in mastering it and contribute to a higher purpose – that alone can’t drive business success. I believe the book is designed to convince your that almost all of the work done today – or to be done tomorrow – is better influenced through the autonomy, mastery and purpose model (AMP) and that most, if not all, incentive-based performance programs should go the way of the Dodo.

Don’t fall for it.   think this is just ONE piece in a puzzle, one color in a rainbow, one thread in a tapestry – of all the ways to influence behavior in your organization.  The concepts and ideas in Drive do apply - in some segments of your employee base, but not all.  While the concept of motivation through allowing employees to have autonomy, mastery and purpose (AMP) is nice, and could engage some people, it is not, IMHO, a workable business plan for motivation in an organization."

I dig the ideas in Pink's book, but I have to agree with Paul - don't drink the Kool-Aid that "Drive" is a one-stop shop for all things related to rewards and motivation.  Need proof that the rewards/motivation/performance space is complex?   Check out the current issue of Time, which details an extensive Harvard study that attempts to answer the age-old motivation question whether we should bribe kids to work hard in school.   Here are the results of the extended study:

"The results began to trickle into the lab last summer. In New York City, the $1.5 million paid to 8,320 kids for good test scores did not work — at least not in any way that's easy to measure. In Chicago, under a different model, the kids who earned money for grades attended class more often and got better grades, two major accomplishments. Those students did not, however, do better on their standardized tests at the end of the year.

In Washington, the kids did better on standardized reading tests. Getting paid on a routine basis for a series of small accomplishments, including attendance and behavior, seemed to lead to more learning for those kids. And in Dallas, the experiment produced the most dramatic gains of all. Paying second-graders to read books significantly boosted their reading-comprehension scores on standardized tests at the end of the year — and those kids seemed to continue to do better the next year, even after the rewards stopped."

Translation: when it comes to paying people to try harder and perform better - IT DEPENDS.  I love the vibe of Pink's book, but I'm way too jaded by the workplace to think that there's one absolute answer when it comes to the impact of rewards on motivation and performance. 

And by the way, I'm not paying you to read my blog.  I'm choosing to side with the theories of Pink on that one.  Paying you would only rob you of your intrinsic motivation.  HA!!

Leave you with this great story from the Time article, which you should read in it's entirety:

"In junior high school, one of my classmates had a TV addiction — back before it was normal. This boy — we'll call him Ethan — was an encyclopedia of vacuous content, from The A-Team to Who's the Boss?

Then one day Ethan's mother made him a bold offer. If he could go a full month without watching any TV, she would give him $200. None of us thought he could do it. But Ethan quit TV, just like that. His friends offered to let him cheat at their houses on Friday nights (Miami Vice nights!). Ethan said no."

One month later, Ethan's mom paid him $200. He went out and bought a TV, the biggest one he could find.

Word.  Motivation is a complex thing.


Paul Hebert

Thanks Kris for the link love.

I'm hopeful that many managers will read the book - and understand the underlying principles that can shape how they manage - not necessarily how they "motivate" - big difference.

The problem in almost EVERY poorly designed incentive application is a focus on the results instead of the behaviors. Simply paying people for results allows folks to do what ever they think is right to get the results (and the payout.) Behaviors are key - focus on the behaviors you want and the results follow. That's the subtext in the school examples IMHO.

So, I've read your blog - now where do you want me to send my PayPal info so you can shoot me the Benjamins...


Another perspective that questions the long-term effectiveness of incentives is "Punished by Rewards" by Alfie Kohn. Even if you don't agree with his premise, his research is thought-provoking and should drive compensation and HR professionals to ask more questions before assuming (another!) incentive plan is the best solution to whatever ails you.


I don't think Dan would necessarily disagree with the research that you drew on as a comparison. In his book he talks about how incentives ARE effective in situations where the outcome is clear and so are the tasks required to get there. But one of the main premises in his book is that we are moving toward an economy where this is less and less the case and solutions to business problems require more and more creative approaches and work.

And, that motivation for this type of performance is primarily impacted by intrinsic (AMP) rather than extrinsic (money) factors.

Derek Irvine, Globoforce

Agree with Paul's comment -- recognition should be all about the behaviors. But I also agree strongly with Dan Pink's point that "after/that" recognition has much more power than "if/then" incentives. Catch people doing something good, thank them specifically and authentically based on the behaviors and values they demonstrated -- very powerful, indeed. Dan joined us for a webinar discussion of his book, speaking at one point specifically about the importance of recognition in reinforcing Mastery (our desire to get better at something because we want to). More on that is available here:

Kris, can you loan me your copy? I don't want to pay to buy it, but I'd like to read it.

Also, I'm not being sarcastic. I feel like I need to add that.

Kris Dunn

Paul/EKM/RJT and Laurie -

Thanks for checking in. I think Pink has some great ideas, I'm just mature enough to know that there's never a single idea that's the universal truth. Good stuff, the real danger is someone reads it and automatically thinks the macro themes of the book are gospel. That's not true anywhere else, and it's not true here as well.

Laurie - give you my copy once I'm done. If you don't hear from me in two weeks, will you remind me?

Thanks - KD

My Flexible Pencil

It's important to measure the costs of providing nothing but tangible, incentive-driven motivation, of course. They only work in the short term and, as has been noted, don't necessarily change behaviors for long-term advantages. Is it better to constantly develop, roll out, monitor and administer short-term incentives or is it better to take the long view and create a high perofrmance culture where people are working to the highest level because they simply enjoy it?


Various people in every country receive the business loans in various banks, just because it is simple.

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