Notes on Drive

Drive

I told myself that I’d read Drive after finishing The Mythical Man-Month, but I lost interest in the latter pretty quickly. Drive’s “surprising” truth isn’t all that surprising to those of us who are fortunate enough to be creative workers in a frothy tech industry: after a certain point, material compensation isn’t as important to us as the joy we get from doing our work.

I discovered when I reached the end of the book that taking notes on Drive was superfluous; the end of the book is packed with helpful reference material, including an executive summary. Nevertheless, these may come in useful:

  • Motivation has changed through the ages
    • Food, and not being killed
    • Basic needs are met, seek reward and avoid punishment more broadly
    • Motivation 2.1: Loosened dress codes, more flexible hours
    • Motivation 3.0: autonomy, mastery, purpose
  • Problems with carrots and sticks
    • They can extinguish intrinsic motivation
    • They can diminish performance
    • They can crush creativity
    • They can crowd out good behavior
    • They can encourage cheating, shortcuts, and unethical behavior
    • They can become addictive
    • They can foster short-term thinking
  • Carrots work if the task is dull, but you have to acknowledge that it’s boring and necessary, then let people complete the task in their own way.
  • Friedman’s two types of people
    • Type A: Excessive competition drive, aggressiveness, impatience, and a harrying sense of time urgency. Significantly more likely to develop heart disease.
    • Type B: Just as intelligent as ambitious as Type A, but their ambition steadies them, and gives them confidence and security.
  • McGregor’s two outlooks on employees
    • Theory X: People dislike work, fear responsibility, crave security, and badly need direction.
    • Theory Y: Work is as natural as play or rest. People are creative and ingenious, and they will seek responsibility under proper conditions.
  • Pink’s two types of people
    • Type X: fueled by extrinsic desires, concerned about the rewards that activities lead to, rather than the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself.
    • Type I: fueled by intrinsic desires, concerned about the inherent satisfaction of the activity, rather than the rewards that it leads to.
    • Type I’s almost always outperform Type X’s in the long run.
    • Type I’s don’t disdain money or recognition. Employee compensation must hit a baseline or their motivation will crater regardless of their type.
    • Pay a Type I enough and you’ll take money off the table, allowing them to focus on their work. For a Type X, money is the table.
    • Type I’s are physically and psychologically healthier.
    • Humans are, by default, Type I.
  • Autonomy
    • Autonomy is the most important of the three basic human needs.
    • Empowerment is not autonomy. It is simply a more civilized form of control.
    • Type I behavior emerges when people have autonomy over the four T’s:
      • Task. The “20% time” that companies like Google, Atlassian, and DOW give their employees results in many new products.
      • Time. Lawyers are universally sullen because they bill by the hour, and law is a zero-sum game.
      • Technique
      • Team
  • Mastery
    • A mental state of Flow is how people achieve mastery.
    • In Flow, the relationship between what someone has to do and what they can do is perfect.
    • There are two things companies can do to help employees achieve mastery:
      • Give them “Goldilocks Tasks” — challenges that are not too challenging but not too simple.
      • Trigger the positive side of the Sawyer Effect, and turn work into play.
    • Achieving mastery is painful. Therefore, grit is essential to mastery. In fact, it is as essential as talent.