Book review March 2010
Drive: The Surprising Truth About
What Motivates Us
Author: Daniel H. Pink
Publisher: Riverhead Books
You are a record-holder. Nobody else in the entire building can say they won a game of computer solitaire faster than you did. And you accomplished it through hours of practice and more losses than you’d care to admit. You’re good. You’re the envy of your officemates. If only your boss knew….
But what if your boss started to pay you for your solitaire prowess? What if your salary was based on being No.1 at computer cards? In the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Riverhead Books), by Daniel H. Pink, you’ll see why you never want to find out.
For decades, researchers have known that humans act on two main drives: biological (food, water, sex) and environmental (rewards from outside sources). Obviously, your solitaire habit doesn’t feed you, hydrate you, or help you procreate. You might get accolades now, but what got you started on the game in the first place?
Studies have shown that there’s another reason, a fragile “third drive”: We do things that have no intrinsic value just for the joy of doing them. That third drive is both a problem and a solution in business.
Let’s say that your boss decides to pay you for playing solitaire, since you’re so good at it. You’d be a solitaire-playing fool for a while, but (as you can probably guess) the fun won’t last. When play becomes work, it ceases to be the third drive. Even if your boss ties your score to a monetary reward, the game won’t be enjoyable for long. Solitaire becomes a chore.
Rewards, as it turns out, can backfire. Studies show that when people are offered compensation to complete a task, they got the reward quickly but long-term results fell off. Thus, Pink says, “if-then” rewards (If you do this, then you get that) can harm productivity. Punishment makes things even worse. So what’s your boss to do?
Humans need autonomy. Allowing you leeway in your workday would make you more focused on your job.
Releasing your creativity would mean better on-the-job satisfaction. Managing without managing and letting you set your own goals would make you feel more in control. And giving you a chance to get into “flow” would make you more productive. Although it will be a challenge for many workplaces to embrace what’s inside Drive, and though author Pink admits that autonomy won’t be advantageous to most task-driven businesses, this is the kind of book that every businessowner should read.
Surprisingly, Pink shows that “management” may go the way of rotary phones and mimeograph machines in the office. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but Pink says future jobs (those that rely on creativity more than physical labor) won’t need to be “managed” and that allowing employees to do nonwork at work actually makes them work harder.
While I wouldn’t call this book a casual read, for businesspeople, it’s a must-read. If you want your business to be around in the future, what’s in Drive is in the cards.
Victoire: My Mother’s Mother
By Maryse Condé,
Translated by Richard Philcox
Atria Books International, January 2010
195 pp., $19.99
In her latest book, Victoire, Guadeloupian-born novelist Maryse Condé begins: “She died long before I was born….” But a photograph of Victoire Elodie Quidal — with “Australian whiteness for the color of her skin,” black silky hair and pale gray eyes — captivated her. With a blending of imagination and an uncovering of facts, Condé writes passionately about her grandmother, an inventive cook who never learned to read or write and who formed a unique relationship with the Walbergs, a family of white Creoles in the French Antilles for whom she worked. What emerges from this “memoir” is not just a singular story, but also the emotional torment and unspeakable affection that arises in the souls of mothers and daughters.
Jesus, Jobs, and Justice: African American Women and Religion
By Bettye Collier-Thomas
Knopf, February 2010
720 pp., $37.50
Campaigning for social recognition and political strength has been women’s work for centuries. In Jesus, Jobs, and Justice, Temple University history professor Bettye Collier-Thomas’s hefty roll call examines “how religion informed and shaped the public lives and social activism of African-American women and how that, in turn, has influenced the American experience more broadly.” Covering 200 years, she focuses on many of the organizations women founded and how they were “motivated by their deep religious convictions and belief in the moral righteousness of their struggle to improve the economic and political status of females, Blacks and other minorities.