Book Summary: Drive by Daniel Pink

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

A summary of my key takeaways from the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink.

In the past, the majority of our jobs were routine, unchallenging and directed by others. Many of these jobs can be outsourced or automated. The jobs that remain are more complex, interesting, self-directed and require creativity.

External rewards and punishments work nicely for when the work is simply following a set of instructions down a pre-defined path. However, they can be devastating for work in which there is no defined path that requires an employee to experiment with possibilities and come up with a new solution. External rewards for this type of work can actually dampen motivation and diminish performance. Intrinsic motivation or drive is more conducive for this type of work.

Drive comes from three things—autonomy, mastery and purpose.


  • People seek autonomy as something that improves their lives.
  • Autonomy has has four aspects to it:
    • Task – what people do
    • Time – when they do it
    • Technique – how they do it
    • Team – whom they do it with
  • Autonomy leads to engagement.
  • The opposite of autonomy is control. Control leads to compliance.
  • Leaders must strive to create conditions for people to do their best work. Instead of controlling people, they should reawaken their sense of autonomy. Leaders should give meaningful feedback and information, provide choice over what to do and how to do it, and encourage employees to take on new projects.


  • The most satisfying experiences in your life are when you are living deeply in the moment and time, place and self melt away. This is called flow.
  • What puts you into flow should be an indicator of what you should try to master.
  • Mastery is the desire to get better and better at something that matters. Mastery requires difficult, painful, excruciating, all-consuming effort over a long period of time—months, years or decades.
  • Mastery is something that eludes us—it is impossible to fully realize or attain. However, joy comes from the pursuit more than the realization.
  • Leaders should focus on giving employees clear goals, immediate feedback and challenges that are well matched to our abilities.


  • Deep motivation comes from attaching desires to purpose—a cause greater than yourself.
  • Purpose provides context for autonomy and mastery. Those who work autonomously toward mastery achieve even more when they have a purpose.
  • Leaders need to find ways to infuse business activities with deeper ideals.