I have read and reviewed all of Dan Pink's previous books and think that this is his most important, his most valuable thus far. As the subtitle correctly indicates, he focuses on "the surprising truth about what motivates us." The revelations he shares were generated by a five-year research project that involved thousands of test groups and individuals as well as dozens of research associates whom Pink duly acknowledges with obvious admiration as well as appreciation. "This is a book about motivation. I will show that much of what we believe about the subject just isn't so - and that the insights that [Harry] Harlow and [Edward] Deci began uncovering a few decades ago come much closer to the truth." Pink goes on assert that most organizations (regardless of nature and extent) formulate strategies for motivation based on faulty assumptions and then, however well-executed these strategies may be, fail to achieve their objectives. These organizations continue to pursue practices (e.g., shirt-term incentive plans and pay-for-performance schemes) "in the face of mounting evidence that such measures usually don't work and often do harm. Worse, these practices have infiltrated our schools, where we ply our future workforce with iPods, cash, and pizza coupons to `incentivize' them to learn. Something has gone wrong." Indeed, as Pink convincingly explains, something has been wrong, very wrong, for many years.
Drawing upon an abundance of research by several behavioral scientists, including Harlow and Deci, provides a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional explanation of "what motivates us," what really motivates us. He carefully organizes his material within three Parts. In the first, he examines the flaws in reward-and-punishment system and proposes "a new way to think about motivation"; in the second, he examines the three elements of Type I behavior i.e. autonomy, mastery, and purpose) and illustrates how individuals as well as organizations "are using them to improve performance and deepen satisfaction"; and in the third Part, he provides what he characterizes as a "Type I Toolkit, a wealth of resources, to help each reader create an environment (in collaboration with others) in which Type I behavior can flourish.
Here are a few of Pink's insights that caught my eye. First, a few distinctions about what Type I behavior is...and isn't: It is made, not born; almost always outperforms Type Xs in the long run; does not disdain money or recognition; is a renewable resource; promotes greater physical and mental well-being; is self-directed; devoted to becoming better and better at something that matters; and connects the quest for excellence with a larger picture. (Pages 79-81) In stunning contrast, Type X "is fueled more by extrinsic desires than intrinsic ones. It concerns itself less with the inherent satisfaction of an activity and more with the external rewards to which that activity leads." Pink recommends what he calls the Motivation 3.0 operating system - "the upgrade that's needed to meet the new realities of how we organize, think about, and do what we do" - depends on the aforementioned Type I behavior.
I also appreciate Pink's provision of real-world examples to create a context, a frame-of-reference, within which to anchor as well as illustrate his core concepts. In Chapters 4-6, he rigorously examines the three elements of Type I behavior (i.e. autonomy, mastery, and purpose) and explains how and why they are separate but interdependent. All three are essential to help achieve what he characterizes as "a renaissance of self-direction." Motivation 3.0 presumes that workers want to be accountable - "and that making sure they have control over their task, their time, their technique, and their team is a pathway to destination." With regard to mastery, Type I "has an incremental theory of intelligence, prizes learning gals over performance goals, and welcomes effort as a way to improve at something that matters. Begin with [a Type X] mindset, and mastery is impossible. Begin with the other [i.e. Type I], and it can be inevitable."
With all due respect to Dan Pink's previously published books, I think this one is his most important, his most valuable, because the information and wisdom he provides will have much wider and deeper impact.