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Book Summary of Drive by Daniel Pink

Summary of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us Book by Daniel H. Pink

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What Is The Book About?

Drive is the fourth non-fiction book by Daniel Pink. It argues that human motivation is largely intrinsic and that the aspects of this motivation can be divided into autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

In this book, Danel Pink argues against old models of motivation driven by rewards and fear of punishment, dominated by extrinsic factors such as money.

Drive explains, in simple terms and with plenty of examples, that rewards and punishments – motivation 2.0 – are an old paradigm that doesn’t work nearly well in today’s work environments.

“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 Harlow and Deci began uncovering a few decades ago come much closer to the truth”

Dan Pink

About the Author

Daniel H. Pink is the author of several bestselling books. His books have been translated into 35 languages, have sold more than 2 million copies worldwide and have won multiple awards.

Daniel’s books include the long-running New York Times bestsellers When and A Whole New Mind — as well as the #1 New York Times bestsellers Drive and To Sell is Human. He lives in Washington, DC. with his family.

Drive book summary

Book Summary of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us Book by Daniel H. Pink

What is the best way to motivate yourself and others to do cognitively demanding work? External rewards like cash bonuses are great for straight-forward tasks: getting kids to do their chores, convincing yourself to do repetitive data entry work, or motivating an employee to do assembly line work. 

However, these ‘if you do this, I’ll reward you with that’ types of external incentives are horrible for motiving yourself and others to learn a difficult subject or come up with creative solutions to complex problems. 

According to scientific research, if you use external incentives like money, grades, or social status, you will do significant harm to one’s long-term motivation to do cognitively demanding work. 

The Rise and Fall of Motivation 2.0

Motivation needs an upgrade. Societies have operating systems just like computers. Many organizations, cultures and even families, operate on an old, out-of-date motivation operating system that built around external rewards and punishments.

Motivation 1.0: Survival

It worked well. Until it didn’t. As humans formed more complex societies, bumping up against strangers and needing to cooperate in order to get things done, an operating system based purely on the biological drive was inadequate. In fact, sometimes we needed ways to restrain this drive–to prevent me from swiping your dinner and you from stealing my spouse. And so in a feat of remarkable cultural engineering, we slowly replaced it with Motivation 2.0.

“Motivation 1.0 presumed that humans were biological creatures, struggling to obtain our basic needs for food, security and sex.

Dan Pink

Motivation 2.0: Rewards and Punishments

At the core, humans are more than the sum of our biological urges. However, it also suggests that we aren’t much different than horses–that the way to get us moving int he right direction is by dangling a crunchier carrot or wielding a sharper stick. But what this operating system lacked in enlightenment, it made up for ineffectiveness. It worked well–extremely well. Until it didn’t.

This is motivation 2.0, which has now been proven scientifically to be incompatible with how we organize, what we do, how we think about what we do and how we do what we do. Below that motivation 1.0 is pure survival.

The problem with motivation 2.0 is that it crushes creativity, diminishes performance, creates addictions, and it fosters short term thinking. What it also does is destroy the more valuable motivation within: the intrinsic motivation.

Motivation 3.0

Motivation 2.0 presumed that humans also responded to rewards and punishments. That worked fine for routine tasks but incompatible with how we organize what we do, how we think about what we do, and how. we do what we do. We need an upgrade. 

Motivation 3.0, the upgrade we now need, presumes that humans also have a drive to learn, to create, and to better the world.” 

Dan Pink

Type I and Type X

Type I: Intrinsically motivated.

Intrinsic behavior, that we’ll call it Type I, is less concerned with external rewards and is more satisfied with the activity itself. Type I’s are made, so if you’ve happened to be extrinsically motivated your whole life, have faith, there is hope. For personal and professional success, it’s important to move ourselves from extrinsically motivated to intrinsically motivated.

Type X: Extrinsically motivated.

Extrinsic (Type X) is a high risk of becoming unfulfilled. It is reaching for the external; material validation and satisfaction. It’s a high chance of sad results.

  • Type I behavior is made, not born.
  • Type I’s almost always outperform Type X’s in the long run.
  • Type I behavior does not disdain money or recognition. (“One reason fair and adequate pay is so essential is that it takes the issue of money off the table so they can focus on the work itself. By contrast, for many Type X’s, money is the table. It’s why they do what they do. Recognition is similar.”)
  • Type I behavior is a renewable resource.
  • Type I behavior promotes greater physical and mental well-being.

Intrinsic motivation Type I behavior leads to greater health and vitality, a higher probability of fulfillment and stronger performance.

By default, we all want to be free. We want to be the architects of our own lives and be able to self-direct our own destinies.

Unfortunately, in many organizations, they have outdated notions of management that lead people from Type I to Type X.

The Three Elements

Science has found a beautiful way containing three essential elements.

1: Autonomy: The desire for you to direct your own life.

2: Mastery: The pull to make progress and get better at something that matters.

3: Purpose: The yearning to do what you want to do in the service of something greater than yourself.


When Atlassian, an Australian software company, allowed their programmers to have a complete day of freedom (they were paid to work on whatever code they wanted with whomever they wanted), they came up with several new product ideas and dozens of creative solutions to existing problems. 

Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes told author Daniel Pink, “If you don’t pay enough, you can lose people. But beyond that, money is not a motivator.” What motivates people beyond equal pay is work autonomy. 

By giving yourself and others a degree of flexibility within a rigid framework with a choice of tasks, free time to work on side projects, choice of technique, and the opportunity to pick team members, you will spark the intrinsic drive of autonomy. Author Daniel Pink calls these the four T’s of autonomy: The freedom to pick the task, the time, the technique, and the team. 

“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” – Daniel Pink 

– Daniel Pink

People need autonomy over what they do, when they do it and how they do it. Many organizations have found inventive and creative ways to incorporate autonomy and it’s helping to outperform the competitors.

One quick example is Google. Google allows employees to have autonomy. One-fifth of their working hours are for working on any project that they want. This autonomy has created great things like Gmail, Google News, and so much more.

Encouraging autonomy is important, but it does not mean discouraging accountability.

Control leads to compliance and autonomy leads to engagement. Motivation 2.0 requires compliance. Whereas motivation 3.0 demands engagement. Engagement is what produces mastery.


When Swedish shipping company, Green Cargo, wanted to overhaul their performance review process, they implemented a key finding by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: when workers are given tasks slightly above their current skill level and stay in a state between boredom and anxiety, they are more engaged, more motivated to work, and more creative. 

Green Cargo implemented Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s findings by changing the way they conducted performance reviews. During each performance review, managers now needed to determine if their employees were overwhelmed or underwhelmed with their current work assignments. Then the managers needed to work with each employee to craft Goldilocks work assignments: work assignments that weren’t too hard, not too easy, but just right above their current skill level. 

What effect did Green Cargo’s new performance review system have?

Employees were more engaged and reported feelings of mastery over their work. After two years of these new performance reviews, Green Cargo became profitable for the first time in 125 years. 

“One source of frustration in the workplace is the frequent mismatch between what people must do and what people can do. When what they must do exceeds their capabilities, the result is anxiety. When what they must do falls short of their capabilities, the result is boredom. But when the match is just right, the results can be glorious.”

– Daniel Pink

Progress in your work turns out to be the most motivating asset of many jobs. So where do you begin with mastery? The answer is flow.

Optimal experiences when the challenges we face are exquisitely matched to our abilities. Instead of having just bland day to day tasks, have with the book calls, Goldilocks tasks, tasks that are not too hard and not too easy. Challenge yourself, but get it done. The two easy tasks prohibit our growth, whereas the too hard task adds too much complexity to the problem and overwhelms us, which leads to analysis paralysis.

Mastery has three rules:

1- Mastery is a mindset because it requires you to see your ability, not perfect, but infinitely improvable.

2- Mastery is a pain because it requires effort, deliberate practice, failure, trial and error, and grit.

3- Mastery is asymptote because the overall lifetime result is impossible to fully realize, which makes it frustrating as well as learning.


“You have to repeat your mission and your purpose…over and over and over. And sometimes you’re like, doesn’t everyone already know this? It doesn’t matter. Starting out the meetings with This is Facebook’s mission, This is Instagram’s mission, and This is why Whatsapp exists (is critical).”

– Sheryl Sandberg 

When Sheryl Sandburg starts her meetings by stating the mission, she’s sparking the third intrinsic driver: a sense of purpose. 

Purpose is the reason organizations like ‘Doctors Without Borders’ can get highly skilled doctors to willingly travel to poor villages around the world, live in harsh conditions, and get paid very little money to do so. These doctors are motivated to work because they are fueled by a sense of purpose they get from helping others. 

Ask: How will learning this topic allow you to help the people you care about? How will solving this problem serve the greater good? 

“Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”

– Daniel Pink 

In motivation 3.0 purpose maximization is taking its place alongside profit maximization as an aspiration and a guiding principle.

Humans are naturally inclined to seek purpose, to be part of a greater cause, and to make a contribution in the world. Traditional business has not prioritized purpose and autonomy, which leads to unfulfilled workers. It’s much more valuable for an individual and organization to adopt a new method of motivation: Purpose Motivation.

Purpose Motivation expresses itself in three ways:

1- In words that emphasize beyond self-interest

2- In goals that use the profit to reach the purpose

3- In policies that allow people to pursue purpose on their own terms

Just imagine how much more fulfilled will we all become when we have upgraded our operating system; becoming intrinsically motivated, living a life full of purpose, mastery, vitality, contribution, and freedom.

How can my motivational force go from a push energy, a swim against the current energy, go from that to being pulled? Pulled is much better. Purpose, mastery, and freedom can pull us towards our destiny.


To motivate employees who work beyond basic tasks, giving these three factors are argued to increase performance and satisfaction:

  • Autonomy — Our desire to be self-directed. It increases engagement over compliance.
  • Mastery — The urge to get better skills.
  • Purpose — The desire to do something that has meaning and is important. Businesses that only focus on profits without valuing purpose will end up with poor customer service and unhappy employees.

What did you learn from Drive summary? What was your favorite takeaway? How can we improve this summary? Comment below or tweet to us @storyshots.

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Drive Book Summary
Drive Book Summary
Drive Visual Summary
Drive Visual Summary

Adapted from: Productivity Game and TridentLion YouTube Channels, Wikipedia, Adrien Liard visual summary and Vialogue blog post.

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