Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us

then somehow...
Sep 10 · 4 min read

Bestselling writer Daniel Pink’s talk at the RSA illustrates the hidden truths behind what really motivates us in the workplace. Watch the video here.

In this brilliant video, writer Daniel Pink explains the science behind motivation. The research is surprising, it shows that in today’s world, the traditional idea that money incentivises better performance doesn’t work. In fact the opposite.

What You Can Learn

With examples and case studies that show this in action, Pink concludes that as long as you pay people enough so they’re not thinking about the money, then there are three factors lead to better performance:

  1. Autonomy = the desire to be self-directed
  2. Mastery = the urge to get better at stuff
  3. Purpose = makes coming to work better, and attracts better talent

We urge you to watch it — it’s only about 10 mins long.

Why This Tool is Good for Leaders and Managers

When we show this video to clients, they all say, wow that’s so helpful! Because it does make you think about carrot and stick, and it makes you reflect on your own style, or what conversations you could be having, and patterns you fall into by habit.

The big takeaway: if you start treating people like people, instead of workhorses, you have the opportunity to make organisations, work, and the world, a little bit better.

Why We Like It

What really strikes me about Drive and the idea that there are three things that motivate people ie Purpose, Mastery, and Autonomy… is that this completely overlaps with tools and ideas we promote.

For example, the Transactional Analysis tool, relates to Autonomy — let’s treat people like adults, and stop controlling them.

If you tell people what you expect, and are really clear about how you expect them to step into their role, and how you need them to tell you when you might be stepping over the line and stopping them from being autonomous — that’ll stop you being a micro-manager.

Mastery involves people having a challenge and a sense of progression, which relates to the Three Questions: ie How you’re doing? Do you know what’s expected of you? Where are you heading?

Drive helps managers get deeper into this and think about: what does autonomy look like? What does mastery look like? and how do you create purpose for people?

(We’re lucky, a lot of the clients we work with — universities, local authorities — have purpose built-in.)

Each of these ideas is a different way into the same thing, which is actually thinking about what people need from you as a manager.

What Does this Mean in Practice: an example

We’ve been working recently with a client who sent me a statement of the new purpose of their organisation. “What do you think of this?” they asked. It was a really well-thought-out and well-articulated statement: for them it was all about putting people first, having a growth mindset, and the right kind of can-do attitude.

What struck me about it though was that you have to be really really clear about how that lives and stays alive in an organisation.

So I said, “I love it, but it’s just words until you explain what you mean. Can you tell a story of when this kind of behaviour happens?”

For example, linking back to mastery and purpose — “what does a growth mindset actually mean? Can you give an example of somebody in your organisation who was given a challenge? Can you give an example of how you put people first? Does that mean that you’ve shown compassion when someone had a family bereavement? Or that you helped someone when they were battling cancer?”

“What does mastery mean for each of the individuals that work for you? What does autonomy actually look like?”

“You may need to have a conversation about that.”

It’s good to be really clear about these things, and you also have to work out how to apply them in the day-to-day.

So much of the time, all of this work is about the interactions between people, the dynamics, the interplay in a conversation or series of conversations.

It’s about how you make shared understanding, shared meaning, about how you interpret things differently or reach accord, understand the problem, and listen carefully.

And so writing down what your purpose is, or what your values are, is great, but you have to explain to people what they mean because otherwise, they are just words…

Tools like Drive, tools like Transactional Analysis, tools like The Three Questions, all of them are prompting you to think about what people mean when they talk, and how we make sense of this stuff together.

If you need some help with working on this — get in touch, at Then Somehow we help you build emotional literacy, increase empathy, and help you see the world differently, giving you practical tools to shift the stuff that’s stuck.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help your leadership team perform better, get in touch here.

Originally published at on September 10, 2019.

then somehow

We invent, pilot and deploy tools and programmes that help organisations become better places to work. We help you make informed decisions, and change behaviours that support improved cultures. All our tools have data and stories, logic and magic, at their heart.

then somehow...

Written by

we make tools for the messy stuff

then somehow

We invent, pilot and deploy tools and programmes that help organisations become better places to work. We help you make informed decisions, and change behaviours that support improved cultures. All our tools have data and stories, logic and magic, at their heart.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade