Newsletter #402 – Type I Motivation

I was impacted by Daniel Pink’s earlier books A Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation but at first I bypassed his recent work, Drive: The Surprising Truth About what Motivates Us. I assumed the book was about being driven, a topic that I know well from my own experience. Then I heard Daniel Pink speak and discovered that his book concerns how people are motivated, people like us, our clients, counselees, students and ministry colleagues.

Pink shows that performance and creativity do not always improve when they are linked to the promise of incentives or followed by higher grades, rewards or punishments. We have built whole business models, therapies, and educational systems on the giving or withholding of external rewards or reinforcements. When work is boring or routine that kind of “extrinsic motivation” still works. But reinforcements and incentives can lower performance and engagement when the tasks involve creativity, focused thinking, and problem solving. People engrossed in challenging, meaningful tasks are mostly motivated by inner rewards – often called intrinsic motivations — like the inner satisfaction that comes from finding a solution or making a difference.

Pink divides human behavior into two overlapping categories. Type X behavior involves doing an activity in order to get rewards like extra pay or promotions.  Type I behavior is concerned less with the external rewards and more with the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself. Type I people resist being managed, directed, threatened, or controlled by top-down leadership styles. They are more empowered by three innate elements:

  • Autonomy is the urge to direct our own lives and to empower others to move forward with a clear sense of independence and self-sufficiency.
  • Mastery is the desire to be innovative and creative, doing things that better ourselves and others.
  • Purpose involves contributing to a cause that is larger than ourselves, that revitalizes our work and impacts the world.

Are you more of a Type X or a Type I person? Find out at How does this relate to how you are motivated or to ways in which you motivate others? Please comment.


  1. Great concept, I definitely identify myself with the I model. I wonder how it would work in a setting where more basic needs are involved, where people work to feed their families without considering the satisfaction they might get out of it even if they have the creativity to do a different type of job. I live outside the USA where this is a reality for a large portion of the population.


  2. Gary, I enjoy Dan Pink’s thinking on many levels; he is certainly expanding boundaries and creating possibilities. Personally, I have been focused recently on applying Romans 12:2 to my perceived reality. As I renew my mind to not be conformed(restrained by the taking on of form, fashion or appearance) to worldly systems but instead living by Kingdom systems; I’m seeing the Kingdom manifested in very real and miraculous ways. However, living unconventionally has its downs as well as its ups. The biggest hurdle has been other people who are not able to find their security outside of worldly systems. My life seems to have a polarizing effect… Some people are inspired while others think I’m coloring way outside of the lines. So I continue to love without being concerned with response or whether or not I’m understood. “On earth as it is in Heaven”


  3. I did not start out a Type I person but have become one as I’ve grown older. I think once a person is managed by people who use various motivational or leadership styles which don’t track with their values or personalities they realize they may have the ability to lead and do it well. That in itself becomes motivational and the pay/promotions, etc., can be secondary to the rewards of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

    Observation plays a key role in all of this.

    Thanks for sharing this with us.


  4. Much inside me yearns to be Type I. I took the test 3 times, each result the same, 60+ years of schooling and work instills strong tendencies of Type X thinking and feeling. This week my supervisor proposed a job performance quota which is outside my control to meet. I told him so and he asked what I thought. Then, while working on our agency’s 2011 budget, I came head-on into an area that begs for some creative, inspired thinking, and more than a little prayer. Here’s an opportunity to practice Type I and resist Type X.


  5. I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Pink’s desire to see people ~ young and old ~ recover and then tap into their “intrinsic motivation.” I do however want to mention that the right brain/left brain science is now found to be untrue. Again, I sight the work of Dr. Caroline Leaf in her book “Who Switched Off My Brain.”




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