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Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices

Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices

by Paul R. Lawrence, Nitin Nohria

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A touchstone for understanding how we behave on the job

"This is a stimulating and provocative book in bringing together important ideas from different fields, and, thereby, giving us a whole new slant on 'human nature.'" —Edgar H. Schein, Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus and Senior Lecturer, MIT

In this astonishing, provocative, and solidly


A touchstone for understanding how we behave on the job

"This is a stimulating and provocative book in bringing together important ideas from different fields, and, thereby, giving us a whole new slant on 'human nature.'" —Edgar H. Schein, Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus and Senior Lecturer, MIT

In this astonishing, provocative, and solidly researched book, two Harvard Business School professors synthesize 200 years of thought along with the latest research drawn from the biological and social sciences to propose a new theory, a unified synthesis of human nature. Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria have studied the way people behave in that most fascinating arena of human behavior-the workplace-and from their work they produce a book that examines the four separate and distinct emotive drives that guide human behavior and influence the choices people make: the drives to acquire, bond, learn, and defend. They ultimately show that, just as advances in information technology have spurred the New Economy in the last quarter of the twentieth century, current advances in biology will be the key to understanding humans and organizations in the new millennium.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...an interesting book which explores and integrates findings from several disciplines and which contributes further to the field of evolutionary psychology in a readable manner..." (The Occupational Psychologist, April 2002)
Library Journal
Harvard Business School professors Lawrence and Nohria here present a sociobiological theory of motivation, claiming that humans possess four basic drives to acquire, to bond, to learn, and to defend. What makes their theory novel is the way they apply it to the workplace. The authors use historical case studies to show that successful organizations are those that give their employees opportunities to fulfill all of these drives, while those that fulfill only the drive to acquire are ultimately less stable. Examples of both types of organizations are provided. The authors are well versed in sociobiology, and their four-drive theory makes intuitive sense. There are, however, a number of competing drive theories, from Freud's sexual drive and death urge to Steven Reiss's 16-drive theory. The authors acknowledge that the numbers and exact nature of our drives need further exploration and provide suggestions for research projects that would verify their hypotheses. Though this book is accessible to the lay reader or undergraduate, its narrow subject area recommends it mainly to academic libraries. Mary Ann Hughes, Neill P.L., Pullman, WA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
Why We Choose To Do What We Do
What drives us to make the choices we make? In Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices, two Harvard researchers have compiled some convincing evidence that sheds revealing light on the mysteries of human nature and behavior. Using a scientific foundation, authors Paul R. Lawrence & Nitin Nohria have linked business and evolutionary biology to offer a fascinating look at the way social behavior affects individuals, management, leadership and every organization.

Individuals act as a result of conscious choices, write Lawrence and Nohria. These choices are affected by the interplay of four subconscious drives.

The Drive to Acquire
The first subconscious drive is the drive to acquire things and experiences that improve our status in comparison to others. The impact of this drive - the oldest and most basic human drive - is revealed using two studies of British civil servants that attempted to determine the relationship between the health of these workers and their positions in the Civil Service hierarchy. These studies found that the higher one's rank in the Civil Service, the lower the risk of death at any given age. The authors write, " ... [I]n a world of limited resources, humans who achieve relative success in acquiring have both literally and figuratively better survival prospects."

The Drive to Bond
The second subconscious drive is the drive to bond with other people in lasting relationships of mutual care and commitment.

Bonding applies to every organization and individual, affecting personal morals as well as organizational missions and purposes. This is why companies are perceived asbeing trustworthy or not, and breaking promises plays an important role in hiring and firing. People identify with and invest their time and efforts in their organizations in the same way they identify with their friends. Humans are also capable of using modern communication technologies to develop positive bonds across vast distances to create a global sense of community with people and organizations.

The Drive to Learn
The third drive behind our actions is the drive to learn and understand the outside world and our inner selves. The innate drive to satisfy curiosity, to know, to comprehend, to believe, to appreciate and to develop understandings is present in all people.

The Drive to Defend
The fourth drive is the drive to defend ourselves, the people we love, our beliefs and the resources we have acquired.

Using the lessons from the field of neuroscience, the authors describe the drive to defend as a drive to protect the things that we have learned about the world and ourselves. It is activated whenever world views or self-images are threatened. Defense mechanisms take the form of verbal arguments, books, mass mediated messages and denial. In its extreme, the drive can be manifested in rage, violence and war. The authors remind us that it is not an innate drive to be aggressive: We are merely defensive.

The Organizational Context>
After the scientific and psychological basis for these four drives is explored, Driven creates a context for human nature by discussing culture, skills, emotions, the social contract between humans and the diversity we experience together. These theories are placed into an organizational context from which behavior can be predicted by applying the four drives.

The challenge is to find a way to design an organization around the drives, skills, smarts and emotions of everyone involved where collaboration creates, produces and sells products and services of value to the wider world.

Why Soundview Likes This Book
Driven's content is complex and compelling, and its multidisciplinary approach to exploring human nature as it applies to organizational dynamics is full of practical possibilities. The authors have done their research, and the payoff is a thought-provoking book full of ideas that are focused on advancing business and the human condition through intelligent insight. The book's theme boils down to the thought that the human species is equipped to meet the challenges of life, and balancing these drives in our lives can help us accomplish all that we seek to create. Copyright (c) 2002 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Product Details

Publication date:
J-B Warren Bennis Series , #8
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.96(w) x 9.07(h) x 0.94(d)

Meet the Author

Paul R. Lawrence is the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Organizational Behavior Emeritus at Harvard Business School. His research, published in twenty-four books and numerous articles, has centered on the human aspects of management, organizational change, and organization design.

Nitin Nohria is Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration and chairman of the Organizational Behavior Unit at the Harvard Business School.
He is the author of more than seventy-five professional articles and the coauthor or editor of seven books, including the award-winning The Differentiated Network.

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