The book: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink; Riverhead Books; January 2010.
The big idea: Wall Street's crash was also a crash course in the folly of motivating behavior with great gobs of cash. Instead, companies should create conditions for employees to find the joy in work itself.
The backstory: Pink is the author of A Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation. Drive continues his engaging exploration of how we work.
Unusual suspects: Refreshingly, many examples derive from obscure entrepreneurial companies, such as Meddius, a Virginia health care technology business in which people choose their work arrangements; the only requirement is that they get results.
If you read nothing else: Chapters Four, Five, and Six limn the three requirements for intrinsic motivation. Employees must have autonomy, defined as choice about what one does and with whom one does it. They must desire mastery of tasks or skills that matter to them. And they must see their work as contributing to a greater purpose.
You can skip: The book's last third is an eclectic compendium of advice, exercises, resources, and odds and ends. Presumably, it's meant to be practical, but much of it feels like padding.
Rigor rating: 8 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great). Pink, a journalist, not only synthesized the existing research but also interviewed many of the original researchers.