Nona Blog

BOOK REVIEW #1 Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink

While this is positioned as a management and leadership book, it really helped me get more insight into my own motivations and will ripple on into many more relationships and situations other than the workplace, staff and colleagues.

I don’t think it comes as any surprise that in this day and age a lot of people are unsatisfied in the workplace, and that daily tasks and financial rewards fail to motivate beyond a certain point.

What Drive clearly illustrates is that human motivation is intrinsic and that extrinsic motivators or rewards such as financial incentives beyond a certain point actually harm motivation. However, it is important to note that intrinsic motivation was only really possible once the basic extrinsic motivations were met ie: Your income can put food on the table, a roof over your head and afford the basic enjoyments of life.

Pink makes reference to tests carried out in Cambridge, Massachusetts and rural India which revealed that for tasks requiring a higher level of cognitive processing, the group with the possibility of higher rewards did worse than their peers playing for smaller rewards.

When it comes to heuristic tasks we have moved beyond reward and punishment and seek satisfaction in the work itself. Pink argues that to get better results and instill a higher level of personal satisfaction, people needed autonomy, mastery and purpose. This is not an entirely new concept. Alderian psychology is of the opinion that reward and punishment strip away opportunity to make your own decisions and to be responsible for your own behavior. Marx also touches on this in “The theoretical basis of alienation within the capitalist mode of production” he writes “the worker invariably loses the ability to determine life and destiny when deprived of the right to think (conceive) of themselves as the director of their own actions”.

My interpretation of Pinks analysis is as follows:


People should not be micromanaged and should always have the freedom to explore new or alternative ways of doing things. This will usually lead to higher engagement.


The challenge of learning new skills and problem-solving is more appealing and rewarding than merely completing a task. It creates an environment that fosters curiosity and learning and allows people to develop their own skills.


Everyone needs to see that what they are contributing is adding value to the bigger picture. If financial rewards or incentives are separated from purpose it can lead to disengagement and a decrease in quality work being produced.

In conclusion, we have all heard and read about unconventional and often idealised management techniques used by companies like Google and Apple. I often thought these were a lot easier to implement if you were a giant corporation whose biggest worry wasn’t bringing in enough revenue to cover costs and keeping the doors open.

Over time at Nona, we have managed to implement some of Pink’s driving philosophies.

Empowerment and autonomy are key focuses throughout all teams and departments, where no one is forced to follow a formulaic process. Team members have the opportunity to weigh in and be heard on design and development policies. We are continually committed to upskilling and learning with every second Friday being a dedicated learning day.

Overall it was an engaging, thought-provoking read and one that I would recommend. One of the biggest reminders the book has left me with is that I need to continuously set new goals and projects for myself as I am best motivated when I am challenged, pushed out of my comfort zone and have the freedom to constantly produce and experiment.

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Gordon Angus

Head of Design - Nona