Daniel Pink, in his best-selling book, Drive, presents a solid case for re-examining many of the commonly held notions about motivation. And he is not alone in asserting that time-honored cash incentive programs simply do not work as intended, and, in fact, may actually be counter-productive in many instances. Specifically, Pink calls out autonomy, mastery, and purpose as "intrinsic" motivators, possibly even in the same power class as hunger and sex.
As I replay conversations with entrepreneurs I have known, I am called to re-interpret comments about the desire to "get rich" as a convenient wrapping for a deeper need - the desire for personal autonomy. Autonomy, after all, is one of the "things" that riches actually deliver. Simply to have money, after all, is not the same as to spend money.
People buy (as all great salespeople know) feelings, not products. They may say that they want the high performance of a sports car; but they may really want the feelings of power and desirability that come from being seen in such a vehicle. Likewise, it is easy to map an expressed desire for riches onto the more subtle feelings that riches can enable.
People, says Pink, also crave the feeling of mastery, that they are really good at something, and constantly getting better. Well, earned money is certainly a handy scorecard for that one. Most freshly rich people got that way by being really good at something, even if it was something illegal. Bad crooks don't get rich, after all.
Finally, Pink points out that people tend to want to feel that they are part of something bigger. He calls that "purpose." Guy Kawasaki, in The Art of the Start, calls it "meaning." And Jim Flowers (that's me) uses the word Purpose to encompass both Motivation (me-first stuff) and Meaning (others-first stuff). It turns out, oddly enough, that you can do a lot of good things for others if you have enough money.
So, where is all this taking us? It demands that we look beyond the money. As an aspiring entrepreneur, or someone working with entrepreneurs, it does seem like a good idea to pry open the hidden door behind the obvious cash factor, and figure out what that cash represents, what it might enable. That's really where the drive is coming from. And that drive is a key determinant of the MOXIE supply that will be available to fight through all the obstacles in the way of success.
Money is not a true motivator. It's an enabler. But it is a really handy scorecard.