The Importance of Motivation to Entrepreneurship

“Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way.” 
― Les Brown

Motivation is key to learning entrepreneurship.  Research has shown motivated learning acquire  skills and strategies faster than task learning and influences what, when and how we learn.  On the journey from having a unique business idea to making it profitable and sustainable, an entrepreneur may experience moments of frustration.  Motivation can keep entrepreneurs on a continued path during these moments.  To achieve objectives entrepreneurs must be hard-working.  It is an inner energy that affects the direction and intensity of the entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurship is about taking risks and coming up with innovative solutions to real-life problems.  Of key attributes of an entrepreneur, none is more important than motivation –risk-taking, passion, hard work, innovation, organization and…motivation.  For entrepreneurs, self-belief is crucial to motivation.  It is a tough task to start something new, and it becomes even tougher when people are doubtful about the practicality of the venture. The desire and motivation to keep focusing on the tasks and to work hard are keys to growing into successful entrepreneurs.

After thirty years as a serial entrepreneur (insurance agencies) and fifteen years teaching entrepreneurship (adjunct professor), I have come to strongly believe in the evidenced-based, “lean” entrepreneurship method.  Almost anyone using customer development evidence can build a successful business provided they want it bad enough and have sufficient motivational desire.  It becomes the secret to building a successful venture and makes understanding and cultivating motivation meaningful.  Entrepreneurs need to understand, tap into, and sustain their motivation to start a business, but they also need to be able to motivate others to buy into their vision.

Influences on wanting to be an entrepreneur include greater freedom (you are the boss and make the decisions), greater income (everything after taxes and expenses belongs to the entrepreneur), greater influence (desire to have control over the product) and leaving an impact or legacy in a field.  The benefits of entrepreneurship are independence, satisfaction, self-esteem and, as above, financial security.  “The Bible”, Motivation in Education, by Dale Schunk, Judith Meece, and Paul Pintrich treats the history of motivation (early 20th. Century and around 1970 for cognitive perspective), and three theories -attribution, social cognitive, and intrinsic motivation.

While attribution theory uses emotions, the pride, shame angle, and the fact social cognitive deals with motivation from mental processes (beliefs, rules), it is the intrinsic motivation that applies the most to entrepreneurship.  This motivation engages for its own sake and depends on arousal and incongruity (vs. extrinsic or means to an end motivation).  People who are intrinsically motivated work on tasks because they find them enjoyable. Task participation is its own reward and does not depend on rewards or constraints.  Lepper and Hodell identified four major sources of intrinsic motivation -challenge, curiosity, control, and fantasy

“Students find activities challenging, as when goals are a challenge and success not certain.”  It might depend on learners’ curiosity arising from activities that are surprising or incongruous.  Intrinsic motivation derives from students experiencing a sense of control over their learning and task participation.  Activities that help learners become involved in make-believe and fantasy also enhance intrinsic motivation.  These latter characteristics of intrinsic nature are why learning from experiential exercises has become common in entrepreneurship training. The locus of control and personal causation, a feeling of control over one’s life and an awareness of the effects of one’s actions motivate inherently.

Professor Sara Sarasvathy’s (UVA) Theory of Effectuation from her 2001 book  “Effectuation: Elements of Entrepreneurial Expertise” found entrepreneurs are essential to economic development because they put capital to use, explore new ideas, and take risks, but most importantly they tolerate uncertainty.  She defines this element of inner motivation as “effectuation: the logic of thinking used by expert entrepreneurs to build successful ventures”.  It’s impossible to predict the future; effectual thinkers believe that “If they can control the future, they don’t need to predict it.”

Entrepreneurship develops students by forcing them to think, create and solve for themselves.  It empowers them and changes their lives for the better.  By teaching customer questioning, concept presentation, working in a diverse team, controlling time, and having ownership of their work students evolve intrinsically and over time into entrepreneurs.  As Ernest Holmes said, “change your thinking and change your life.”

Edited by Clinton E Day, MBA with contributions from Techfunnel and WorldNewEra

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