What motivates an individual to do anything is complicated. There are often primary and secondary motives. When we began to study the lives of innovators we thought that one of the primary motivations would be to make money. After looking at many different innovators it became evident that making money was almost never the primary motivation. Don’t get the wrong idea, people don’t innovate out of purely altruistic motivations. Making money was often a secondary motive, but not the driving force.
Edison put it this way, “I always invented to obtain money to go on inventing.” One of his primary motives was that he loved what he was doing. He saw the income as a means to an end. This does not mean that his innovations were not economically driven. To him, people purchasing his inventions was a sign of success. The money was a vital byproduct of his successful innovations
He also at times expressed a more altruistic motive. He stated, “My desire is to do everything within my power to free people from drudgery and create the largest measure of happiness and prosperity.” This attitude was also part of what kept in going when times were difficult. Innovation is hard. There are a lot of setbacks, and if the motivation is just to make money, when the times get tough people tend to move on to something else that is an easier way to create income. This may be what separates some entrepreneurs from innovators and vice versa. This may also explain why many successful innovators were not always successful in business. Edison is an example of this. He was a world class innovator, but struggled being the leader of his companies. The skill sets are not the same, and his motivations were not always aligned with the way a CEO would need to think.
So spend some time examining your motives. Why are you working on what you are working on? Are you truly motivated to keep it moving? Is there a higher or better purpose in what you do? Looking at why you are doing what you are doing may be what you need to help move forward in your innovation.