Will Facebook’s IPO Filing Ruin Its Culture?

Wednesday the world was privy to Facebook’s biggest status update: After much speculation, the largest social networking site filed for an IPO – in what’s expected to be the largest Internet IPO filing ever.

As Internet news and chatter last evening predictably revolved around the highly anticipated filing, many were preoccupied with breaking down the Silicon Valley-based company’s financial specifics – but what I think we can also glean from this event is a keen sense of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s management style.

“We don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services,” Zuckerberg was quoted as saying in a Wall Street Journal article. “These days I think more and more people want to use services from companies that believe in something beyond simply maximizing profits.”

That’s really telling of what enables the company to continually excel. In today’s uber-competitive corporate space where money and profits seemingly drive the business, it’s a breath of fresh air when the CEO of a company with so much potential hasn’t lost sight of the real prize: using the right tools to motivate employees to give their best.

It’s no secret that Zuckerberg has been reluctant to file for an IPO for fear of the potential harm it could do to the company’s culture. He has always been intent on keeping the culture intact by enabling his employees to concentrate on stellar products instead of stock price, the article said.

This merely reinforces New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author Dan Pink’s notion that the key human motivators aren’t monetary in nature at all. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Dan on a couple of occasions, and of the three motivators he cites — autonomy, mastery and purpose — none have the direct goal of producing truckloads of cash.

Instead, autonomy in particular — which forward-thinking companies such as Google implement — allow for employees to think outside the box and exercise their creativity. The culture is one of innovation and the goal is to make the best products. Essentially, profits don’t drive motivation and performance; it’s a result.

Because at the heart of unadulterated innovation lies the gratification of producing one’s best, not making the most money. Think about it: A focus on profits alone can lead companies to make any kind of failure inexcusable, thereby deterring innovation.

In a letter to investors, as published on Wired.com, Zuckerberg wrote: “At Facebook, we’re inspired by technologies that have revolutionized how people spread and consume information. We often talk about inventions like the printing press and the television — by simply making communication more efficient, they led to a complete transformation of many important parts of society. They gave more people a voice. They encouraged progress. They changed the way society was organized. They brought us closer together.”

That’s an example of motivating workers with purpose by showing them why and how their efforts can make a difference. To me personally, not losing sight of purpose can help me power through the bleakest of days when I don’t feel like I’m performing to my full capacity. At the end of the day, it’s not that money doesn’t play a role in motivating individuals; it just won’t get you out of bed.

Tell us: What steps do you take to protect your company’s culture if it’s at risk of eroding? And what do you see as key motivators among your workforce?