Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Updated: Jul 3
Abraham Maslow was a psychologist and university professor who first developed the theory that our various needs as humans have a hierarchy. Publishing his paper in 1943 and following up with his 1954 book Motivation and Personality, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is still widely used in a range of business, educational and psychological contexts today.
Maslow's theory suggests that a person will be primarily motivated to meet their needs in order of importance (from the bottom up), and originally stated that they would not be driven by the needs on the higher levels until the more basic needs on the levels below had been completely satisfied.
The hierarchy places fundamental physical needs as the foundation, social and emotional needs in the middle and what Maslow called "self-actualization" (realising one's full potential) at the top. Those needs on the bottom will eclipse all others until they are adequately satisfied, and where given a choice a person will sacrifice higher needs to meet those on the lower levels, for example, sacrificing social acceptance or even safety to procure food when starving. There is also an implication that the more fundamental the need, the more universal to all humans those needs are.
Most often depicted in the pyramid shape shown above, more recent developments to the theory acknowledge that the stages can in fact overlap, and that an individual's focus can shift between layers as needed, or be driven by several layers at once, to varying degrees. A new illustration (right) shows the layers dynamically overlapping over the development of the individual, as needs rise and fall in importance. While the basic needs are always present, (and may always take over if in deficit), they are shown to be less of a driving factor at the higher levels of personal development.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is usually applied to individual development, but I believe it is also applicable to the needs of humanity as a whole. Echoing the cake-shaped hierarchies discussed in my previous post, we see the same ranking of needs here, from the physical to the social, to the economic (for what is economics, if not humanity's drive to discover and reach our full potential?)
Besides the obvious conclusion that we must be meeting the physiological needs of humanity as a whole before we are fully capable of reaching our full potential as a species, the Hierarchy also suggests a roadmap for the process of our actualisation on a species-wide level, a society-wide level and indeed, a company-wide level too.
We can use it as a tool to meet the needs of all our employees and stakeholders then, starting with the most imperative and working our way up to reaching our organisation's full potential.
"Profits" that are declared without meeting the needs of the lower layers are not profits at all, they are deficits. And deficits will always catch up with us.