Friday 5 July 2013

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Earlier in the week I explored the desire to flourish rather than simply succeed. I realised, as I wrote what will now be a future blog on personal flourishing, that an understanding of Maslow's hierarchy of needs was useful and decided to write an additional blog first to cover that.

This series of blogs contends that flourishing is a essential desired outcome - individually and organisationally. What flourishing looks like personally Maslow would suggest depends on what someone already has. Maslow hypothesized that someone would start by seeking the fulfilment of their basic or physiological needs for survival. Once these basic needs are met, they no longer act as a motivator for the person. An escalation of needs then takes place with each of these needs providing motivation for someone's actions in the acending order shown in the diagram above.
  • Physiological needs are required for survival and include air, water, food, sleep, shelter, clothing and so on.
  • Safety needs include security, freedom from pain, protection from danger, wellbeing and so on.
  • Belonging needs are the needs to be social and include: family, friendship, affection, and love.
  • Esteem or ego needs include respect from others, recognition, appreciation, independence, achievement and so on.
  • Self-actualisation needs relate to an individual’s personal growth and fulfilment of their potential.
I wonder if the undercover boss in an earlier blog this week, and other's in similar positions, make assumptions about where those working for them are on this hierarchy of needs. Perhaps based on their own situation and experience. If an organisation is to flourish I'd suggest they need to ensure that these needs are met for those working for them at all levels of the organisation.

One tool I use with clients is taking lessons from nature and applying them to their organisations. I wondered therefore where nature fitted in Maslow's model.  Here's what I came up with - would love your comments on whether you think it works.

In other words plants only have basic physiological needs. This use of the food chain ( my interpretation anyway) then suggests that insects and reptiles have additional safety needs, that birds and mammals have an additional need for belonging and that humans are the only species who also need esteem. 

As so much of humanity is seemingly a long way from having their self actualisation needs met I wondered if that will be the role of Homo Evolutis or whatever, or whoever, comes next? 

In this week's undercover boss DHL's CEO realised they still had action to take to meet the basic safety needs of many of those working for them. I'm sure it's the same in many organisations. The worry is that if this model is true then many organisations are treating those in their employment the same as, or worse than, the food we eat?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Flourishing is the outcome of a 7 step process I've developed that uses nature as our teacher and suggests that, just like nature, we need to preserve our ICECAPS.

Blog 6 of 31 as part of the ultimate blog challenge for July.


  1. I learned Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as part of my teaching training. Of course we had to apply it to education. I find it fascinating that you applied it to businesses. Something to think about, thanks.

  2. Oh yes I think that is excellent that you applied the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to business as well. I have a feeling this is something that many business owners are not even considering!

  3. It is true that the best companies and organizations do this as a matter of course. I think of how well the company my father worked for has taken care of our family over the years. Fairly recently there was a natural disaster that affected our area and this company stepped in and provided free housing and financial assistance to all of the employees who needed it. Providing for these needs meant that those fortunate enough to work for this generous company didn't have to worry about the basics and it freed them up to help the community as a whole recover. At the end of the day, a company that could have had significant loss ended up sustaining and growing during that difficult time, so their generosity served two purposes. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks Hollie and Miriam glad you liked it. Thanks too Bonnie for a great reminder that not all companies are like those that end up in the press all the time nor make fodder for great TV programmes. I also think perhaps there's something about when it's there in front of them organisations do do the right thing. In the Undercover Boss Programme as soon as the CEO had seen the problems he took action. Just easy to not take action if it's hidden mmm I can feel another blog coming on.

  5. Here's today's blog inspired by your comment Bonnie -