How relevant is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs Today?

In 1954 Abraham Maslow posited a Hierarchy of Human Needs based on two groupings: deficiency needs and growth needs. Within the deficiency needs, each lower need must be met before moving to the next higher level. Once each of these needs has been satisfied, if at some future time a deficiency is detected, the individual will act to remove the deficiency. The first four levels are:

1) Physiological: hunger, thirst, bodily comforts, etc.;

2) Safety/security: out of danger;

3) Belongingness and Love: affiliate with others, be accepted; and

4) Esteem: to achieve, be competent, gain approval and recognition.

When these first four levels are met, we are free to focus on the fifth which he called Self-Actualisation, which included appreciation for life and a focus on personal growth. In 1998 he differentiated this fifth level into four, but most people are only familiar with the original five levels as this is the widely distributed model.

I decided to utilise Maslow’s model because I thought it would make a great vessel of self-discovery in a workshop setting.  I imagine that most people can accept intellectually the concept that we need to have our deficiency needs met before we can progress, but I wonder if you have actually spent time investigating exactly how this shows up in your life?

Let’s take for example the issue of safety/security.  What exactly are your needs here? Some people need to live in a near fortress, while others can live without fear in a tent. Some people require hundreds of thousands in the bank, yet other people live quite happily in debt. The key point here, is not that we are all different, but to know consciously what your own needs are, and what happens when your needs are met, and what happens when they are not. It would also be interesting to know the impact on you if your partner has different needs, or your company is pursuing a risky growth strategy and you are risk averse, or vice versa.

Because most of our decisions and actions are unconscious, it’s likely that you haven’t considered these needs before, and if Maslow is correct; if these deficiency needs are not met, you will be unable to make progress on your personal growth.

If you do not grow as an individual, you are doomed to be stuck where you are.

If this is something you are interested in exploring, the workshop details are here, and if the dates/venue don’t work for you, you can either explore this with some coaching, or let me know and let’s see if a different time/place can be arranged.

Getting better all the time...

The story of human development has been inextricably linked with technological change.  According to Robert Gordon (Economics professor at Northwestern University) there have been three major industrial revolutions.  “When we had the invention of steam engines, steam ships, locomotives, factories making cotton fabrics, and then the telegraph. All of those things were invented in the century between 1770 and 1870. And they set the stage for the inventions that happened after 1870.

The Second Industrial Revolution included electricity, the internal combustion engine, chemicals, plastics, running water, the conquest of infectious diseases, the conquest of infant mortality, the development of processed food. Every dimension of human life, was affected by the Second Industrial Revolution, with the inventions mainly taking place between 1870 and the early 1900s

The Third Industrial Revolution started off around 1960, with the first mainframe computer. And went further into the mini computer, the personal computer in 1980, and then followed by the marriage of communications with computers that we call the Internet, and then into smart mobile phones in the last 10 to 15 years.” (Source: Freakonomics Radio)

Our lives and our personal productivity have been enhanced by these revolutions and by countless technological improvements, but we don't need to rely on the next tech marvel, or new app or breakthrough in artificial intelligence to further our human development, we can increase the utilisation of the incredible tool between our ears.

The brain compares and makes judgements at lightning speed which allows us to make decisions and improvements. Our brains unconsciously react not just to the present experience but to the combination of the present and past events. Instead of the best response to the present challenge, we often act to meet a previous challenge, leading to a sense that we are forever in catch up mode.

A solution is to train our brains so that we are able to respond to life's challenges more effectively.

A trained brain is open and curious, instead of comparing and judging. We see (visually and metaphorically) far more leading to better understanding.  We harness the power of our teams by learning to ask questions that clarify and open up possibilities instead of using our efforts to get others to agree with our point of view.

Our brains are incredible learning machines.  They take in enormous amounts of information from our five senses, and create meaning from experiences, and automatic behaviour from our past experiences without us using conscious effort.

If we do not consciously train our brain, it will unconsciously learn from its experience. Because experience is subjective and rarely able to see the whole picture sometimes the lessons learnt are not as useful to us as they could be, and sometimes the lesson we learn causes more problems than it solves.

Evolution has developed us to be most successful species with a capability beyond much of our comprehension.  We revere certain individuals for their abilities, Mozart for his music, Mother Theresa for her compassion, Leonardo Da Vinci for his creativity, Nelson Mandela for his capacity to forgive, and many more.  Each of us has the same capacity and capabilities that they had.

Instead of doubting, we can strengthen our determination. Replacing cynicism with creativity. Turning frustration into opportunities, hurt into compassion, and fear into love.  You can release your ability to create, to design new solutions or maybe to produce things of beauty.

Replacing reasons not to change, to develop and improve, we could be developing ourselves and our people with resultant benefits in improving communication, relationships, achievements and happiness.

Each of us is blessed with an unlimited amount of potential.  The same potential as the greats had.


Be More You

I attended a 'Celebration of Life' of one of my mentors yesterday, Ed Percival.

Ed was a lovely guy, and a quite brilliant coach. Ed had a number of little phrases he used to great effect, and one that was repeated many times by his eulogisers yesterday was 'Be more you'.

In honour and appreciation of Ed, I would like to expand on these three words.

Let me take you back to the time you were a teenager.  It's the time in our lives when our development accelerates, our worlds expand and we learn how to ‘be’ in the world of grown-ups.  At the same time it's so important to us to 'fit in'.  I remember how much effort I would put in to being accepted by 'the cool kids'. It may make me cringe a little now as I reminisce, but the feeling it engenders is still visceral. In those years when learning how to fit in I was also learning, albeit unconsciously, to ‘be less me’.

Fast forward to the present day and I am aware of how much corporate life is about ‘fitting in’. Being a team player.  Being onside. Being one of us. Different ways of saying: Supress your individuality, deny your uniqueness, manage your behaviours, do as we suggest and you’ll progress.

But what happens to us as individuals when we follow this path?  For me it feels like (to be melodramatic) a little bit of me dies inside.  It reinforces the idea that I’m not good enough, and I have to change. 

We may know this isn’t true and yet, because this is a continual message we get bombarded with, (much like the adverts for beauty products, but don’t let’s get diverted by those evil so and so’s) we need to work to reduce and reverse the message.  What on earth does it mean practically to ‘Be more you’?

I would love to know what you do to ‘Be more you’ in this culture we have created. Let’s have a conversation, let’s try out each other’s ideas and record the impact. 

Here’s one from me to kick us off: I find the language of ‘corporate speak’ baffling at times.  Often I will hear a sentence and just not understand what the person has said or meant.  In mentioning this to colleagues, they will also not understand, so I decided every time I hear this kind of gobbledegook I would ask for clarification.  It’s not been easy, I’ve had some looks I can tell you!  But it feels like the right thing for me to do (though maybe not at the time!) and it has gained me a reputation as the ‘Man who seeks clarity’.

What methods to you use? What have you tried and had success with?  Have you tried a technique and not succeeded?  We want to know that too!