What do we really need?.

Jonny Kelly

Jonny Kelly

Creative Director
Strategy, Creative and Curious

5th May 2020Agency

We have lots more time to think these days.

About what we miss, what we have, what we need…

What is driving those thoughts and how do we use them to motivate us to be better?

In 1943 (amidst another global crisis interestingly enough) a Brooklyn born psychologist called Abraham Maslow had time to think and he wrote a very significant paper. He called it ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’ and within it he outlined and prioritised what he believed to be the ‘Hierarchy of Human Needs’.

You might be familiar with them. They are a particular favourite at management & leadership training courses. In short, Maslow believed that there are 5 needs which make humans tick. His theory claimed that when we satisfy our needs at level 1, then we can proceed to level 2 and so on (whilst still keeping an eye that things don’t unravel in previous levels).

I suppose it was a rudimentary gamification of the human condition. Growing in complexity as we ‘level up’.

The first 4 levels he described as ‘deficiency needs’

  • Physiological – Food, water, warmth, rest etc
  • Safety – Security, protection
  • Love & Connection – Relationships, friends etc
  • Esteem – Status, recognition

The 5th need, ‘Self-Actualisation’(‘The Big Boss’ to extend our gaming analogy), Maslow described as a growth need. Our needs in this level don’t arise out of a lack of something, but out of a desire to grow as a person. Be the best version of yourself or ‘Live your best life’ in Instagram parlance.

It is arguable that this need is never fully met (the Dalai Llama maybe?) but remains as a constant motivation to grow and improve.

Recent events have rocked our needs hierarchy in a big big way (bigger than any Fortnite event or season launch!). But if we step back and look at how we have been motivated to behave in the past few months, Abraham’s theory is playing out again:

We spent the first frenetic weeks meeting our physical, safety and security needs.

Panic-buying, stock-piling, heath-checking, home-improving, mortgage holidaying, update-watching, calculating, furloughing and re-assuring each other. Then we pulled our family and friends closer in physical (where permitted) and virtual ways.

But as we move further in to the game, it’s gets more complex.

Esteem (level 4) is an area where some can struggle. Particularly without the usual social interactions where energy is sought. This creates the need for support from families, friends and colleagues to bolster that need.

Growth and being the best version of yourself (level 5) is where the most motivated players will excel. Helping others through the levels and using this time to reflect, plan and decide how they want to play the game in the future.

Although don’t forget, the game hasn’t stopped. It’s just updating, and in this mode we can still make moves in smaller but very significant ways. Reach out, make connections, look for gaps, try new things, figure out how your character plays out in the next edition.

Sometimes to realise what you really need, you have to recognise what you don’t need.

I think Maslow had that in mind for level 5.

Thanks for reading! You can read more of our Notes from a Creative Agency series here.

P.s. Sorry, just realised I used the word need or needs 17 (now 19) times in this article. No need. (damn…20)

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