Abraham Maslow was a professor of psychology at Brandeis University who founded humanistic psychology. His motivational model was developed in 1940 later to be published in 1943 as "A Theory of Human Motivation" published in the journal Psychological Review. He sought to understand the psychology behind what motivates a person. His methodologies were clinical based trials rather than a theory based approach.
His model exists as way of defining the basic psychological needs and motivators of humans. It is a hierarchical model in that priority is given to a person’s satisfaction on an existing level before they continue on to a higher level. The model can be illustrated by drawing a basic pyramid shape and dividing it into five layers from the base to the peak.
Water, food, sleep, exercise
Order and protection, rules
Love, affection, freedom from fear
Self-respect, esteem from others
Fulfilment of individual abilities and goals
His understanding was that humans seek pleasure and fulfilment as a motivational direction. If the needs are not fulfilled then the person begins to stagnate, not being able to progress further up the hierarchy.
The model is in essence an understanding of how people develop and more importantly what is needed to stimulate this growth. Upon full actualisation an individual is able to act selflessly in a true altruistic manner.
Modifications to the principal theory as disclosed by Maslow have attributed additional levels. Modification through the 1970s and 1990s resulted in a more developed model. During the 1970s a cognitive and aesthetic needs level were added before self actualisation. The 1990s saw transcendence needs being added after self-actualisation. This transcendence level is the ability to help others towards self-actualisation. However with only 2% of the population reaching self-actualisation the percentage of those who reach transcendence is limited.
By taking the model as a framework towards an individual’s motivational growth it is possible to apply its principals within business leadership, advertising and psychology. Advertising allows specific groups to be targeted by appealing to the level of the model they appear to be on. An example would be to create an advert that focuses on the respect granted by a human’s peers by owning a particular brand. This advert would appeal to those on the fourth level of the hierarchy of needs.
The application of this model in contemporary society and in particular business is that it is a recognised model of human psychology through motivation. Satisfy the first and the next level is available to the individual. As a map of human cognitive reasoning it’s a fundamental tool that can help leaders inspire their workers towards the path of self-actualisation.
By creating a social aspect within the workplace workers are motivated towards the self-respect and esteem from peers level. Promote this within the workplace and workers begin to see the light that is self-actualisation or as Maslow described the fulfilment of abilities and goals. The worker is then fully motivated to provide the best they can offer. As a counter example a workplace that features no rules with workers being dismissed on a regular basis for no apparent fault would disallow the remaining workers to progress. This denial of the security level would prevent access to the social level because the security level was not being fulfilled.
As a motivational model Maslow’s hierarchy illustrates the necessary paths to produce an effective and highly motivated workforce. Its simplicity allows an inventive manager many ways to fully develop and grow the psychological needs of his or her staff.