Needs, Wants and Motivation

by: Shawn P. Quigley and Jon M. Quigley

Connection to Motivation            

We have previously discussed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and touched on Herzberg’s motivators and hygiene.  Now, let us take the two theories to the next level and apply them to the learning organization. If you are like me when you first hear this you say, “How can a want or need be related to a learning organization?” To get there we must remember that to get an individual or even a group involved in an activity you must first show them how it will benefit them. This is not trickery or manipulation if done honestly; it is motivation.  To that end, I will share a story of a time when I played online games (Roblox) with my son. We played a zombie game where the objective was to stay alive for as long as you can.  You were in a building with barriers that you could keep built to slow the zombie horde from overwhelming you and your team.  The group of people we were playing with, would not keep the barriers built, leaving us to the tender mercies of the zombies.  Constant entreating of our team to rebuild the barriers produced little in the way of progress.  However, if you built the barriers, you got money.  That money enabled you to purchase benefits that would help you against the zombies (for example a ray gun).  After informing the team that repairing the barriers gave them money for purchase of health and weapon rewards, the barriers were managed – that is, constantly rebuilt when the zombies knocked it down.  Asking to build barriers did little to improve our lives in the game, informing them of the monetary and rewards they could get, seemed to ensure the barriers remained intact, well as much as can be against a zombie horde.  The lesson, it is better to show how people benefit from an action than to expect compliance with a demand without them understand underlying need or relation for the activity.  We must also account for the fact that people act differently in as individuals, in a group setting and different in different groups.

When Need becomes Hygiene

Maslow setup the hierarchy of needs to show the progression he thought a worker would go through knowing that when one need was satisfied the next would logically become a priority.  He did not discount the first need, but merely insinuated the priority shifted from one to the other. We all know that a need can be a good tool for motivation, but what commonly gets lost is when the need shifts to a lower priority it is merely a hygiene item. This was what Herzberg was pointing out with his theory of motivation and hygiene. Where hygiene is something done not for improvement or motivation, but done to maintain an established standard or minimum. An example of this could be wages. Initially the wage provided to an individual can be a great motivational tool. However, over time, when the individual becomes or feels secure in their financial status and that need is satisfied by their wages (food, house, and other base needs) it shifts to a lower priority.

Needs and Organizational Learning

Back to the relationship between this and organizational learning. Let us start with shared vision. Most people when they look at this discipline of organizational learning they think of the company’s vision. I think it is not just that, but is the individuals’ vision as well. How do the two aspects work to complement each other? If the vision of the company does not support the vision of the individual then there is no real long-term goal with that company for the individual. It is merely a starting point for the individual and thus buy-in from the individual will not occur. When I think of this, it reminds me of Zig Ziglar and his approach to sales. He pointed out that you must determine the goals of the individual and then shows them how they can be met by what you have to offer. In this case, it would be the goals of the organization and the alignment to the goals of the employees. It must be realized is that; as with any company, the goals are constantly changing and to obtain these new objectives, the relationship to employee needs must be demonstrated.  This would be an example of systems thinking, how a change can have numerous depending impacts that should be addressed.

Now that I have started our discussion, I would like to stop and know your perspective on how this topic relates to the mental model. 

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