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Maslow and the biased pyramid
Our desire to model step wise models when there are no steps in nature
7 steps to change
6 steps to Ultimate Leadership
5 steps to somewhere
9 steps to nowhere…
We are enamored by easy multi-step answers, pyramid schemes, and ladders to climb into the clouds. Except for the fact that none of these work. And there is a multibillion-dollar industry built upon these concepts, with gurus, writers, speakers, “thought leaders” and then the ultimate ranking like Thinkers 50, etc.
Here’s a small tip. What worked for one won’t work for you or anyone else. It might. Or it might not.
As I model my soon to be exposed model that I, for now, call the “Create or Die” meta-model, I have reviewed 100’s of so-called models, frameworks, techniques, and approaches that offer one thing or the other. I understand that my model will be one of bias too and will continue to evaluate and work on its utility to evolve it until it is useful or dies.
As underlying constructs to defining human patterns and change patterns, a lot of models are used. We shall start with one today - The Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is well known in the change management circle, widely known colorful pyramid represented as below:
Except Maslow never made this pyramid. The next two paragraphs and pictures are summaries extracted from Scott Barry Kaufman’s article “Who built the iconic pyramid?”
No pyramid appears in McGregor’s writing. Keith Davis wrote a widely-used management textbook in 1957 that illustrated the theory in the form of a series of steps in a right-angled triangle leading to a peak. The top-level shows a suited executive raising a flag, reminiscent of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima. But this representation of the theory did not catch on.
The pyramid that we associate with the hierarchy of needs today was traced to Charles McDermid, a consulting psychologist. It appeared in his 1960 article in Business Horizons ‘How money motivates men’ in which he argued the pyramid can be applied to generate “maximum motivation at the lowest cost”. We think McDermid’s pyramid was inspired by Davis’ representation, but it was McDermid’s image below that took off.
So, why does this all matter? And why does one need to care?
At least to me, it does. A lot of today’s business concepts and way of work have been formed out of a flawed understanding of models and theory in the last 100+ years. It was certainly okay to have such a flawed understanding in those times when these were used the way they were used.
But we are in the 2020s and in these times when we are talking about going to Mars, combating a global pandemic, and addressing social-economic needs based on a dystopian future that is going to be driven by a small set of people who will control capitalism through money, data, AI and other forms of psychological control over humans, it is time to ask when these flawed concepts of work will be put behind to engineer a better future for all humans.
And in my next post, I shall propose the alternative model to Maslow as a starting point and as an underlying basic concept that drives my other metamodels including “Create or Die”
Wikipedia - Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Scott Barry Kaufman - Who built the Iconic pyramid?
Research Paper: Who Built Maslow’s Pyramid? A History of the Creation of Management Studies’ Most Famous Symbol and Its Implications for Management Education
Scientific American - Who Created Maslow’s Iconic Pyramid?