Tag Archives: importance

Maslow and Timespan

Abraham Maslow’s pyramid was a hierarchy. He called it the hierarchy of needs (not wants, not desires, not recommendations). Humans have different levels of needs. The dynamics in the hierarchy dictate that when we are threatened at a level below, we must immediately retreat to that level and cannot emerge until that level is satisfied. Pyramids start at the bottom.
V – Self Actualization
IV – Importance
III – Belonging
II – Security
I – Survival
Most people focus on the content of each level, but each is more complex based on timespan.

Survival needs are immediate. Air, water, food, protection from the elements, cold, heat, exposure.

Security needs are identical to survival, but the timespan is longer. We need air, but we need sustained clean air. We need food for today and we need food for tomorrow (enter the refrigerator). We need a blanket today, but we need a condominium for tomorrow. Important to note, if our immediate survival is threatened, we don’t think much about the condo.

Belonging to a group is a basic biologic need. Animals belong to herds or packs as a matter of longer term survival. Wise animals stay to the center of the herd as the periphery gets picked off by predators. Humans belong to conceptual herds. Membership involves rituals to remain in good standing with the conceptual herd. The timespan associated with group belonging is longer than either survival or security.

Importance raises the level of complexity. Passing a membership ritual may allow a person to remain with the conceptual herd, but to cement that relationship requires meaningful contribution. It is a human need to make important contribution to a group that individual holds as meaningful.

Self-actualization is the most complex human need, some never reach this level. The timespan associated with self-actualization is well into the aspirational future. Indeed, some legacies contemplate behavioral impacts beyond death. While the other levels in Maslow’s hierarchy are self-centered, or selfish, this level is selfless, concern for contribution to community, as defined by the individual. Elon Musk wants to go to Mars.

Important Connection

“What would be valuable for you to know about a team member, as a manager?” I asked.

“Well, what motivates them. What makes them want to come to work,” answered Nathan.

“There is a story about three men who were working together, each doing the same job. When asked about their work, each replied differently. The first said that he was breaking rock. The second said that he was constructing a building. The third said that he and his colleagues were building a school in their community so their children would have a place to learn to read.”

I watched Nathan’s eyes absorb the story. Finally he spoke.

“I suppose it would be valuable to know what is important to each of my team members.”

“Why would that be valuable to know?”

“I have to find the connection,” Nathan started, “I have to find the connection between what is important to them and their work.”

“And if you can find the connection?”

“Then we are in. The sky turns blue, the flowers bloom and the birds sing.”

“And if you cannot find the connection?”

“Then the work will be repetitious, the work will be like breaking rock.”


“And, so, I have to keep searching to make the connection.” The conversation became quiet. Nathan was searching, perhaps thinking about his own connection.