Maslow's hierarchy of needs, also called Maslov's hierarchy of motivation. It ranks human needs and what motivates in levels.

  • Physiological needs: hunger, thirst, sleep, etc.
  • Safety needs: Security, protection
  • Social Needs: Love, Belonging
  • Need for recognition: Self-esteem, status
  • Need for Self-Realization: Personal, Spiritual

In the presentation of this theory, it states that the basic needs had to be met before the next need arises. This reflects the fact that one does not motivate by satisfying needs at a higher level unless underlying needs are satisfied. The theory was developed in 1943, and later elaborated.

Later research has made criticisms of the theory and shown that one does not experience need or motivation step by step as hierarchy of needs describes. In practice, it is argued that all levels must be present for us to experience satisfaction, and that we can move up and down the hierarchy based on the situation we find ourselves in. For example, we may well feel the need for recognition even though we are hungry, and we may need love, even if we are in a situation where we are worried or afraid.


Extrinsic motivation does not have an effect

If one is going to perform a task, it is quite common to claim that one can achieve motivation by using incentives, that is, reward or punishment. Extrinsic motivation is a Push effect where one tries to produce results with threats or rewards. This provides little real motivation if we have a process where we need, even a minimum of creativity. Having external control, checklists that others follow up on and the like does not provide any internal motivation. You cannot control other to motivation and results. To achieve intrinsic motivation, one needs a pull effect. Examples of misguided motivational attempts may be controlling rules and stimulus for schools in the form of external control measures. Sitting on central national staffs and controlling results from regions, schools and even individual students is only for the benefit of those who control and publish their observations.

Well-known researchers and authors have stressed that extrinsic motivation does not affect effort or achievement of results. Dan Ariely and Dan Pink, for example, have both written books and presented research results stating that extrinsic motivational factors only give effect in what can is purely mechanical or routine tasks. With even minimal or insignificant needs for creativity or innovation in a process, external motivational factors can even lead to negative effects. The focus on solving the task weakens and the extrinsic motivation element or reward receives all the attention.

One comparison Dan Ariely draws is a mountaineer climbing a high mountain. The experience is quite demanding. The performance of the task involves problems and unpleasantness such as oxygen deprivation, frostbite and near misses, but does that mean that the mountaineer will never climb again? No, on the contrary, the first thing that happens after returning home is to start thinking about a new trip. The spirit of adventure and the joy of succeeding and reaching the goal gives a tremendous intrinsic motivation and Pull effect.

We can often hear athletes after competition tell us that they lost focus on their work tasks and became too preoccupied with winning. Therefore, the result was poor


Intrinsic motivation

To motivates to make changes, we need to set goals that we believe in. These are often needs related to the upper step of Maslow's pyramid of needs, self-realization. We want to achieve something based on our own priorities and desire to achieve something we want to do. Not necessarily because we want to become world famous or rich, but because, for example, we have a talent that we want to develop and that we want to show the outside world. It can be football, playing the piano, writing, and performing songs or playing tennis. More basic needs, like getting something to eat, we think about if we are hungry. This is a short-term need that may lose focus when we get full, but if hunger is a persistent problem, this will naturally be dominant and paramount in everyday life.

When we talk about motivation in a management context, it is natural to look at organizations where the primary needs are satisfied. A worker in such an organization does not go normally and starves or thirsts without being able to do something about it. However, when it comes to social needs, recognition, and self-realization, these are present all the time, even in a society or organization where the primary needs are met.

It is claimed that intrinsic motivation is the only real motivation. It can be argued that intrinsic motivation can be reinforced or weakened by extrinsic motivators, but it is the intrinsic motivation that produces the Pull effect and leads to results, although it is achieved based on starting with an element of external influence. You have a goal that you've set for yourself, or you have a goal that you believe in and created your own. This can be used as an argument that by using extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation can be achieved and thus a positive Pull effect. But I don't want to believe that this is a typical reaction. For example, there is little to suggest that students who are measured by grades and rewarded in the form of entering the next school year, or who are punished by dropping out of school, receive strong intrinsic motivation from this. Their inner motivation for school has come from the attitude they had in the first place. Depending on which comrades they get, and how they thrive and feel they master school, their intrinsic motivation may develop positively or negatively. Extrinsic pressure often contributes more to demotivation than to increased interest.


Public services are often based on Maslow

In the world we live in today, many systems are based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. For example, we see that NAV (Norwegian Labor and Welfare Administration) defines its customers' needs based on economic criteria. There they offer a certain minimum of financial support to people who are struggling, while rarely seeing that there are other needs that are greater and more important to solve than putting enough food on the table. NAV gets their money from the state, but their customers are their users. Customers cannot go to the NAV office and define a need, as in a Kanban system. They can come with hat in hand and ask what they are entitled to, and then a government employee can tell him what they are going to get. This is a typical Push system where the customer has no choice or power. He does not need to get a qualified job offer, he does not need to get practical help for health or social problems. What he can get is money within a framework defined by the state, and although this can cover part of the basic needs, according to Maslow, there may still be other needs that should have been met first, and that are not taken care of.

Motivation in competence building for young people is often based on an external motivation that involves a focus on quantity rather than quality. This may be a desire to obtain a specific degree, a bachelor's, a master’s, or a good CV. Or there may be specific motivational factors that indicate that if you don't get a 4 in mathematics, you can't be a teacher. To achieve real motivation for self-development, schooling, and study, it is important to facilitate measures that provide intrinsic motivation (autonomous motivation or self-determination theory).


Do not ask how to motivate people, ask how you can facilitate how people are motivated.

There are indications that one should be careful about trying to motivate for schooling and studies with extrinsic motivation. In the worst case, this can lead to people becoming more concerned with the motivational factors themselves than in learning what is important for the tasks they are about to perform. They become more concerned with memorizing information to do well on the exam, than with acquiring important understanding and use of the knowledge.

The Pull philosophy implies that all motivational factors pull towards a target, and not pushed forward by external forces and extrinsic motivation, which does not lead them towards a common goal.