On the way to work today I was listening to an audiobook version of the book FREE: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson (available for free on Audible) when he mentioned Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, something I was familiar with from college psychology class. Immediately I zoned out and started thinking about how this impacts business owners.
The basic premise of Maslow’s hierarchy is that there is a pyramid of human needs, the higher up of which can only be met when the lower, more basic needs are fulfilled. Here’s the diagram from Wikipedia:
Without having your basic physiological needs met (food, water, sleep) you can’t begin to work on the safety needs, and so on and so forth.
The “entrepreneurship” portion of the diagram is undoubtedly at the very top, where one’s time can be focused on creativity and problem solving. The validity of the diagram can (and has been) criticized, but I can certainly say that for myself this rings true. I never could have started a business had I not had those other areas in my life relatively stable. That enables the mind to focus on the higher level creative problems without worrying about more fundamentally important things.
This raises a few interesting questions:
- When teaching entrepreneurship should there first be a focus on “getting your life together”? After all, starting a business consumes you. If you’re not in a solid mental state you’ll likely fail.
- Are the uber-successful entrepreneurs the same people who have the rest of their needs met? My instinctive thought would be no…but the more you think about it, the more you realize that the Bill Gates’ & Mark Cuban’s of the world have very stable social/family lives (at least based upon what’s reported in the media).
- When hiring perspective employees, is it not most important then to try to figure out if their lower level needs are met? Wouldn’t that ensure that they’ll be able to spend more of their time creatively problem solving? If someone spends all day long arguing with family members there’s no way they can give adequate focus to their job. How do you test for this (interviews, references, small test projects)?
- If “safety of employment” is on the 2nd lowest tier, doesn’t that inherently tell you that no employee who is fearing for their job can do high level work?