THE BLOG
08/15/2013 07:50 pm ET Updated Oct 15, 2013

Maslow's Hierarchy of Corporate Needs

Arguably one of the most influential psychologists to have ever lived Abraham Maslow is best remembered for his namesake theory Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Abraham Maslow first introduced the concept in 1943, in a paper titled "A Theory of Human Motivation." Inspired by his university research studying rhesus monkeys, Maslow applied what he has learned about animal motivation to mankind: giving birth to the theory known today.

Characteristically shown as a pyramid, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is made up of five distinct categories. The base of the pyramid is Physiological Needs. The summit is Self-Actualization. According to Maslow, as people satisfy their most basic physical and emotional needs first, they become more and more concerned with their higher needs.

(1) Physiological Needs: Oxygen, Food, Water, Sex, Sleep, Warmth
(2) Safety Needs:: Protection, Security, Order, Law, Limit, Stability
(3) Belongingness / Love Needs: Family, Affection, Relationships
(4) Esteem Needs: Achievement, Status, Responsibility, Reputation
(5) Self-Actualization Needs: Personal Growth, Fulfillment

The hierarchy's pinnacle has attracted the most attention. Over the decades, Self-Actualization has become the main topic of discussion, as the highest, most difficult-to-understand, and hardest-to-satisfy need. It describes the human desire for personal development, influence, charity, and much-coveted happiness.

From base to summit, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs immediately evoked a philosophical revolution. In addition to psychologists, many business managers quickly welcomed the concept. They began to internalize and translate Maslow's ideas in their boardrooms, exploring ways to fire up their workers, fine-tune their compensation packages, and eventually yield higher returns.

Yet, in the midst of the whole-hearted embracement, everyone forgot about companies themselves. In the excitement of motivating workers and increasing profit, to date no one applied Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to corporate entities themselves.

Nowadays--with previous scandals like Enron, and more recently, BP--we tend to treat companies like people. We tend to give them humanistic qualities like Responsibility, Accountability, and Trust. We tend to personify them.

So, why not take it one step further?

I call it: Maslow's Hierarchy of Corporate Needs. Unlike Maslow's original pyramid, this new theory puts in perspective corporate motivation. It explains what companies are reaching for. It explains what companies ought to be seeking for.

Also organized into five distinct categories, Maslow's Hierarchy of Corporate Needs describes the beginning stages of a nascent start-up, to a success story.

(1) Physiological Needs: One Employee, Product / Service, Business Strategy, Small Funds, Work Space, Stationery, Phone, Computer, Internet
(2) Safety Needs: Stream of Revenue, Multiple Employees, Steady Retention Rate, Office Space
(3) Belongingness / Love Needs: Employee Relations, Investors, Clients
(4) Esteem Needs: Brand Recognition, Partnerships, IPO, Press Coverage
(5) Self-Actualization: Corporate Citizenship, Corporate Social Responsibility

If people self-actualize and achieve unconditional happiness, tapping into their fullest potential by personal growth, influence and charity: Companies self-actualize by tapping into their fullest potential with Corporate Social Responsibility.

Not every company should be expected to be socially responsible, especially when they can barely keep themselves afloat.

But, those companies that have had the small funds, that were used to develop a successful service, entice investors and clients, charm the public and press, and have had their own IPOs: Those companies have no excuse.

They have to sew goodwill in every inch of their corporate fabric.

"A company is part and parcel of society," said Carol Cone, the Global Chairwoman of Business + Social Purpose at Edelman. "It's not about philanthropy. It's about finding the intersection between what a company does really well, and where there's a social need--and coming together."