Most of us have heard of Â ”Maslow’s hierarchy of needs”. Â Itâ€™s that cheerful pyramid outlining categories of human needs with more basic ones on the bottom, culminating (according to Maslow) in “self-actualization” which includes things creativity, morality, authenticity and the like. [...more]
This model demonstrates Maslow’s ingenuity and foresight in putting the concept of core human needs on the map with a positive and compassionate stance. Thanks to this work, â€śhuman needsâ€ť started to become more widely understood as a fundamental building block of our behavior, rather than an absence of something or void needing to be filled.
And…..that was in 1943.
While Maslow’s ideas were – and still are – helpful as a starting point, since 1943 the social and life sciences have made huge leaps in better understanding our core nature, our “human operating system”. I like to think of human needs as part of an “operating system” much like the operating systems of computers that support their basic functions. Â Similarly, we human beings have an operating system that shapes what we focus on, what motivates us and what we think, feel and do.Â We have learned a lot about our human operating system in the last 60+ years.
What have we learned since 1943?Â Here is a small sampling:Â We now know that most of our needs are not hierarchical, but rather are present simultaneously and active most of the time – their intensities varying in degree depending on our experience of the current situation. Â We also now know that we have specialized neurons, called mirror neurons, that help us sense the inner states of other people near us.Â Thus, we are essentially hard-wired as social animals to a far greater extent than we even suspected. Â We have endogenous hormones which influence our tendency to trust others. Â We also know that our greatest brain power is in the sensing and feeling parts of our brains – not in the rational thinking areas as we were classically trained to believe (in the West anyway). Â There is a long list of profound insights about human nature. Â In fact, our website is designed in part to give you easy access to the most interesting current understanding about human nature that may be of value to you.
In light of all these new scientific developments, I find it fascinating that most people still rely most heavily on Maslow for their understanding of this topic.Â It is equivalent (in historical terms) to relying on punch cards to explain what makes computers run.
My take-home message is this: It is time for us all to update our own understanding of human nature. Â Why?
Because I believe our survival depends on it.Â There is a pandemic of incomplete understanding about what human beings need and what will enable us to thrive – and consequently too many of us are not thriving in our organizations, communities and relationships.Â Too many people appear to be stuck in downward spirals of suffering due to violence, corruption, neglect and our negative impact on the environment.Â My hope and prediction is that as we understand more about our human operating system we will be better positioned to care for ourselves and respond to one another in more sustainable, life serving ways.
The purpose of Umanity is to create a vehicle for you to learn more about human nature and to discover practical ways you can act on those insights, both personally and professionally. Â Our aim is to help you unleash human potential â€“ yours as well as othersâ€™.