Maslow on Management


Maslow on Management

First published back in the 1960s Eupsychian Management made neither the best sellers list nor the bookshelves in airports and railway stations. In fact it barely sold its first modest print run. No doubt this was in part because the business book industry had yet to take off, and in part because of his obscure choice of title. Re-published as ‘Maslow on Management‘ almost 40 years later it seems to be creating a bit more of a stir.

Maslow was one of the the fathers of ‘Third Force’ or ‘Humanistic Growth’ psychology. (First force psychology was that of the Freudians and Jungians; second force was that of the behaviourists – Skinner and his pigeons.) Third force or human growth psychology was developed by Freud, Rogers, Fromm, Adler and Maslow as a serious attempt to understand human potential and how it can best be realised.

In the early 1960s Maslow spent a summer observing life in a business and maintained a journal that reflected his observations and thoughts on  the practice of management and the relevance of third force psychology to the world of commerce – and vice versa. This journal became ‘Maslow on Management‘.

Maslow was a contemporary of Drucker and one of the things he found was that much of what Drucker had written about effective and efficient management as a theorist and consultant with no psychological training was aligned with Maslow’s own thinking. Management theory and Third Force Psychology converged on a set of ‘truths’ about management and the realisation of human potential – individual, team organisational and social. Wow!

As Maslow said:

…this is not about new management tricks or gimmicks or superficial techniques that can be used to manipulate human beings more efficiently. Rather it is a clear confrontation of one basic set of orthodox values by another newer system of values that claims to be both more efficient and more true. It draws on some of the truly revolutionary consequences of the discovery that human nature has been sold short.


  1. For more great Maslow Quotes try Phil Kirby’s blog – Negotiatian for Nice Guys –

  2. In progress (Expected July 2008): Individual Needs at the Marketplace: Activity Theory on Consumers’ Needs and Motives.

    Abstract (preliminary): The aim of this dissertation is to investigate human needs and motives in relation to consumption in the age of the trademark (here: iPhone™) and individuality. Here a new approach is offered by discussing and analyzing Leontyev’s Cultural Activity Theory through an empirical investigation. Marketing utilize Freud and Maslows’ theories when they try to identify and satisfy human needs at the marketplace. It is argued that marketers can only influence individuals’ motivation to purchase a commodity, since human needs are genetic and universal. This idea, derived from Freud’s and Maslow’s influential theories, reveals a view on human psychology that is typical in occidental culture. An historical investigation show that these theories work, not because they are true, but because they fit into the climate of the current culture structure.

    A. N. Leontyev (1904-1979) warned about this problem often occurring in mainstream psychology; if theories were developed without a scientific investigation of human ontology and the phylogenesis of the species, a theory would at best become cultural or dogmatic. What Leontyev’s investigations show, is what humans’ share with, but also what make them distinct from, other species. Unlike other animals, and in contrast to both what Freud and Maslow suggest, humans have social abilities and are no longer organically attached to their needs. No barbaric drives are lurking, or fixed set of hierarchical needs and motives exist. Rather, humans’ needs and motives are psychological entities part of a dynamic system that to a large extent are determined by the time and place one is born, raised and lives. Importantly, human ontological development preceded the human genetic development many millennia ago, so if we want to know something about human psychology we must also investigate culture and its tools/artifacts and language, because these carry social significations that become of particular meaning to the individual through his or her activities.

    The frustration that marketers experience in the marketplace today, of fragmentation and individuality, is here argued not only to be caused by globalization, but also by the psychological theories by Freud and Maslow, employed at all levels in society. In essence, these theories offer guidance to marketers, but also to citizens in how to think about others and act upon themselves. Specifically, they persist as tools for self governing techniques to achieve the human ideal portrayed in the free market program by the European Union (EU). These theories are functional since the nucleus of the EU program rests on a rather simplistic, stark and mechanistic vision of humanity springing from Nash’s rational choice theory, politically recognized as the Public Choice Theory by Buchanan. In order to become a flexible consumer through self realization in a society where it is believed that social stability can best be achieved by freeing the market forces, Freud and Maslows’ theories serve an important purpose. Simultaneously and ironically, however, they create problems to the marketer that apply the same theories at work.

    In this investigation, Foulcaudian Discourse Analysis is applied to analyze the statements that construct the object (the iPhone™) and the arrays of subject positions at the marketplace. It is argued that this form of analysis is suitable with Leontyev’s theory. This investigation follows individual consumers through their purchasing process of an iPhone™, an item chosen as a suitable representation for a trademark in a culture were cultivation of individuality is necessary to reach predetermined economic goals. These consumers’ plans, acquisitions and experiences are followed and analyzed accordingly. It is argued that Leontyev’s dynamic account of human psychology offers a scientific alternative when defining needs and motives in relation to consumption. One important aspect of this theory is that it asks what, how and why objects are meaningful to people. However, this materialistic-dialectic way of approaching an understanding of needs and motives inevitably points out the consequences of marketers’ work and consequently their responsibility that typically is omitted today. If accepting this, an abstract and functional alternative is offered, revealing a new and interesting way of defining what makes a commodity interesting to the consumer and what is of significant meaning before and after the acquisition of an object.

    This dissertation is part of the Master of Science in Psychology at Copenhagen University. Please contact me on: for any questions or comments.

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