Leveraging Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs to plan Digital Transformations

Note: As a standard practice, I will include a plagiarism detection link in all the articles on my blog site. You can use the online tool below to evaluate any article published on the web for plagiarized content. All you have to do is to paste the url of the article there and it will go through every sentence in the article and flag any plagiarism. I believe as a follower of “writer’s integrity” I should include this tool in all my articles:



Maslow’s Hirerarchy of needs pyramid needs no introduction

Irrespective of what your major was in undergrad or grad school, chances are high that you studied Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in one of your courses.

In order to better understand what motivates human beings,  Maslow proposed that human needs can be organized into a hierarchy. This hierarchy ranges from more concrete needs—such as food and water—to more abstract concepts such as self-fulfillment. According to Maslow, when a lower need is met, the next need on the hierarchy becomes our focus of attention.

From SimplyPsychology.Com

Image credit: Simplypshychology.com

Key Takeaways from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

  • We have five categories of needs: physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization, as shown in the actualization pyramid above.
  • People move to another level in the hierarchy when they feel they have sufficiently satisfied the previous need.
  • Although later research does not fully support all of Maslow’s theory, his research has impacted other psychologists and contributed to the field of positive psychology.

Leveraging the hierarchy for defining Digital Transformation needs

My approach on planning Digital Transformations is based primarily on one simple aspect : Transformations should be driven by needs. These needs will be unique for each business at all levels of hierarchy of needs in the Digital Transformation needs hierarchy, ranging from “must have” to “nice to have” to “futuristic”.

Why Maslow’s Hierarchy ?

We live in an era of Empathy driven innovation and disruption. If you peel the layers of the onion, you will find that technologies being used by many disruptors were not radically new technology. The key driver behind these successful disruptors, in my mind, was the ability to identify a customer need and provide a solution.

That is why I believe understanding customer needs, leveraging Emotional Quotient and Empathy skills is going to become one of the most important expertise organizations need to develop to stay relevant in the Digital age.

No other framework has more prominence or acceptability, as far as understanding levels of human needs are concerned, than Maslow’s hierarchy. Marketers have leveraged this to push the needs of their customer to next level for decades now. Now is the right time to extrapolate this hierarchy to Digital Transformation perspective.

Hierarchy of needs for Digital Transformation

I will use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to develop a hierarchy of needs for Digital Transformation . For this illustrative example, I will deviate from my comfort zone to foray into the world of Digital Marketing and use a high level example from that domain.

The modified hierarchy, with each level and the high level needs for each level have been shown in the illustrations below.

No alt text provided for this image

Key Takeaways from Digital Transformation Hierarchy of Needs

  • Needs of employees in terms of Digital tools and capabilities follow a hierarchy very similar to Maslow’s
  • Fulfilling the basic needs of employees/organization is foundational, in order to further build your Digital capabilities to fulfill higher level needs.
  • A stepwise approach of fulfilling the Digital needs of your employees and organization is the best and in my mind, the only approach to plan a successful Digital transformation.

How is this information generated useful ?

Once you have mapped out the needs, after interactions, interviews and process analysis, you can then map the current Digital capabilities and quickly reconcile them with the needs hierarchy. That essentially then gives you a starting point in terms of (examples):

(1) Which level the organization currently is at ?

(2) Where they are within that level (have the developed maturity at that level?) What capabilities do they need to develop that maturity ?

(3) Do they need to go back to a lower level to fulfill some unfulfilled need ?


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