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11 September 2012

Creativity: Overlooked Need on Maslow’s Hierarchy

Creativity Takes Many Forms

cre·a·tiv·i·ty [kree-ey-tiv-i-tee, kree-uh-] noun (per

  1. the state or quality of being creative.
  2. the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination: the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts.
  3. the process by which one utilizes creative ability: Extensive reading stimulated his creativity.

At it’s root, creativity is all about bringing something new to life. Whether it is…

  • conceiving a new idea, such as when Kent writes a new melody or pens lyrics to a new song, or
  • designing a new art project, such as a wreath for the door, or
  • writing a new blog post.

All are examples of creativity.

Creativity is a characteristic all humans crave. While some people crave creativity more profoundly than others, even someone who performs very analytical work tasks needs the outlet of creativity. I feel expressing creativity is a motivating factor in human development and is important enough that Abraham Maslow should have articulated this as one of the motivating needs in his well-known “Hierarchy of Needs” pyramid.

Maslow’s Theory of Motivation – Hierarchy of Needs

The root of Maslow’s theory of motivation (which was initially introduced in 1943 and formally introduced in 1954, as the Hierarchy of Needs) is that needs that have not been met are what motivates us. According to his theory, if a person’s fundamental needs are not satisfied, then the individual will be motivated to satisfy them. He further theorized that each level of needs–from physiological needs to self-actualization–form the foundation for satisfying the next level’s needs. When a need is satisfied, it no longer motivates, thus the next higher need takes its place.

  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is generally shown as a hierarchical pyramid with the basic needs on the bottom. The basic needs required to sustain life are called “physiological needs” and include air, water, food and sleep.
  • The next stair-step on this foundation is “safety needs” and includes a safe home, healthcare, job security, and money.
  • The middle level on the chart is called “social needs” and is related to human interaction with others including friendship, group membership, and giving/receiving love.
  • The fourth foundational step is termed “esteem needs”. Freud would probably call this the level of ego, with esteem satisfied through internal and external motivating factors such as recognition, attention, social status, accomplishment, and self-respect.
  • The last stair-step in the pyramid is “self-actualization”. Maslow theorized that the pinnacle of human motivation is reaching one’s full potential as a person through motivators such as truth, justice, wisdom, and meaning. He also theorized that unlike lower level needs, self-actualization is never fully satisfied, because as a person grows psychologically, so do his/her potential desires for self-actualization.

 Potentially Inherent

While some might try to convince me that creativity could be slotted into “esteem needs”, I would argue that while some people do create for recognition or social status, I don’t feel that is the driving motivator for all creativity. Some would point out that Maslow later modified his hierarchy to include 3 additional levels: knowledge, aesthetics, and transcendence, and creativity naturally would fall into fulfilling “aesthetic needs”. To that argument I point out that not all that is created is beautiful or of nature.

Which brings me to the conclusion that creativity was an overlooked need in Maslow’s Hierarchy. As humans, we need to create. Whether it’s making a lump of clay into a sculpture or neatly organizing data in a table of information that is easily read and understood by others. We are motivated to create.

What do you think?

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