Do you know Maslows pyramid of Needs? No? Great, because it is all wrong anyway. At least the pyramid part is wrong. But chances are even if you don't know Maslow and his pyramid you might be using it, and probably using the part that is wrong. So let's start with the pyramid.

In 1954 the psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a list of categories in which every need could be sorted in to:

  1. physical needs: hunger, thirst .
  2. security
  3. love, family, friends and affection
  4. status, achieve something, be competent
  5. learning, knowing understanding
  6. aesthetic
  7. self-fulfillment
  8. transcendence: help others realize their potential


I am pretty confident, that you can sort any need into one of these categories so I would consider this correct. But Maslow thought that anybody would try to fulfill their lower needs, before working on the higher one. But if you look around, this just doesn't fit: Why would anybody become a soldier? It risks level 2 for achieving something on level 4 and above. Why are extremely poor people willing to share? Risking  level 1 for level 3 and 4. But if you look at extremely poor communities you'll find they actually do just that. There just isn't a pyramid.

Sooo . how does this relate to the title of this blog? What is the relation with 'selling incentives'?

Easy. Chip and Dan Heath write in their book "Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die" about a little experiment: Consider a $1000 Bonus and three different ways to present this bonus:

  1. Think of what that $1000 means: a down payment on a new car or that new home improvement you've been wanting to make.
  2. Think of the increased security of having that $1000 in your bank account for a rainy day.
  3. Think of what the $1000 means: the company recognizes how important you are to its overall performance. It doesn't spend money for nothing.



The funny thing is this: When people where asked, which way of presenting the bonus to them they found most motivating, number 3 was the clear winner, the one going for level 4 of the pyramid. But when asked which way they would choose for other people, they picked number one or two, going for lower levels of the Maslow Pyramid.

So when you have a bonus to share make sure the receiver knows how important the bonus and the work for which it was received is for you.