Bob Lieberman's Blog

Commentary and Tools For Empowering Change


One key to understanding innovative behavior in the workplace (or the lack of it) is to ask this simple question: "What needs are being meet?" In the 1940's Abraham Maslow helped clarify that question by identifying two kinds of human needs, which he called deficiency needs (physiological, safety, love/belonging, and esteem) and being needs (self-actualization and, later, self-transcendence). I find the names survival and fulfillment more useful.

We are able to attend to our fulfillment needs only when our survival needs are met. But our survival needs don't stay met for very long (we get hungry, it rains, conflict arises), and we are called back to attend to them, abandoning our fulfillment needs as a result. In other words, meeting our needs is like the swinging of a pendulum – whichever set of needs is attracting us now, we’ll soon feel the pull of its opposite. This pendulum is the engine of our creative behavior.

In practice, meeting survival needs tends to provide the "material" in our lives, and meeting fulfillment needs tends to provide the "juice". The dynamic tension between them results in a predictable and inescapable circle of activity that drives us forward. And any restraints or interruptions in movement along the circle stifle creativity and innovation.

To learn more about the circle and its application to business, ask us for a free copy of the white paper, "Creative Leadership Makes The Right Things Happen".

The truth is that meeting both survival and fulfillment needs is essential for continued innovation, in business as in the arts.

But most businesses devote their attention almost exclusively to activities associated with survival needs: goal-setting, planning, production, and measuring. This emphasis unwittingly suffocates the creative process by cutting off the business from its source of connection and inspiration – fulfillment. When a business has any of these issues:
  • retention or morale problems
  • loss of market share
  • inability to execute effectively
  • inability to plan and prioritize strategically
  • failure to innovate and adapt
  • failure to meet quality goals
it's very likely that the creative process is obstructed.

My model, and its associated tools and best practices, provide a uniquely effective remedy by reframing business problems in creative terms and offering new courses of action on that basis. Training and coaching in the practical application of my model provide business leaders with a new and powerful metaphor. It can completely reinvigorate a business – by changing the way its leaders see, think, and act.

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