In 1943, Abraham Maslow proposed in A Theory of Human Motivation that all human needs were not the same. To each individual there is a hierarchy of needs in which lower level needs must be satisfied before higher level needs become a priority. Maslow’s theory is often expressed in the form of a pyramid:
Maslow’s needs in order from the most immediateat the bottom of the pyramid to the least immediate needs at the top of the pyramid are:
- Physiological needs that immediately, or over the short term, keep the individual or its species in tact;
- Safety needs that involve personal, financial, health related issues for the longer term;
- Love and belonging involves relationships;
- Esteem involves respect and position in a social structure; and
- Self-actualization, or doing well to please one’s self.
As a math geek specializing in data analytics, I can assure you that any large group of individuals invariably breaks down into a normal distribution. To illustrate this point, I have drawn a chart below with a distribution of where these individuals could fall within each step in the pyramid.
Let’s suppose there is a normal distribution into Maslow categories that indicates half of the population is simply looking for survival and safety. Roughly 30 percent are looking for belonging, 15 percent are looking for self esteem and 5 percent are looking for self-actualization.
Now, let’s look at one dimension—how money issues can fit in all five categories. Panhandlers often solicit money to get base survival material. People often work a regular job to ensure long term safety for themselves and their family. Some are concerned strictly with wealth, using salaries as grade school children use their report cards. How self-actualization relates to money is a little more difficult, but there are some that work in order to have wealth in order to do good. Some believe the accumulation of wealth for wealth’s sake as a societal steward is proper behavior.
We can create a lens in which to view human decision making. This lens comes in the form of questions surrounding motivation.
In a hypothetical example of a utility rolling out a Smart Grid project, let’s assume that the individual meters and metering support will cost $100 per consumer, grid infrastructure will cost $130 per consumer and data analytics will cost $10 per consumer. We will also assume that the asset life is 10 years.
Let’s take the example above and parse it a little. A $240 investment recovered over 10 years without interest is $24 per year at $2 per month. Add an imputed return, and the value can go to $36 per year at $3 per month. Key questions for Maslow groups one and two are:
- “Can I make the payment?”
- “Can I keep making the payment even if something happens in my life, like a job or health event?” and
- “What will I have to forgo to make the payment?”
In the case of general civilians, not those involved in the energy industry as suppliers, regulators or interveners, individuals mostly fall into one of the first two groups:
- Those worried about their own survival as it relates to their energy bills, or
- Those who are not concerned at all because their energy bills are not likely to cause them extreme financial pain.
In contrast, regulators, interveners and energy company employees generally fall into groups three through five. There are those who are looking for belonging (in the industry, in the regulatory space or representing their constituents), those who are looking for career or image enhancement, and those who are looking to implement or block the program because they believe it is the appropriate thing to do. Sometimes these well-meaning individuals are bound in a logic trap, decision making from their perspectives alone.
One of the challenges we face in the industry since we serve the full spectrum of Maslow’s needs is effectively developing programs that address this wide range of needs. At the project level, crafting messages that walk a tightrope between the different needs of all the different stakeholders is imperative. To be successful, the messaging and implementation strategy must be something with which everyone at the table can live. Any messaging and strategy that runs against a stakeholder group’s interest must be weighed and an understanding of likely opposition considered. At this year’s CS Week Conference in Grapevine, TX, Daniel Martin, Program Manager at Wisconsin Public Service, and I will be discussing just that, in our presentation, “Architecting a Stakeholder-Embraced Smart Consumer Program” at SmartGridPoint’s 2012 Workshop on May 1 with the theme of “Innovation.” The Workshop is part of CS Week’s “Synergy Groups.” We hope to see you there!