What People Want: 7 Ways Of Designing Personal Value (1)

Today, ideas on innovation and design are all around.

Many ideas for innovation come from basic issues related to the ‘classic’ needs as marketers formulated. Often these arise from a plan to maximize profit. There are fewer cases known of innovations stemming from human, material needs. Such as permanent available communications, or mastering the amount of energy that is consistent with your personal situation. And think of affordable education, the ability to exercise or even being able to count on human understanding? There are still many more organizations that look at innovation as an add on to their existing business than to look at what people really need or want, and (re) start from there.

Yet increasingly we see innovation that brings happiness to people immediately. And they are almost always linked to old and proven factors of happiness and need. Just like Maslow suggested, in 1943. But times are changing. The truth is, individuals can experience higher-level motivation anytime and anywhere.

Abraham Maslow, the psychologist, is famed for this ‘hierarchy of needs,’ a framework expressing the idea that human beings have a set order of needs: water and food come first, then security and ultimately ‘self-actualization.’ People who are hungry are not too worried about self-actualization. Let’s sum them up:

  1. Primary biological, physical needs (food, drink, clothing, shelter)
  2. Livelihood (need for physical security)
  3. Social need (belonging, love)
  4. Recognition (self-image, reputation, self-esteem)
  5. Self Actualization (self-realization, to do what is your vocation)
  6. Transcendental needs
  7. Connecting them.

Using Maslow to make strategic and sustainable improvements might not be a bad idea. Even if it weren’t a set of mental stages, it helps us with the understanding of the role of happiness in creating better products and services. All it takes is another look at what people need, and how to mesh it in order to use it for connected solutions; the more you can connect, the more powerful you innovation will be.     But when we look at current innovations very little of all the innovations that come to the attention today seem to relate to that hierarchy developed by Maslow.

The apparent innovations we read about now mainly concern men toys, gadgets, smartphones, apps and other digital media. But these are technological innovations. There is no physical element involved at all. Yet.

What happened to the needs Maslow mentioned in the primary phase?

Food and Shelter

Shelter is one of the other primary needs people have. In these horrific times for refugees and others that fear for losing their ‘identity’ it can be at least pregnant to have as serious look at initiatives such as Dutch architect Henk Middelkoop. His idea to accommodate refugees in converted shipping containers may prove exactly what Maslow meant.


The most obvious is the need for food. What superior, life changing innovations can we identify? And I am not referring to the 120th iteration of a brand of frozen pizza. Would’nt it be interesting to see what truly contributed to food, drink and shelter?

Like have a portable microwave lit by the recently invented life long battery, or like designing a shared freezer in communities where power is not abundant.

The refrigerator was obviously a large invention.

The world’s first patented refrigerator was created by Jacob Perkins in 1834, but it wasn’t until 1913 that refrigerators were made for use at home. Today, over 100 years later over 55% of the homes of an emerging economy as India don’t have the ability to keep their food cool. More than half.

What about Europe? More astonishing may be that in Europe we collectively are aware that food waste is a problem. But there is not one single app, tool or gadget the disrupts the process of food waste? Let alone a more robust solution to prevent food waste directly. And how hard can it be to design a fridge that connects to your smartphone? Well, quite hard, apparently.

Maybe we should lower the bar.

Would an intelligent app to suggest some recipes to the gathered information of left over ingredients be of any help?

It even answers our dream for serendipity.

Next: Livelihood; how ideas can solve our need for physical security

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