Understanding Learning as a human need

Understanding what motivates individuals and knowing why humans, as groups, behave as they do is an important part of product design and development.

It drives not only elements of products such as User Interfaces and the use of methodologies such as gamification and “social”, but informs the kinds of products that are brought to market, the needs they fulfil, and the problems they solve.

While our team doesn’t include an expert on human developmental psychology (applicants apply within!) we have made a brief study of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a leading explanation of the needs and motivations of individuals.

It has been interesting to note the number of these human needs that relate to, and can be at least partially satisfied by, accessing learning and training opportunities, especially within a social context.

Of the five needs identified by Maslow three can be strongly related to the provision of learning opportunities:

  • Safety. This includes the need for security of employment and related financial security, something which is enhanced by ongoing learning and professional development opportunities.
  • Esteem. This includes a basic need for achievement and respect from others which can be created through the recognition provided by education (Gamification, anyone?)
  • Self-actualisation. This is the need to reach one’s full potential. Again, learning is a key to this.

Aside from the basic physiological needs all that remains in the hierarchy is the need for belonging and intimacy. This allows for using the motivation of making social connections and achieving the esteem of a group as an engine which can power collaboration, innovation and learning.

Of course, the study of 1950s human developmental psychology is no substitute for real proof of concept, but all this suggests that content that offers learning opportunities to individuals (and allows them to be social while they do it) will add value to their careers or lives, as well as being highly effective in building the credibility of individuals and brands who offer those opportunities.

The question is, what can you teach your target audience?

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