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hierarchy of values: moving on from maslow

Big discussion going on at NeuroScienceMarketing.com (nice site) about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. A guest blog author submitted the idea that Maslow's framework could be used to organize the service experience. 

Lots of people loved the article. I did, too, but it was because the article is flawed: Maslow (even by his own admission) needs to be tested, and taken with a grain of salt. In fact, it HAS been tested, having been the subject of many articles, studies, and critiques. That's OK. We still love the guy. And getting things sort of right is better than doing nothing at all. It gives the serious business person, the academic, and the thinking person grist for the mill, and we love that.

In my research and work in customer experience management, I decided early on to make sure I backed my methodology with research that was cross-cultural. Having my global executive MBA from TRIUM, a very prestigious institution, I knew the hazards of applying what is "true" in one country to another country. 

As a result, I looked meticulously for research and frameworks that advanced my ability to discern and leverage cultural differences in values, motivations, and behaviors. I chose not to use frameworks where that work would be muddy or difficult. For example, I chose a construct culled from marketing research that breaks down people's thinking, feeling, and acting as being motivated by three broad "dimensions": the physical, the time-based activities, and the hierarchy of values activated in a touchpoint (or point of reflection). 

Another very popular construct breaks down thinking, feeling, and acting differently, focusing on cognitive (thinking), affective (feeling), and conative (acting) dimensions. Makes sense - except where do variations in cultural values, or the physical environment, live in this construct? Actually, they live in all three dimensions - which means that the cognitive/affective/conative framework requires that we ask questions about how hierarchy of values influence thinking, feeling, and acting by the customer. 

If you always have to ask how these three "independent" dimensions are in fact a function of hierarchy of values, then why not choose a framework that starts with a hierarchy of values dimension? Also, my preferred construct (environment/time/hierarchy of values) has two elements that are clearly focused on merchandising and process design (environment and time). Businesses understand these activities. 

I wanted to share with you here some of the research I've looked it on this topic. I summarized it as well at NeuroScienceMarketing.com, but you deserve it here.

  • Sproles & Kendall, Consumer Style Inventory (varies across cultures, see follow-on research regarding Germany, Korea, and China)
  • Research by Steven Reiss, of OSU, on fundamental desires and values (which I think is flawed as it omits storytelling as a way of creating value from non-desirable aspects of our lives - see logotherapy).
  • N.T. Feather, et al., Values, expectations, and the prediction of social action: An expectancy-valence analysis.
  • M.A. Morganosky, et al., Complaint Behavior: Analysis by Demographics, Lifestyle, and Consumer Values
  • M.E.W. Varnum, et al., The Origin of Cultural Differences in Cognition: The Social Orientation Hypothesis
  • Shalom Schwartz, et al., Value Hierarchies Across Cultures: Taking a Similarities Perspective
  • Daniora Grundey, Delineating values, emotions, and motives in consumer behavior: An interdisciplinary approach. Another nice compendium of research. 
  • Cathal Brugha, Trust and Commitment in Relationship marketing: The Perspective from Decision Science. Nice analysis of how market research is flawed, where her key assertion is that factors showing some level of independence in statistical analysis are imputed to be "dimensions" (which in math are absolutely independent). The article is probably not sufficiently independent for our work, but it does reference Maslow and Jung's personality types (which later evolved into Myers-Brigg). 



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