Why Defining Needs is Important

26.01.2017 |

Episode #4 of the course Understanding needs by Ryan Watkins, PhD


You may be wondering why we have spent the first part of the course defining what needs are. You may have studied Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in a psychology class or figured that needs were simply things like air and water. But as we are seeing, needs are more nuanced than these approaches suggest.


Assess Your Needs

One practical application of defining needs as gaps in results is that you can now assess your needs. That is to say that you can make comparisons among your needs and use that information to guide your decisions. If you limit needs to just being those things you can’t live without (i.e., oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon atoms in a few different combinations), then you can’t compare needs or justify decisions about which to address first.

We assess needs to study a problem or opportunity, incorporating data and opinions from varied sources in order to make effective decisions or recommendations about what to do next. That, to me, is good decision-making and leadership.


Measure Your Needs

Needs are not just conceptual. Needs can, and should, be measured in order to help guide our decisions. Just saying that you have a need for an iPhone doesn’t really help. But when we define needs as gaps in results, then we can start to measure our needs, compare them, and use them to improve our decisions.

We can measure gaps in results. We typically do this by measuring the desired result and subtracting the current result from it. For example, the desired result is for your staff to contact 30 new sales leads each week, but on average they only contact 15 now; the first part of your need is for 15 more contacts each week. Then you can add the purpose.


Explain Your Needs

Lastly, needs as gaps in results lets you concretely explain your needs to others. Communicating our needs is vital to matching them with right satisfiers. Lewis Carroll once wrote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” To put it another way, if you don’t know what results you want to achieve, then any decision will do.

By clearly assessing, measuring, and explaining your needs, you can guide decisions and improve the odds of selecting the best satisfiers.


Today’s Main Point

1. Having a clear definition of needs allows us to assess, measure, and explain needs more clearly.


Today’s Activity

Write down three results you would like to accomplish in the next year. For example, exercise three times a week on average. Now compare this to your current results. What is the size of your gap? How far can you close the gap in the next month?


Today’s Resources

A free book from the World Bank on assessing needs


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