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About Blitzscaling and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

One of the simple joys of life for me is being able to draw intellectual parallels between concepts that on the surface seem quite distant, but on closer inspection are actually very similar.

The study and understanding of psychology empowers me to do this and now you get to read about all my crazy ramblings. My hope is that someone somewhere finds meaning in these things and is able to find a way to apply the insight.

The first time I read about Blitzscaling, I was a young and broke communications associate who had no weekend plans and needed something, anything, to keep myself company till I was back again in the office for the new week. I’d borrowed a 2016 Harvard Business Review magazine from the office library with the intent to return it, but I never did – sorry HR.

Anyway, I found a very interesting interview between Reid Hoffman who is a Silicon Valley OG, and Tim Sullivan, former editorial director of Harvard Business Review Press.

So I’m reading this interview about scaling really fast, Reid is explaining the essence of Blitzscaling, which is basically agility with calculated risks, and it made so much sense to me that I started drawing parallels from the conversation to the structure of a motivational theory called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Simply put, Blitzscaling is the idea that to grow really big and very quickly, an organisation needs to take inventory of the impact of its brand and unique offerings, and use that in-depth understanding to go big on investing in elements that elevates its bottom line, which is ultimately – world domination.

There’s essentially no rule book for Blitzscaling, it’s a combination of street smarts and business management. To determine what Blitzscaling has to do with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we need to understand what the latter actually is.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a motivational theory of psychology that structures human needs into five hierarchical steps. They range from more concrete needs such as food and security to abstract concepts such as love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization needs.

Maslow believed that human motivation moves from the bottom of the pyramid to the top – you only stop to consider higher needs in the hierarchy when you feel you have sufficiently satisfied the previous need. It makes sense, right? How do you brainstorm on an empty stomach? No one thinks about taking over the world while they are being attacked – or do they?

Since the dawn of time, through movies, music and books, we have heard stories about humans who have done incredible things in the face of hunger and or risk of personal danger. Think of iconic athletes like Jordan and Kobe (RIP) who will play through severe bodily injuries and still dominate.

Think of soldiers who have had to remain brave and stay motivated to fight against enemies despite the possibility of death. Think of people who came from extreme hardship and poverty, who went on to become very successful members of society. In hacking productivity, I believe managing a concept as volatile as motivation, has to be more nuanced and contextual – especially as it relates to the very complex nature of human behaviour.

Peers may have criticised Maslow’s theory for not having external validation beyond the wealthy population he chose to base his studies on – but I will give him due respect for categorising the human needs and putting them in a hierarchy.

What does Blitzscaling have to do with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? It’s simple really – if you flip the pyramid on its head, this will put self-actualisation and esteem as primary needs, and everything else which is love and belonging, safety, and physiological needs become secondary.

Read also: LCCI, RIMAN advocate risk management practices in organisations

When you fuse the premise of Blitzscaling and a flipped Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, what you have is the ultimate cocktail of staggering success if applied with discipline and tact.

Recall the scene in The Godfather II when Michael Corleone visited Havana in Cuba while seeking to expand his empire out there with the help of Miami mobster Hyman Roth, who did dealings with President Fulgencio Batista.

At the time, Batista’s regime was under attack by guerillas of Fidel Castro, Michael was worried about how this would affect business, and he asked Roth if the guerillas were being paid to fight, Hyman responded that they were not and Michael was convinced that this meant they would win.

In my opinion, the concept of Blitzscaling is very much ‘do or die’, you either win big or you lose big. A person who grew up with nothing, or who is fighting to save their dreams, or whose need for greatness is bigger than their need to just exist, has nothing to lose if they try, but has everything to lose if they do not try.

This person does not fear hunger, danger, and is also not worried about losing friends or family. This person has a high locus of control, and also has incredible tunnel vision about the parts of their lives that needs to be amplified for success to be achieved. It may take time, but this person usually wins big in the end.

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