Being Self-Fulfilled Humans


In the previous section we noted that it should be informative that now just past the beginning of the 21st century humans have been amazingly successful in developing knowledge of the physical world. Consider the technologies we have created particularly during the last few hundred hears? But we still struggle with the same cultural challenges our ancestors could not overcome thousands of years ago, including war, poverty, hunger, crime, limited educational achievement, etc.

 Our Questions

 We return to our questions. Considering the state of world society today:

 Is this society or type of society the kind Jesus advocated?

How likely is this society to provide opportunities for people to meet their needs to be self-fulfilled humans?

How likely is this society to provide opportunities for people to be creative and seek different ways to create a better society?

 It is our view that much needs to be accomplished to make world society better toward establishing one like Jesus advocated. Of course, conditions are not the same in different parts of the world. What can we learn from those areas where conditions are better? What can we determine by comparing and contrasting the social structures of areas that are better from those that are worse? We will address these questions in our discussions dealing with the three major social patterns. But first we must discuss recent insights learned through the study of people working in organizations and propose that these insights can be successfully applied to improving society.

 An Overview

 The purpose of this section is to point a new way toward creating a better society through application of recently acquired knowledge about human motivation. Under what conditions do people best strive to improve themselves and the organization in which they work? How different is a large corporation from a national society? We believe there is little difference. Certainly a national society is larger and more complex than even the largest corporation, but many factors are much the same.

Humans have been inventing tools and modifying the physical world for their benefit for tens of thousands of years. Examples include weapons, various other tools, clothing, shelters, agriculture, etc. During the last few hundred years we have developed astounding knowledge of the physical world from the interior of the earth to outer space.

We have made dramatic progress in inventing a great variety of technologies and tools, including aircraft, weapons that can kill thousands at a time from across the globe, computers, telescopes, radios, televisions, pharmaceuticals, lasers, etc. But we have made seriously little progress in overcoming our social challenges. It is our view that we have been seriously hindered in our efforts to improve society because of our lack of knowledge regarding human motivation and how it relates to society. How can we develop successful approaches to improving society if we do not understand the psychology of the people that make it up?

Understanding Human Motivation

 Scholars have studied the psychology of individuals for centuries. (See But our understanding of ourselves functioning in groups, organizations, and societies is in its infancy. Only during relatively recent years have glimmers of understandings about these issues come to light. This progress can be traced to the early years of the 20th century, a little over a hundred years ago, and the works of Frederick Taylor. During these few years the works of Taylor and other scholars and the practical applications of their ideas in large organizations have slowly opened the doors to understandings that can be applied to creating better societies. Very briefly these include:

Frederick Taylor - Being the first person to study work from a scientific point of view Frederick Taylor developed ideas for increased organizational productivity based on management determining the best approach and the best tools for doing a particular task and instructing employees how to do it. He revolutionized American and world industrial output and became known as The Father of Scientific Management. Taylor’s work spanned the end of the 1800’s and early 1900’s.  (See

Elton Mayo - Mayo, a Harvard professor, documented a number of experiments at the Hawthorne manufacturing facility attempting the identify unknown factors resulting in increased output in the production of telephone relay switches. After several years of conducting experiments and interviews Mayo was unable to identify these unknown factors.  Mayo’s experiments and interviews at the Hawthorne Works took place at the end of the 1920’s into the early 1930’s and only ended for lack of funds during the Great Depression.

An approach to motivation adopted in the 1940’s was based on the assumption that workers would be motivated by proving employees more pay, less work, more holidays, better benefits, etc. In the 1950’s a false concept was developed from Mayo’s documentation that is known as the “Hawthorne effect.” Researchers framed this false concept in different ways but most held to the idea that workers would be temporarily motivated when they were being watched by management. Even today there is much academic discussion about what these unknown factors might have been. (See and

Abraham Maslow – Maslow was a clinical psychologist that identified the factors that motivate humans. These factors include staying alive, safety, belonging to a group, recognition of others for achievements, and being a self-actualizing a person (some think of being self-actualized as “being all you can be”). His thinking fostered the belief that every person has a strong desire to realize his or her full potential through work and self-accomplishments. Maslow’s insights paved the way toward approaches to helping people become self-fulling persons. His book Motivation and Personality was first published in 1954, a 2nd edition was published in 1970, the 3rd edition was published in 1987.  (See

Maslow as a clinical psychologist was little involved in application of his ideas within organizations. Several researchers developed slightly different approaches in applying Maslow’s concepts in organizational settings. Fredrick Herzberg and J. Richard Hackman are the most notable. Although their approaches are somewhat different each advocates that management is responsible for structuring the organization and work environment so that employees can best meet their psychological, motivational needs through the work itself.

Both of these approaches uncover the unknown factor Mayo could not identify. A careful reading of his documentation establishes that the common assembly workers were allowed to directly participate in the design and redesign of the various research structures along with management and Harvard researchers. Some suggestions for restructurings came directly from the workers. Today we know that worker participation in decision making about work and work processes will result in increased productivity. This factor is known as participative management. (See Mayo’s The Human Problems of Industrial Civilization (2nd edition), Boston: The Macmillan Company, 1933, Pages 58, 60, 61-62 and

J. Richard Hackman - Hackman’s approach to motivation and worker satisfaction is identified as the job enrichment model. It is based on the thinking that work will be more rewarding for employees and more productive if they are provided more freedom and personal responsibility for accomplishing tasks. Workers are given more authority, autonomy, and control over their work place and outcomes. Hackman was active in this field of study until his death in 2013.  (See

Frederick Herzberg – Herzberg’s approach to applying Maslow’s findings is known as either the two-factor theory or the motivation-hygiene theory. Herzberg identified two sets of factors relating to employees’ satisfaction and motivation. One set of factors involve management adequately meeting certain employee needs. These factors include job security, salary, fringe benefits, and vacation time. But it is important to note that these factors when adequately satisfied will not motivate employees or increase productivity. Satisfying these factors only make it so that employees are not dissatisfied with their work and employment.

To meet workers’ psychological needs management must structure the organization in such ways to take into account workers need for motivation. Motivators identified by Herzberg include challenging work, variety of tasks, responsibility, recognition of accomplishments, involvement in decision making, opportunities to do meaningful work, opportunities for grown and development, and a sense of the importance of outcomes.

Herzbert’s book Work and the Nature of Man was published in 1966. (See and

 Our Conclusion

Our conclusion is that insights gained during recent years regarding increasing motivation and productivity in organizations can be successfully applied in achieving the same outcomes in society. Whether at work in an organization or at home in society humans have the same psychological needs. Every person has a strong desire to realize his or her full potential through work and self-accomplishments. If societies are structured in such ways to make this possible societies can created that are much like what Jesus advocated. Societies that do not meet these needs do not do well and do not reflect the kind of society that meets psychological needs of its people.

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© By Joseph L. Bass, EdD and Barbara P. Starkey-Bass April 2016 -