The response to the death of Steve Jobs can be described as nothing short of extraordinary. Mourners placed flowers at Apple stores all over the world. How can this be explained, given the fact that Apple was a commercial product that people bought, not a spiritual movement? The answer is that in his design philosophy Steve Jobs made use of ERG motivational theory, tapping into the potential for self-actualization in terms of how his machines were constructed. Instead of simply being functional, Apple products embodied a concept of sleekness, excellence in design, and belief in human potential. The ERG concept was likewise embodied in Jobs' own life -- Jobs was a businessman who strove to make a profit, yet he also sincerely loved his work and continued to work, long after he could have retired or delegated more of his work to others.
ERG theory grew out of Abraham Maslow's theory of a hierarchy of human needs. However, it contains several fundamental differences. Maslow stated that human needs exist upon a hierarchy, and that basic needs such as food and shelter must be satisfied before someone can begin to think about pursuing higher-level needs like relatedness with other people. "Like Maslow's model, the ERG theory is hierarchical - existence needs have priority over relatedness needs, which have priority over growth" but "unlike Maslow's hierarchy, the ERG theory allows for different levels of needs," such as existence (physiological), relatedness (social) and growth (actualization) to "be sought after at the same time" ("ERG theory," Net MBA,2010).
This concept of simultaneous fulfillment of motivational needs is seen in all of Apple's products. On one hand, Apple's products, such as its iPod, were often clear design improvements over Apple's rivals such as Microsoft. However, "viewers have claimed that after watching creative Apple product advertisements even if they knew they would either never use it, or did not need it, they were still tempted to purchase the product simply because they liked the advertisements" ("Why is Apple so popular," New West Gadget, 2009). Apple products are, in general, more expensive than its competitors, indicating that consumer's basic needs (such as budgeting) are being simultaneously pursued or even superseded with the need to be part of Apple's image. While Apple is not immune to consumer's pursuit of existence needs (as price goes down, demand goes up, as is typical of most consumer goods), the need for growth as a person and also to proclaim they are a certain 'type' of person (relatedness needs) to others is clearly also a factor in the durability of Apple as a brand.
Jobs himself pursued a career in business, pursing his need to make a living, but also wished to embody a higher philosophy in his self-stylization. Jobs said he wanted to create "a $10 billion company that didn't lose its soul" (Levy 2010). ERG theory suggests "the order of the needs be different for different people" and Jobs dropped out of college to pursue his dreams, spurning conventional notions of success at the beginning of his career ("ERG theory," Net MBA, 2010). Jobs claimed that he did not want to waste the money of his working class parents at Reed College, although a degree might seem to be a necessary accomplishment for someone coming from a background without a great deal of economic, social cultural capital. Jobs did not even have a conventional computer science background. He "didn't need to be an ace at coding. Instead, he relentlessly and passionately focused on products. He marketed. He sold. He inspired. He challenged. He succeeded. He failed. He kept going. Then, he succeeded again. These are the true characteristics of a successful entrepreneur in the consumer Internet space" (Sellers 2011). Jobs was passionately single-minded, and could be abrupt, even callous when pursuing his goals, spurning not only basic needs, but also the need for social relationships while pursuing his passion. "At age 13, he called up the head of HP and cajoled him into giving Jobs free computer chips. It was part of a lifelong pattern of setting and fulfilling astronomical standards.
Throughout his career, he was fearless in his demands. He kicked aside the hoops that everyone else had to negotiate and straightforwardly and brazenly pursued what he wanted. When he got what he wanted -- something that occurred with astonishing frequency -- he accepted it as his birthright" (Levy 2011).
It was often said that Jobs 'knew' what consumers wanted before they 'knew' it themselves, but what this really means is that Jobs knew how to generate demand and to satisfy basic needs through technology, such as communication with others, while merging them with style, paring down everything to its most basic elements. Jobs "reinvented the portable music player with the iPod, launched the first successful legal method of selling music online with iTunes and reordered the cell phone market with the iPhone. The introduction of the iPad also jump-started the electronic-tablet market, and it now dominates the field," despite original jokes that no one even understood what the iPad was supposed to 'do' ("Steve Jobs dies," The Washington Post, 2011). While it is true that the Mac only commanded 5% of all computer sales, largely because of its greater expense, keeping in line with ERG theory that different consumers prioritize needs in different ways, Apple users were often unusually fanatical -- they loved the personalized colors almost as much as its alleged superiority of internal design and invulnerability to crashing and viruses (Sellers 2011). Apple users were notorious for lining up for the products they desired at Apple stores. While some people were baffled as to why Apple enthusiasts would do this, given that the product would eventually be available to all users relatively soon, Apple's groupies wished to be part of the Apple 'experience' and their feelings for the product were far deeper than what the product could do for them -- it had become part of their identity and culture, fulfilling higher-level needs of relatedness.
Another principle of ERG theory, however, is that if hygienic, lower-level needs are not satisfied, people will often 'regress' and become less focused on the intangible motivating factors of growth. For example, if a technological product does not work and has numerous 'glitches,' the design of the product and its beauty will not be as interesting." When people look at an iMac, they think the design is really great, but most people don't understand it's not skin deep," said Jobs, stressing how functionality followed form and form followed function simultaneously at Apple (Levy 2011).
Passion and product were likewise intertwined. The product that really put Apple 'over the top' in terms of generating customer loyalty was the iPod, the tiny, portable musical device that revolutionized modern music listening and downloading. Jobs loved music, and as well as creating a product for which there would be great demand, Jobs also saw Apple's delving into the world of music as synonymous with the rock n' roll spirit he desired the company to embody.
Jobs' career also resonates with Herzberg's Two-Factor Motivation-Hygiene theory. Herzberg believed that all human beings are motivated by positive and negative drives. "He called the satisfiers motivators and the dissatisfiers hygiene factors, using the term 'hygiene' in the sense that they are considered maintenance factors that are necessary to avoid dissatisfaction but that by themselves do not provide satisfaction" ("Herzberg motivation-hygiene theory," Net MBA, 2010). For example, if someone's level of satisfaction at their job regarding pay, hours worked, or the temperament of their boss falls beyond a certain level, they may become less motivated, and there is a certain basic level of motivation required for the worker to continue to be industrious. But there is also a certain level of pay or other 'perks' like "company policy, supervision," relationships, work conditions," and "salary" beyond which these factors cease to be extremely motivating, and are only mildly motivating ("Herzberg motivation-hygiene theory," Net MBA, 2010). "Herzberg's research proved that people will strive to achieve 'hygiene' needs because they are unhappy without them, but once satisfied the effect soon wears off - satisfaction is temporary. Then as now, poorly managed organizations fail to understand that people are not 'motivated' by addressing 'hygiene' needs. People are only truly motivated by enabling them to reach for and satisfy the factors that Herzberg identified as real motivators, such as achievement, advancement, development, etc., which represent a far deeper level of meaning and fulfillment" (Chapman 2010).
In Jobs' own life, this falling back into solely focusing on 'hygienic' needs could have been manifested when he was ousted from the company he founded in 1985. Apple's then-CEO John Sculley, the former CEO of Pepsi had been recruited by Jobs himself to run Apple in 1983. "But Sculley outmaneuvered Jobs by winning the backing of the board. And on May 31, 1985, he fired Steve Jobs," because of Jobs' abrasive personality. Jobs, undaunted, created a new company --…