How people decide their needs

As usual this post is based on my personal and professional experience of people in situations. I don’t care what’s written out there on the net by some lot of gurus. Why? Because it is my experience given here!! I’ve read from the gurus already for over 25 years. As I’m about to get told about Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs – as if I’ve never heard about it – I should put up a diagram about it and say immediately that this post is NOT about any of that!


People (in general) think they know what they need. Okay – some will say, “I know what I need!” – when one gently provides a suggestion; which is to tell everybody to ‘kindly mind their own business’. Right there is the start of an issue i.e. people only know what they ‘know’. That’s so basic and ‘circular’ that it appears obvious but it’s the heart of a ‘problem’. If one only knows what one knows, then it’s pretty difficult to know anything different unless one accesses a new frame of reference or a new set of knowledge/experience. BTW I don’t go around telling people what they need. On a some occasions people seek my advice or guidance for some issue that they are dealing with. On other occasions I may volunteer a helpful tip to those who are closest to me, in order to enhance their lives.

What people may need is usually connected to their present circumstances or something arising in the future. But people only know best their present circumstances and have difficulty assessing future needs. Oh dear – I need to explain perhaps to some idiot out there, that the future is usually not readily foreseeable and that people don’t actually live in the future (except me of course). [Ooops – did I call you who reads this ‘an idiot’? No I did not!] What’s this future, I’m talking about? Well I should be cautious to say that I’m not talking about simple things like, ‘What happens next if you launch over a cliff?’ [And that ‘some idiot’ is about to argue that it depends how high the cliff is etc].

From my own experience and observations of several others, I’ve come to realise that people discover their needs after something has happened. No – I didn’t say that they ‘always’ discover their needs after something. Jeez – it gets really hard to write a blog, when you know that >50% of people who might read it will come up with some twisting of your words or meaning. On several occasions when I’ve suggested a thing or the other to someone, they’ll give me the ‘I don’t need that’. Then months or years later when they discover the same thing for themselves they might go, “Hey look at this it’s really good! I don’t know how I got on without it!” – as if I had never mentioned it to them before. On other occasions people do remember that I had mentioned it (whatever) and then say, “It’s good. I should have listened more to what you were saying.

So what’s changed when they do the ‘thing’? All that happens is that their knowledge base and experience is changed by interacting with the ‘thing’. Or maybe they had a fleeting exploration of ‘whatever’ the first time around and went, ‘It’s not for me.. too complicated.. I don’t have the time.’ What are some of these things? I’ll name a few: Google Maps, Google Calendars, Scanners of certain models, software like MindManager and Rationale – and the list can go on and on.

People I interact with argue (not that I’m arguing with them) that they don’t ‘need’ a better mobile phone or TV. The arguments are very similar e.g.

  1. I’m happy with my ditsy phone and I don’t need to have emails coming at me left right and centre.” [BTW these are the same people who 10 years ago would have argued, “I don’t need a mobile phone. Anybody who needs to find me can get me at home!“]
  2. I don’t need a new TV. The one I have works fine.

When the utility or advantage of doing something differently becomes appreciated, it is then that most people come to realise their ‘need’. Of course people also define needs in other ways and I’m not here to give a lecture on all of that. Maslow is your friend and guru – not me!

I still struggle with a few to get them to use Robobasket, Roboform, various backup software etc. Why? They just won’t practice using the things. They’re happy to continue struggling with the same issues daily, weekly or monthly. I’ve now come to a conclusion that about 70%  of people from my experience, don’t know what they need and are to be left to discover for themselves what they need by slow and often painful routes.

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