Year: 2015
Editor: Christian Weber, Stephan Husung, Gaetano Cascini, Marco CantaMESsa, Dorian Marjanovic, Francesca Montagna
Author: Winkelman, Paul Martin
Series: ICED
Institution: University of British Columbia, Canada
Section: Innovation and Creativity
Page(s): 255-264
ISBN: 978-1-904670-71-1
ISSN: 2220-4334


Hierarchies are commonly used in engineering to make data more accessible and concepts more understandable. Engineers readily recognize hierarchies and are quite aware of their presence within engineering work. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is also used in engineering, but its presence is much more subtle. Engineering is seen by many to offer many  problem-solving opportunities which allows engineers to meet their  self-actualization needs at the top level of Maslow's hierarchy. Yet these same engineers assume that the problems they solve will all be found in the bottom two levels (the more  practical physiological and safety needs). Neglecting the problems of the higher levels, engineers often find their best efforts compromised as the effects of their  low level solutions travel up the hierarchy. A good example of this can be seen in the negative effects the installation of latrines in developing countries has had on women. The insistence that all problems come from the bottom and solutions come from the top closes the loop, to some extent, on Maslow's hierarchy. As the tale of the stonecutter reminds us, hierarchies may not be hierarchies after all.

Keywords: Design Practice, Early Design Phases, Social Responsibility, Maslow'S Hierarchy, Problem Formulation

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