Who built maslow’s pyramid? A history of the creation of management studies’ most famous symbol and its implications for management education

© Academy of Management Learning & Education. Abraham Maslow’s theory of motivation, the idea that human needs exist in a hierarchy that people strive to satisfy progressively, is regarded as a fundamental approach to understanding and motivating people at work. It is one of the first and most remembered models encountered by students of management. Despite gaining little support in empirical studies and being criticized for promoting an elitist, individualistic view of management, Maslow’s theory remains popular, underpinned by its widely recognized pyramid form. However, Maslow never created a pyramid to represent the hierarchy of needs. We investigated how it came to be and draw on this analysis to call for a rethink of how Maslow is represented in management studies. We also challenge management educators to reflect critically on what are taken to be the historical foundations of management studies and the forms in which those foundations are taught to students.