NEEDS: What’s Real & What’s Aspirational

Posted July 30th, 2013 in Business Culture, Culture & Leadership by Dr. William (Bill} DeMarco


What’s Real & What’s Aspirational

Values, History and Folklore, are the core elements of culture at a point in time.  They are our link to our personal past…handed down to us by all those who came before us. This is true of our ethnic culture, our tribal culture, our national culture, our religious culture, and our personal culture, to name just a few.   Since we are the link to our past, we are caretakers of something precious as we hand it down to future generations.  Since culture is a living thing, it does change over time, but ever so slowly.  Just think about it; there is some behavioral mannerism, belief, perception that you got from an ancestor who lived a hundred or many hundreds of years ago.  To use a modern expression, “You are Connected”.  There really is nothing new under the sun, other than our choice of what we will do with our cultural inheritance.  Since culture is a living phenomenon, we will make our choices and then pass the culture on to future generations, along with our contributions.  That is the way it is and that is the way it will continue to be.

Image 1: DeMarco Culture Model

© 2003 Dr. Bill DeMarco

All of this gets us back to our discussion of Values.   I described Values as “the unique blend of perceived Needs, Beliefs, and Attitudes that live in the behaviour of most members of a society”.   Needs are one of three segments of the Values element of my Culture Model (Image 1).  Needs, along with Beliefs and Attitudes, taken separately and in their interaction, make up our unique Values proposition.

Within a cultural context, Needs are similar to what Abraham Maslow (Image 2) describes as the fundamental requirements for survival, safety and belonging. They have everything to do with the necessities of the human condition, and nothing to do with a luxury car in the garage, a kitchen with granite counter tops, and two weeks in Saint Kitts! The latter, at the extreme end, has more to do with our image of “Esteem”.

Image 2: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

 Maslow’s work linked Needs to motivation.  While his groundbreaking work is still challenged by some, I find his conclusions compelling.  Satisfying individual and group needs at the three basic levels in the above image greatly facilitates our ability to incorporate our Beliefs into our Values system. Remember I wrote earlier that if we want to know what our real values are, look at our behaviour and not our words.  There is a strong link between our ability to survive and our ability to put our Beliefs into action. 

Here is a simple exercise that can help identify our real personal needs. It involves reading and reflecting on the bottom three categories of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Image 2).  Then make a list of what those Needs look like in your life.  Put that under a category labeled “Needs”.  Everything else that comes to mind, put under a category labeled “Wants”.  There is nothing wrong with “Wants”…Just don’t confuse the two!

Meaningful reflections!

Dr. Bill DeMarco

BELIEFS: They Choose Me & I Choose Them

Posted July 9th, 2013 in Business Culture, Culture & Leadership by Dr. William (Bill} DeMarco

BELIEFS: They Choose Me & I Choose Them

                                           © 2003, Dr. Bill DeMarco

Beliefs are one of three segments of the Values element of my Culture Model. Beliefs, along with Needs and Attitudes, taken separately and in their interaction, make up our unique Values proposition.  Beliefs are ideas viewed as being true by most members of a society. This applies to personal, societal, and organizational cultures alike.

 Our Beliefs come from two sources.  In some inexplicable way, they are partly given to us by everything and everyone that came before us and partly developed through our life experiences. In this sense, they both choose us and we choose them. Our core or fundamental beliefs are the inexplicable kind. Our life experiences commingle with our core beliefs throughout our lives constantly calling out for reappraisal/ revalidation/ (re)commitment.

At a fundamental level, we are in search of truths about the meaning of life, love, and happiness.  It is what Jefferson described in the U.S. Declaration of Independence as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.  Since our beliefs represent our understanding of the meaning of truth in important aspects of our lives, they are most often refined but rarely significantly changed.

From a cultural standpoint, the important thing to remember is that Beliefs are ideas viewed by individuals/most members of a society as being true.  While constantly subject to reappraisal/revalidation/(re)commitment, Beliefs  frequently act as cultural hot spots when challenged. To a large extent, this explains the reason for the personal and societal conflict between traditional religious and secular beliefs, both belief systems capable of profoundest impact.  The former calls for personal sacrifice in support of a higher calling. The latter debunks sacrifice and supports a notion of personal gratification here and now.

This plays itself out in the business world as well. A business world corollary has always been the company-specific belief system informally described as “how things are done around here”.  It defines what is important, what it takes to get ahead, what it takes to continue to be employed.  For many employees today, personal core beliefs about the meaning of life and happiness are being challenged, leading to what I call cultural decision-making “moments of truth”.

 Two metaphors at polar opposites of the Belief spectrum:

1. Supremacy of Scientific Knowledge!

Image number one is a metaphor for a belief system that says that there is truth only in scientific knowledge.  It likely supports a bottom-line first business culture.


2. Supremacy of a Supreme Being!

Image number two is a metaphor for a belief system that says there is a Supreme Being, the Creator of all things and the source of all truth.  It likely supports a people-first business culture.


Some Contemporary Philosophical/Religious/Business Belief  Systems & Movements

 Anarchism     Atheism     Baha’i     Behaviourism     Buddhism     Capitalism

Christianity     Communism     Confucianism     Creationism     Environmentalism

Evolution     Feminism     Free Enterprise     Free Will     Globalism     God(s)

Hinduism Human intellect     Humanism     Human Sexuality     Islam     Jainism

Judaism     Nationalism     Native Spirituality     Paganism     Personal Gratification

Personal Sacrifice     Positivism     Relativism     Right to Choose     Right to Life

Roman Catholicism     Secularism     Sikhism     Supreme Being     Socialism

Taoism     Theory E     Theory O     Unitarianism     Wiccanism     Zoroastrianism



No matter what, Beliefs are all about our lifetime search for what is true. This applies to both personal and group cultures.  In the case of a group culture, it is what the majority of people within the group hold to be true.  For more information about how Beliefs are reinforced, take a look at the Symbols segment in an upcoming blog.

Additional information can also be found at  Current speaking engagement topics include:

 Þ   Using Culture to Unlock Hidden Commercial Value

 Þ   Telltale Signs of When an Organization is Running Out of Gas &  What to Do about it

 Þ   Inspiring Real Growth by Rediscovering Who We Are

 Þ   Finding the Leader Within & Understanding What to Do With It

Meaningful Reflections!

    Dr. Bill DeMarco


VALUES: Mine – Yours – Ours

Posted July 2nd, 2013 in Business Culture, Culture & Leadership by Dr. William (Bill} DeMarco

VALUES: Mine – Yours – Ours

We hear a lot about values these days. All forms of social and traditional media bombard us with a litany of values descriptors, such as conservative, liberal, religious, family, traditional, sexual, political, and modern, to name a few. A lot of space is committed to “big” values issues to do with sexual choice, right to life/choose, right to live/die, right to bear /control arms, and right to privacy/personal security.

The popular press and social media occupy a significant portion of most people’s lives these days, with an ever-increasing influence on the social media side. They have become significant influencers on our values as individuals and societies. We are constantly bombarded with values statements of others, frequently masquerading as the truth. All of this leads me to ask the question: what are values anyway?

Over the past thirty-plus years, I have developed a culture model that applies to individuals and groups of people. I describe culture as the sum of the values, history, and folklore that, taken together, make up the unique identity of a society at a given point in time.

Today’s blog will focus on a big picture view of Values, one of the three major elements of culture. Subsequent blogs will cover many of the other elements of the model. I define Values as “the unique blend of perceived needs, beliefs, and attitudes that live in the behaviour of most members of a society”. The blend I describe is unique because the millions of experiences we each have in life, while superficially similar, are fundamentally different.

The uniqueness lies in both the sequence and influence of each experience one on the other. At a personal level, we are talking about millions of life experiences, from micro to macro and everything in between. This is true for each of us. So my dna of experiences is different from everyone else’s, in spite of sharing so much in common. Then put that together with the dna of all members of a society, and we begin to recognize the complexities. If you are part of business environment, just think of the implications for corporate culture!

I put Needs first in the sequencing of the values definition because without human needs being met, everything else is academic. Needs are the fundamental conditions required for survival/success. So many geo-political societies and organizations have disgruntled members these days because personal security and even a living wage are frequently in jeopardy.

Beliefs are ideas we individually recognize as being true. In the case of a society, Beliefs are ideas that most members of a society recognize as being true. Beliefs are very strongly held and less likely to change over time than Attitudes.

Attitudes are predispositions we individually have about an idea we believe has special merit. This is where biases live. Attitudes provide fertile ground for compromise and relationship building, as long as fundamental needs are being met.

To identify the real Needs, Beliefs, and Attitudes of self, others, or a group, take a look at behaviour. Everything else is just a collection of words! In the meantime, remember that all elements of culture, including Values, are part of a larger totality. Subsequent blogs will describe what those elements are, how they interact, and how they change over time.

Meaningful Reflections!
Dr. Bill DeMarco