In “Apply,”  we will explore how to build a better relationship between the providers of products/services (such as businesses or public organizations) and the recipients of such products/services (customers or constituents), leveraging the power of Zero.
Whether provided by a company, or another type of organization, any product/service aims to address one or more needs identified in Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs.” Food addresses physiological needs. Homes and public services provide safety.  Educational services help us build confidence and self-esteem.

We acquire, or consume various types of products/services, hoping to address and meet different types of needs.


Though Maslow did not define it this way, it appears there are two dimensions in Maslow’s hierarchy: horizontal and vertical. The vertical dimension shows us how our needs become elevated, once lower level needs are satisfied. It tells us that our needs are not one dimensional: there’s “more” (or quantity),  but there’s also “higher” (or quality). We try to secure safety once we have enough air, water and food. Once we feel safe and secure, then we seek love and esteem. We could also say that the quality dimension includes time: short-term needs versus long-term needs. If you are feeling hungry before lunch, it’s a need that can be immediately satisfied by eating a hamburger. But if you want to switch to a more rewarding job, it’s a long-term need that can only be addressed by persistent efforts: it doesn’t happen overnight.

Then how would we measure the overall quality/quantity of satisfaction felt by different individuals? Or more simply, how would I measure my own overall satisfaction?

We might be able to tap into traditional methods to quantify “customer satisfaction.”  Here is the definition:

Customer satisfaction: a measure of how products and services supplied by a company meet or surpass the customer’s expectation.

It turns out that “customer satisfaction” is geared toward quantifying satisfaction at a very micro and local level: per product/service basis, and probably per event/use basis. If that’s the case, could you simply sum satisfaction experienced by using each and every product/service you own, in order to quantify your overall satisfaction?  When you do so, how would quantity/quality come into play?

Even though we are not sure how the details would work, we sort of automatically accept the rule of summation when we acquire something. We expect that it would add some value to our lives, and eventually, would increase our overall satisfaction.


But by experience, we all know that’s not always the case. Read the very enthusiastic Amazon reviews for “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying-up” by Marie Kondo. It’s almost shocking to realize that so many people are feeling stressed by all the clutter they’ve collected over time, and are feeling refreshed, renewed and happy when they abandon unnecessary items.

Clearly, accumulating products/services does not necessarily contribute to one’s overall satisfaction. At least there is no simple and proportional correlation.

Then why do we have to keep acquiring stuff?  One of the problems is that we don’t have reliable tools to quantify overall satisfaction.  If simple math of summation does not work, what alternatives do we have?

That’s where “Zero” comes into play.

Remember the Yerkes-Dodson curve that we reviewed so many times in “Zero Narrative.” Instead of assuming satisfaction as a straight line that grows infinitely,  “Zero” assumes a bell curve for satisfaction. Now you apply the amount of stuff you own, as a straight line.  We can easily see where the optimal satisfaction level meets the amount of stuff we own – at least theoretically.  The people who found “life-changing magic” in tidying up might have found their own optimal level by experimenting with drastic subtraction.

Bell curve satisfaction

Now what about quality? According to Maslow’s hierarchy, our needs are elevated when lower ones are met. Well, we can assume that each of us can basically design his /her own bell curve based on ones’ interest and priority. And the beauty of a Zero bell curve is that it doesn’t have to rely on the amount of what you own.

Bell curve satisfaction high