The purpose of this paper is to introduce a decision support system to prioritize needs that are anchored in an organization. We build on a systems-thinking approach and develop a weighted additive index which considers different viewpoints of organizational stakeholders. First, we briefly review the literature about identifying and prioritizing needs from various scientific disciplines. Then, we use boundary critique to identify critical stakeholders that lead to three different viewpoints in the decision support system. The internal view reflects needs that members of the organization find important and urgent to be satisfied. The external view considers knowledge of outsiders, i.e. who do not work in the organization but are acquainted with it (e.g. experts, customers, facilitators). The systemic view considers system inherent interrelations of needs as perceived by decision makers in the organization. These stakeholder views get assessed by different dimensions, which are subsequently combined and weighted. Based on a method to identify needs, we apply this index in an case study conducted in Austria and discuss implications for theory and practice.
Needs – identification and prioritization
Needs are motivational forces that set us in motion and cause our acting. They can have a significant impact on innovation –, decision making ,  and organizational learning processes , ,  such as strategy or vision development. Explicit knowledge about needs and developing capacities to address them is crucial for all kinds of organizations. To identify needs, several approaches have been discussed in the literature , –. However, this is only one side of the coin. We also have to know, which need outpaces the other and where to start allocating limited time and resources, i.e. we have to prioritize them. In general, decision makers seem overwhelmed by the number of possible starting points to trigger organizational learning processes. This observation is in line with economic decision theory, stating that the willingness to perform an action decreases when the number of options increases. This so-called “paradox of choice” could be overcome if people have a well-defined and limited set of options . Scientific disciplines, such as philosophy, psychology, marketing, social-politics make use of the concept of needs with different definitions ,  and consequently, their prioritization changes. Regarding psychology, the most prominent account that includes a prioritization of needs is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs , . In the socio-political discourse, a prioritization of needs is derived from the harm it causes if it remains unsatisfied , –. When needs are defined as instrumental necessity for a purpose as in marketing ,  or software development , specific methods like conjoint analysis , quality function deployment  or the house of quality ,  can be used for prioritization. In the field of organization studies and innovation, von Hippel and von Krogh  recently took up the idea and proposed a model in which they implicitly assume a prioritization of needs. According to their view, a need can be uncovered simultaneously when we find a corresponding solution. To evaluate whether a solution corresponds with an underlying need, we form viable ‘need-solution pairs’. In their model, two three-dimensional landscapes represent solutions and needs. In case of a viable connection between a point on the need and solution landscape, an arrow refers to a need-solution pair. However, the authors stay conceptually and do not propose a method to actually identify and prioritize needs or solutions, which would be crucial for establishing both landscapes and their correspondence. We build on the common assumption that needs, i.e. an agent’s necessities towards a purpose, are discovered before the intentional design of satisfiers. While needs refer to the agent itself, satisfiers reflect concrete solutions (e.g. products, processes, services) which satisfy specific needs. Their relation reads as one-to-many; for instance, the need for mobility can be satisfied in many different ways (e.g. buying a car, renting a bicycle, taking the train).