I’ve known about the Freudian concept of the Narcissism of Small Differences for many years, and it’s a concept that I see around me all too often. In simple terms, Freud argued that groups of people who to everyone else seem all but identical will get extremely het up about what makes them different from one another.
In the UK at the moment we are seeing it in action in the Conservative Party leadership campaign. A strange event where the future leader of the country in the short term will be determined by the very unrepresentative membership of the Tory Party, 160,000 or so, mostly white, mostly male, mostly rich people mostly living in the South of England.
As a result of this peculiar constituency, the remaining candidates are having an epic Conservative-off, trying to outdo each other in their right-wing credentials. To anyone outside of the party, it looks like an exercise in marginal nastiness.
To people who show no interest in politics at all, the noises made by representatives of one party sound little different to the noises made by representatives of any other.
We see the narcissism of small differences all over organisations. The support functions of finance, HR and IT battle amongst themselves, using professional jargon and unprofessional insults to show how they are different from one another. The rest of the organisation looks on in disbelief wondering why they can’t just get along. Most organisations think they are unique in comparison to their competitors. Most sectors think they are unique from any other industry.
What can we learn from all this division? Well, maybe most importantly, is whether your intended audience cares about what you are saying, or are you just trying to determine a difference from another faction?
Outside of the realm of technology, does anyone really care if it’s cloud or on-prem? Is it really important to them if it’s agile or waterfall?
And whilst every profession claims uniqueness, maybe we should also understand that most of the challenges and impediments we face in technology to getting things delivered successfully are probably the same ones that everyone else is facing…