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If you’ve ever done a workshop or an awayday with me, it’s highly likely that you’ll have played “Same or Different” It’s a generic classification game we play about all sorts of subjects to clarify how people think about a particular question.
Same or Different is at the base of all sorts of things we do in the knowledge economy. We’re always asking, is this thing the same as this other thing or is it different? And the answers is usually, it’s both, they’re the same in these ways and they’re different in others.
In restructuring an organisation or setting up a project, which bits go together and which bits are apart? How is that sameness actually manifested in people’s day to day activities? What does it mean to be different? Under what circumstances might it change?
What happens when people disagree about sameness or difference? What happens when I think I’m the same as you but you think we’re different? How might I convince you of my point of view? Do I need to? Is it important? Should I just accept that we differ on this point?
I blog. Perhaps you do too. You may consider my blog to be the same as yours. I might agree. Or disagree. Other people might lump us together – we might be the only ones who perceive sufficient difference for it to matter.
I podcast. Perhaps you do too. You may consider my podcast to be the same as yours. I might agree. Or disagree. Other people might lump us together – we might be the only ones who perceive sufficient difference for it to matter.
So you might say, “What does it matter? We’re similar – isn’t that enough? Surely that’s a much better way of putting it?”
To me settling for saying “similar” avoids asking (and answering) the important questions, it’s hiding in vagueness. It might be the best and most accurate answer in the end, but it’s not nearly as productive as delving deeper in to sameness and difference.