Narcissism of small differences & Software development

As Sigmund Freud stated in 1917, communities with adjoining territories and close relationships are especially likely to engage in feuds and mutual ridicule because of hypersensitivity to details of differentiation.

Humans are tended to think themselves as unique and self. So, in the environments, especially they’re likely to each other, they find (and may even exaggerate) the small differences. The example is given through a marrying couple and their families, the families can be easily envy to each other. And after that moment of marriage, each of them starts to think how they’re superior than the other family, secretly. When I’ve first read this, I thought “yes, that’s definitely a thing” and I started to think about the army suddenly.

I don’t know how this will differ in different countries, but I think the system is more or less the same in all military systems. All the soldiers in the army are equal, their clothes, manners, appearance must be so identical that they cannot be distinguished from one another. The synchronous movements made by these people also appear as discipline shows. And when I thought of the days I was in the military (very limited time though :) ), I remembered how important were little details to people. I thought how easily a conflict during a meal, can turn into aggression, how really trivial details suddenly become the most important thing in the world for people.

This is, of course, a bit of an extreme example in a highly disciplined environment, where people are physically challenging them. But are the modern organizations an exception for these situations? I do not think so.

In today’s software development companies, we bring people from the same disciplines together, create teams of these people and give them goals to improve something. And this thesis, which Freud spoke about long ago, shows itself here as well. These small differences sometimes show themselves in a code-review process, sometimes in the middle of a technical discussion, sometimes in a meeting or a coffee break. I think we all remember the person who thinks her solution is the best solution.

Spot 7 differences:

When watched with careful eyes, these small differences can also be drawn in a more accurate direction by using them as creating teams that are easier to getting agree or rewarding for the benefit of the company. It is very important to know that these differences become more important for everyone, especially in environments with intense competition, and to avoid taking wrong steps, especially when determining a winner / loser. I’ve did a bit research about the topic and came across Thomas Cagley’s blog post which is written in 2012 and summarizes the topic well. I think this phenomenon is an important brick below in engineering management craft.

Especially in power distance cultures, since giving and receiving feedback is hard, it’s hard to change opinions. People can easily fall into the pitfall of “It can be only done in this way”. And I think in such situations, a person who is aware of these small differences can develop a natural leadership by acting as a arbitrator, regardless of title. Especially when fed with the right technical background, I think that the probability of promotion of these people who push organizations towards the right decisions increases.

Thanks for reading.