Snowflakes don’t need to stand out to be special


It has been an interesting and very informative experience to bring the Snowflake Effect to Japan.  When doing the overview of the Snowflake Effect I often first explain that the name comes from the common experience most of us have had where our parents or loved ones tell us that we are a snowflake, special, unique, there is no one quite like us.  As I often go on to say, in my case when my mother said “Wayne, there’s no one quite like you!” she was not being complimentary! <g> 

snowflake on stemYet in Japan one of the fundamental themes in the culture and one that is emphasized throughout their education is what translates to “don’t stand out.”  How would the Snowflake Effect play out in this situation?  How would I explain it in such a way as to not offend this audience or make false assumptions about how they view themselves?  Turns out it was not too difficult at all and the whole concept went over extremely well.  What I did was emphasize the second point I usually make with the basics of the Snowflake Effect which is that it is not simply about the recognition of the fact that we are unique as individuals but that each and every situation we are in, each moment, is unique.  People in Japan identified with this very much and they were in fact one of the most engaging groups I’ve been with.

They recognize the uniqueness of each individual and more so the uniqueness of every moment and were extremely receptive to the concept of the Snowflake Effect and are seeing similar trends all around them.  However they choose to be more subtle about it all and their concern is about “standing out” which should not be confused with being unique.  They related very well for example to the metaphor of LEGO blocks, where all the blocks are very similar and have a great deal of commonality of size, shape, pin sizes, etc.  However these same uniform and common blocks can be assembled into a very unique combination.

So I learned a valuable lesson from the whole experience which is that being a snowflake does not mean that you have to “stand out” as being different or unique.  As I thought more about real snowflakes I realized this lesson was there for me to see all along.  You don’t notice the uniqueness of each snowflake until you look very closely, and each snowflake does not stand out as being different. Yet of course upon closer inspection of their beautiful crystalline structure, we see how wonderfully unique each snowflake truly is.  As my mother used to also say, “Wayne, you’re a snowflake, you’re completely unique; just like every other snowflake!”


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