I often assume that it’s difference (of opinion, position, whichever) that holds things back.

It occurred to me the other day that it’s indifference that’s possibly the real enemy; an engine that seems to run quietly in the background, its gears grinding decision-making to a crawl with the result that good energy, intention and aims are sacrificed and so much indistinct design work sees the light of day. 

Ideas and experiences mis-communicated or missed as a result of nothing (seemingly) more than indifference.

The mis-shaped metaphor (of the first ‘computer’) here contains an interesting heart-of-the-matter.

The actual engine was devised to calculate ‘divided differences’ (an algorithmic activity) – but from its divided-ness came all sorts of answers which were simply beyond pencil and paper calculations. It helped stretch rather than stifle activity.

Whereas now many of us are stuck with a ‘dividing indifference’ – a programme that unfortunately has the opposite effect of The Engine. 

It’s my contention indifference is the thing that’s the real hidden killer of progress, that creates divide-ness not by opposition or argument – but simply by appearing not to be bothered. To calculate, quite as deliberately as the machinery, that no view is better than some (or even one.)

Being indifferent – appearing to hold no opinion, interest or concern – is a tricky thing to discuss. No-one wants to accuse the other of it. Instead we assume that there must be good reason for not holding forth or arguing a point. Be it politic to stay silent, to determine to be deferential or over-tactful so as not to upset or offend.

But it’s that which leads to the mediocre and ironically prevents business capturing the point of difference (indeed, the point at all) that they really need.

It takes us back to beige. Vanilla for all. Worst of it, seeming not to care.

Of course there are a million good reasons why people pull their punches or bite their tongues. That’s probably the saddest part of this, that businesses should be built to bring people together to hold them apart. What a weird way of being different. 

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About Richard Hill

Creative director, writer, designer, illustrator based in the UK with global project experience and consulting skills across sectors.

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