I’ve always been interested in the human desire to belong to groups and how we adapt our appearance to show which ‘group’ we’re in. Even in our teenage years when many of us believe the way we dress is non-conformist in truth we’re aligning ourselves to a sub-group that exists out there.
A friend of mine in her first year at university always wore Levi 501s and walked to her English lectures with an Eighteenth century novel poking out of her right back pocket and a pack of Marlboro cigarettes in her left. The signals she hoped she gave off then make her cringe beyond belief today!
Because that’s what happens, the identity we choose to present to the outside world changes over time. Many of us become less concerned about rebelling, or we gain confidence about our identity and the way we choose to transmit it.
We also respond to what seems to be the requirements for getting a job and making in-roads into a decent career, softening our personal style traits to adopt those of the professional corporate world we enter.
Isn’t it funny how as children we’re taught not to judge by appearances and yet throughout our lives we make continuous assessments of how others present themselves and how we have look to fit in. So much so, in fact, I wonder whether across the generations and across cultures we’re all beginning to look too much the same.
It’s as if, after a half-century of exciting experimentation with identity from the 1960s onwards, incorporating an influx of influences wider access to international travel has given us, we’re all now gathering in a dress-code safe-house. And where’s the fun and interest in that? Are we too scared these days to reveal through our appearance something (it doesn’t have to be all) of who we are?
I picked up an interesting fact about e-readers the other day. Apparently romance novels only account for 2% of book sales but on e-readers they make up almost a fifth of all sales. People are afraid of being judged by their cover it seems. What a shame! Think of all the opportunities being missed for people to come together, to share their interests and their differences, simply because we’re no longer giving off even the simplest of signals about who we are and what we enjoy.
I’m interested in finding ways that we all feel comfortable expressing who we are as people within our work environment, without any fear of judgement or exclusion. I think it will give a strong signal to those on the outside of our business looking in that we’re interested in all people and everything they offer, that we’re not simply looking for conformity to an IT industry type. And in the process, I have no doubt, we’ll uncover talents and knowledge amongst our workforce that will both surprise us and be of substantial benefit to our business.