In one of the kitchens in my co-working space (CIC, not the other guys), they have a jar of Neapolitan pretzels: dark chocolate, white chocolate (or is it yogurt?), and sickly-sweet strawberry (ick!).
Goodness knows which chemicals they use to flavor them, but the brown ones, the white ones, and the pink ones really do taste different. And that, of course, begs the question: which one is the best one?
Last time I reached into the jar, I caught myself in the act of thinking as I withdrew a handful of my favorite flavor.
These ones are the best! I thought. Those other ones aren’t very good, and don’t even talk to me about the “strawberry.”
Then I realized how ridiculous this is: who was I trying to prove this to, and why?
I’m surely not the only person who somehow tends to end up with a less-than-random selection from the pretzel jar. And I might not be the only one who justifies this sorting with a story about selecting “the best flavor.”
What I finally realized, though, was how deep runs this pattern of thought and speech. Like Malcolm Gladwell’s famous spaghetti sauces, all three flavors are plainly the best — for someone.
And the difference between “this one is best” and “this one is my favorite” turns out to be really important.
Co-working spaces and cookie jars aren’t the only social systems that depend on diversity for vitality. We can’t all sit in the same seat, after all, but there’s more than enough seating for everyone — and more than one of us can enjoy our favorite at once.