I went to Canada, and found a nest of scorpions. And they all work for IBM!
You client-facing folks will be familiar with what I affectionately call the IBM Bunker at any given customer site. It’s usually the former broom closet that’s been converted into a mess of miniscule, horizontal spaces that busloads of IBMers squeeze into on a daily basis.
Well, at this banking customer in Toronto, I was there after hours with my fellow IBMers. We got to networking, and found out that five of us were born under the Scorpio zodiac sign.
If you’ve ever met a Scorpio, or are one, you’ll understand why discovering that was tres cool. Every Scorpio I’ve ever met usually says, “And I’m pretty much like they describe a Scorpio is.”
Scary! (In a good way!)
Anyway, whenever I discover someone is more like me (left-handed, musical, Scorpio, one fake tooth in the front, etc.) I do the human thing: I like them even more. And that usually translates to helping them more, sharing with them more, listening to them more, buying them lunch, whatever.
The flip side of that, though, is sort of a halo effect. I tend to notice how we’re similar, and slide by all the great elements that make us different. It’s the differences that make collaboration richer.
There’s a wealth of research out there that addresses this “you’re like me, so I like you more” phenomenon (not to mention eons of wars fought over the opposite). One of them is Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools, and the Formation of Social Networks (requires HBR membership to access).
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know my Canadian friends even more, eh?