Lesson 4.6

Optimal Distinction

Key Concepts:


Members of groups crave “optimal distinction,” that is, both belonging and being different.

  • Some people crave belonging more than being different, but all of us have both psychological needs.

  • We want to be distinct, so we can be useful and special.

  • We want to belong, so we can survive and be validated.

  • Basically we’re all kind of like teenagers, no matter how old we get.

Great cultures provide group members with both a sense of belonging and validation of what they or their sub-group can uniquely provide to the group.

  • But there’s a thin line between sub-groups factions.

  • Recognizing and praising the differences within our groups can help satisfy the need for distinction.

  • However, we need to offset that distinction with enough of a shared group mentality, known as “superordinate group mentality.”

  • The key is to ensure that sub-groups feel like they fully belong, that no sub-group is favored over another, and that the entire “superordinate group” is bonded together.