Culture of Tolerance

06 Jun 2005|Added Value

Today’s speculation is about TOLERANCE. My sub-conscious, flying-at-an-imperceptible-latitude kind of radar for picking up popular news and other patterns within the media says tolerance is a hot idea, and worthy of more attention (uh huh…even more than it’s received to date).

I would argue tolerance is one of the key differences between younger and older generations today. We do a lot of work at Cheskin that aims to understand these differences relative to fashion, technology, retail, etc. And, while this isn’t a direct insight from our work, it’s a presumption I have about the state of the world and how it’s changing. Tolerance is also a function of a more media rich and global economy.

Here are some hypotheses I have about how tolerance is appearing in our daily lives (and more readily appearing with younger generations):

Hypothesis #1: The more inputs you have in your life, the more tolerant you are. With so much media and so many different inputs in our daily life—far more than 10 years ago, then 10 years before that—one can only deal with it all by being tolerant. Tolerant of the sheer volume of it all. Tolerant of its diversity. For instance, a friend of mine is pretty limited in terms of her inputs—lives in a very suburban area among people just like her, who practice the same religion. She tends to shut down when I tell her there are 3 billion people in the world practicing a religion unlike hers. I wouldn’t call her tolerant.

Hypothesis #2: Technology creates tolerance. To have to deal with as much technology as we do daily, you need to be tolerant of it and its limitations. Knowledge workers have established completely different ways of working in the last 10 years, with “cut” and “paste” being central to this new productivity (…still waiting for that brave soul/company to figure out a way to evaluate whether or not we have actually become more productive as a result of technology). While I try to start arguments with the technology I use, it’s not very satisfying…yet. Some of the most tolerant people I know tend to be technologists. Technology breeds patience. Technology breeds tolerance.

Hypothesis #3: Brands create tolerance (they also create intolerance). They help us navigate, discuss, argue, exploit, and practice tolerance. Some better than others. Younger consumers are generally more brand savvy, more brand aware, and more open to having their assumptions tested. For them, brands provoke a dialogue. But, the point is that the act of engaging issues directly and openly creates opportunities for change and then, opportunities for tolerance. Think: Baby Phat, U2, Microsoft, Wal-Mart. It’s also cool to think of how brands’ relationships with music creates or oppresses tolerance.

Hypothesis #4: There’s a new, age-independent culture of tolerance developing in the world. You’ve seen them. They’re the ultra-comfortable-but-stylish, ready-for-anything neighbor-next door that could entertain a dialogue about most anything if you wanted them to. But, would rather focus their energies on design, politics, or travel. They’re not just Bobos In Paradise or Connectors. They’re intelligent, curious, open, friendly, funny, and have a shared, global perspective about the world around them at all times. They bring a global view to every conversation—and within this, an informed perspective about technology, a focus on equality and fairness, and a desire for personal success (not likely to be about money or fame).

Tolerance is all around us, and absent at the same time—if you believe in tolerance, practice it.

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