There is No Perfect Pickle

If you are reading this post, don’t worry, I haven’t gone crazy and converted my blog into a a resource for enthusiasts of brined vegetables. I recently revisited one of my favorite TED Talks in which Malcolm Gladwell recounts the various accomplishments of Howard Moskowitz. If you have 17 minutes to spare, I highly recommend watching this talk.

If you don’t have the time, let me give you a very brief synopsis. Howard Moskowitz is an experimental psychologist credited with introducing the world to variety in food products including spaghetti sauce, soft drinks, coffee, and pickles. Moskowitz’s true breakthrough was realizing that there is often no perfect product to suit every individual consumer’s taste. Before his work, companies would conduct endless focus group experiments in an effort to perfect their recipe. What they did not realize is that “perfect” is in the tongue of the consumer, and everyone has a different ideal of palatable perfection.

Take pickles for example. Pickles come in a variety of styles (kosher, zesty, sweet, sour, garlic, bread & butter) and shapes (whole, half, spears, baby, sandwich slices, and chips). There are dozens of possible combination to fit the individual consumer’s taste. For me, kosher dill spears are the only way to go, but you may hate kosher spears, and that’s just fine.

Moskowitz argues that there is no perfect pickle, only perfect pickles. It is by offering a diverse selection of pickles that nearly all consumers find an ideal product.

The point is this, one single fraternity or sorority chapter can’t be everything to everyone; it takes an entire fraternity or sorority community to suit the needs of a complex student body. There is no perfect chapter, only perfect chapters.

Often times as a fraternity and sorority community, our chapters strive to become the “perfect” chapter. These chapters tend to be in constant competition with one another to become the “best” chapter on campus. However, the reality is that they are entirely reliant on these other chapters for their own success. These competing chapters offer variety and diverse experiences to prospective members. Because of this variety, our community becomes a place where nearly everyone can feel welcome, and find a chapter to call their own.

Sure, there are some chapters that are seemingly identical (like kosher spears and kosher halves), but there is still enough of a difference for the consumer (potential member) to choose their preference. By recognizing the value of this diversity within our fraternity or sorority community, we can truly appreciate the positive influence our individual chapters have on the fraternal movement at our respective campuses.

Remember, regardless of the shape, size, texture or taste, some people just don’t like pickles. No matter how many different chapters are in your community and how diverse they may be, fraternity and sorority life might just not be right for them. But if all your campus has to offer is zesty sliced pickles, can you really expect to grow as a fraternity or sorority community?

So dare to be different, find your niche, appeal to the overlooked men and women on your campus. As Malcolm Gladwell closed his presentation, so too shall I end this post, “In embracing the diversity of human beings, we will find a sure way to true happiness.”

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