In the old Prussian infantry regiment No 6, the Potsdam giants served the King of Prussia. Named after the minimum length of six Prussian feet and extended by their particularly red miter, they formed an imposing formation. Those who never got to see the Long Fellows at that time were 20 cm shorter and could assume an average height of 1.67 m. In contrast, the Long Guys measured about 1.88 m. The normal size is determined by the environment in which the people are. Normality lies in the eye of the beholder.
Personal experiences and cultural, technical, economic, political, legal, or ecological patterns make the difference.
- The cultural normality
Shared values or lifestyles are the basis for group cohesion. For some people, fixed dates are insignificant (polychronic). Others value a binding time allocation (monochronic). Additional differences arise from language – high-context, when little is usually said because most are considered known; low-context when every detail is typically communicated. Other dimensions of normality are the actions in and interactions with the environment; whether the focus is on the group or the individual; the handling of space; the power structures; the mental models; the belief systems that are difficult to change.
The cultural circumstances determine the normal.
- The technical normality
In today’s VUCA world of developed countries, it is hard to imagine that everyday technical life on earth is very different. Take, for example, the Khoisan, the hunter-gatherers who have been hunting with bows and arrows and communicating with clicking sounds for 10,000 to 25,0000 years in southern Africa. At the same time, more and more people in industrialized countries are using electronic ‘prostheses’ that help them think and understand and execute spoken commands. Apps provide smart home applications, language translation, assisted driving, and navigation systems. Everyday technical life is mainly permeated by I.T., which ensures operations, accelerates product life cycles, and enables product innovations.
The available technical possibilities determine the normal.
- The economic normality
In early history, the economy consisted of bartering – exchanging hunted prey for crops for tools for clothing for kitchen tools for jewelry. Barter was replaced after the 7th-century B.C. by coins, since the 7th-century A.D. by bills, and since the 15th-century by cashless payment systems. In parallel, ever larger quantities were offered by craftsmen, then manufacturers, and eventually companies. With industrialization, the maximally differentiated division of labor passed its zenith. In the course of digitalization, mass-produced individual orders (Serial customization) become possible.
The prevailing economic system determines the normal.
- The political normality
Classifying a country as a democracy assumes comparable political conditions – e.g., in Germany, Sweden, and Spain. Already in the primitive Greek democracy, not all people were equal (more here). Let’s look at other countries, such as North Korea, Belarus, China, or even the USA and Brazil. The different living conditions become apparent – competition supervision, political stability, tax laws, trade barriers, security requirements, and subsidies.
The current political system determines the normal.
- The legal normality
Legal understanding is closely linked to political normality, i.e., determined by national borders. Legislation, the treatment of minorities, consumer, antitrust, labor and employment protection laws, tax guidelines, competition regulations, and other legal influences, regulations, international and national standards, local ordinances, and mechanisms for monitoring and ensuring compliance vary from location to location. The law is different everywhere – except that people must comply with it.
The physical presence of people and equipment determine the normal
- The ecological normality
The natural environment depends on longitude, latitude, and altitude. In addition, the natural conditions are threatened by industrial damages. Whether or not it is man-made, even the last doubters must acknowledge that the climate data indicates a dramatic climate change. Weather extremes and a changing temperature threaten local livelihoods.
The overpowering nature determines the normal.
The Gaussian bell curve is the best-known expression for statistical normality. For example, properties such as age, intelligence, or population income are evaluated here. Life expectancy depends on the type of calculation, i.e., the average life expectancy of women at birth is 84; the most common age at death, however, is 90. The regular intelligence quotient is between 85 and 115. A typical income is between €15,000 and €100,000; the gross average income is in Germany €3,975 (women €3,578/men €4,146).
Statistical normality is determined by comprehensible figures – depending on the calculation method.
Bottom line: Long story short: There is no general normal. It is always a selected determination that can be decreed differently at any time. This explains the many alternative facts that cannot be avoided for the above reasons. Debates are inevitable. And dogmatic opinion-makers can take any point of view they want. Since we cannot prevent this, we need new ways of dealing with this relativity. We can start by no longer arguing about vague facts, figures, and dates. As soon as we ask several experts, we get a variety of consistent explanations. However, it is not a matter of agreeing on what is normal but instead finding a joint solution. A problem doesn’t go away by arguing about the relative normal, but only if the problem gets solved.