Tuesday, April 3, 2012



Rip some paper and put it in a small plastic container. Label the container “Ripped Paper.” Put the container in a larger container along with a bent paper clip and label that container “Miscellaneous.” Put the container in a larger container and label that container “Small Objects.”

By using the Miscellaneous category you have devalued the contents of the two smaller containers and you have degraded the relationship between the “Small Objects” category and the “Ripped Paper” category. Most of all, you have demonstrated the inherent problem of Hierarchical Categorization. To be fair, you can’t blame Miscellaneous. That’s just a stop-gap of last resort on a flawed system. You will find Miscellaneous categories everywhere.

Hierarchy is extremely valuable for understanding frameworks but it is really only a particular kind of relationship. Connecting things with relationships is much more effective than dividing things with categories. This is especially true with people.

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