Tag Archives: taxonomy

Found for words

I’m always fascinated by word clouds.  When you run somone’s blog through one it’ll show the words they use not the tags they choose.  Word clouds are a reality check, an insight into an individual’s subconscious folksonomy.  

Here’s what I got when I ran this blog through Wordle.net

Ben's Wordle


I don’t remember saying Chichester or agriculture but I must have done.  And I’d no idea that I was so interested in time.

Towards a corporate hierarchy of needs

Most of us are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which suggests that we prioritise bodily needs over security, our sence of belonging over our own self esteem (which is how peer pressure works) and that we won’t tackle the things that fulfil us until the rest of our needs are met.  

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

What is discussed less frequently is that organisations have a similar hierarchy of needs, and that organisational focus shifts in turbulent times.  

As I understand it, Donald Marchand suggests that organisations focus their attention on information like this:

  1. Minimise risks
  2. Reduce costs
  3. Add value
  4. Create new reality

This is a sequence I recognise, in large organisations at least.  Mind you, it seems to me that small organisations and entrepreneurs run the sequence in the opposite direction.   Maybe that is what makes them entrepreneurs.

Marchand presents it diagramatically thus:

Marchand's strategic information framework

I’ve not yet read Marchand on the subject (I came across the idea in an excellent book on Taxonomies by Richard Lambe).  I need to go to the source to understand the details of he is saying, why he has drawn it like that, and whether or not I agree with him, but this a useful thought-provoker, and may also be helpful tool for working out where strategic attention is or should be focused.  I’m tempted by the tabloid thinking which suggests the banks’ sudden attention to risk is because they spent too much time in the previous years creating a new reality in terms of mortgages-repackaged-as-“securities”.   It’s tempting, but I think there’s more to it than that.

Marchand’s framework is about knowledge.  Lambe, who references it, thinks it misses out two important areas of corporate knowledge, specificially: strategic planning and talent management.    As I said, I’ve not yet played with the framework, so I’m reserving my final judgement.  

However, translating the hierarchy of needs from people to organisations is something well worth doing in these interesting times.


Lambe, Patrick Organising Knowledge: Taxonomies, Knowledge and Organisational Effectiveness. Oxford: Chandos Publishing. 2007.  

Marchand, Donald, (ed) Competing with Information: A Manager’s Guide to Creating Business Value with Information Content. Chichester: John Wiley. 2000.

Wikipedia: Abraham Maslow.

Sorting the sheep from the coats

dsc01442.jpgFor reasons I am too tired and too crotchety to go into, I have to devise an exercise to kick-off a workshop at work.

The workshop is to define categories of data and the exercise is to intended to make the peeps really feel that there are many different ways to label and sort information. For example, the father of the one who turns up here occasionally organises his books in order of the date first published. I’ve already told you that my former friend Catriona used to arrange hers by colour. Reed tells us that the British Museum rules for sorting anonymous books are “stark staring bonkers“. I group mine by subject so Heinlein sits next to books about the moon-landings. Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks.

So I have put together two large tupperware boxes of stuff from various drawers, cupboards and shelves, not to mention the garden, for the group to sort. I don’t even know what all of it is, so it should be fun for the peeps to categorise. I wouldn’t like to sort it myself, so I am glad that the whole thing was my idea.

Here is a selection:

Oil paints, fridge magnets, a stone apple, a bit of plastic that broke off my TV, indoor sparklers, an empty tin of peppermints, a full tin of air gun pellets (I’ll probably remove that one because it may upset people), turbine blades, a rusted nut and bolt (that came out of the garden), padlocks, peacock feathers, some pieces of haematite, a hair scrunchy in the yellow and green BP colours, a length of silver coloured cord, a jar of tarragon from Sweden enticingly labelled “dragon”, a thermometer, a compass, a broken mobile phone, ach… you get the idea.

It will be interesting to see whether or not getting the folks to sort them into categories works as a warm-up exercise. I haven’t yet decided whether to give, say, 20 items to each person and get them sorting individually and let the others work out what categories they’ve used, or whether to give the whole lot to the whole group and see what happens. The first will be more controllable but the second might be more instructive.

I still remain slightly startled by just how eclectic my miscellanea are though.