Categorization is a fundamental component of the scientific method. A key step in building knowledge about the world, is to categorize our observations. As such categorization is essential to understand the phenomena we observe.


To borrow an example from Malcom Gladwell, consider David and Goliath. Modern readers of the story see it as the victory of the little guy over the big guy. But little guy vs. big guy is the wrong way to understand the story. Goliath was built for conflict at close quarters—his size and strength were advantages, his slowness and poor eyesight were not hindrances. For our purposes, think of him as a grappler with a knife. David was small and there’s no indication he was particularly strong. But he was quick and he was skilled at defending his sheep from predators using a sling. Think of him as a rifleman. It’s pretty clear that a competent shooter will defeat a grappler, so long as the grappler can’t get near. The little guy/big guy categories obscure what David (and Saul) knew—David could reach out and touch the big man.

Naturally, good categorization is context-sensitive. At close quarters the story of David and Goliath would have been entirely different—big vs. little would’ve been the right categorization.

Categorization is necessary to connect the messiness of the real world to testable hypotheses.

Editor’s note: Categorization does not meet the definition of lens (as of yet) it’s foundational so it is included in the lense catalog.

The design of this lens was influenced by:

The Categorization lens is introduced as part of our live, online Innovation Science Bootcamp.

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