In or out. Here or there. This or that. One or the other.

It is easy to make distinctions between people, concepts, ideas, or objects by placing them into categories. The act of defining something is also a way to manage or control. Once defined, it may be hard to change the way people see you or someone else.

As a design tool, I find it helpful to categorize items to see how things fit or align, but I then let them go. I may reshuffle the ideas into different categories and see what happens. Placing items into categories can be useful when trying to create contrast between disparate ideas, but then the information has to be set free.

What happens when definitions are eliminated? It could look like this:

In and out. Here or there. This and that. One and the other.

When two items are brought together, something else is created. The parts of each come together to create a new concept, person, or body that didn’t previously exist. It takes time and patience to work through how two seemingly separate items can possible relate to one another. Often simply taking the time to talk through issues, perceptions, and ideas can help people find common ground on which to build.

Taking this a step further, what happens in the following scenario?

In and out and here and there and this and that and one and the other.

Or this example:

In or out or here and there and this or that or one and the other.

This is now a more complex problem than the binary examples. How do you start to comprehend how each of the items above can relate to one another?

Ideally, it starts with finding the threads that loosely connect these individuals. Some bonds may be strong, others weak, and you may find that a few items may not relate to each other at all. Groupings may start to form depending on what people are interested in or perhaps based on their motivations.

What happens when people understand where they need to go or have a particular problem to solve? An organizational structure may start to take shape as the parts and pieces of the group develop stronger linkages with one another.

Leaders can help shape these relationships by developing a clear vision or path forward. Communication is the key. People need to see how the results of their actions will not only help them, but also the group. It’s not easy work, but the results will pay dividends as people and the group as a whole achieves their goals.

The challenge for the leader is to take “in or out or here and there and this or that or one and the other” and turn it into “one“.

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