The dyslexic success which is IKEA


It was Zoe who pointed me at the secret taxonomy behind IKEA’s product names. I always knew there was something behind the product names but had no idea it was all the idea of a dyslexic man thinking about the world and where things fit within it.

Bookcases are named after professional occupations (Expedit means shop keeper) or boys’ names (The bestselling Billy bookcase is named after IKEA employee Billy Likjedhal). Outdoor furniture is named after Scandinavian islands (Äpplarö an island in the Stockholm archipelago and Västerön is in Aaland). Rugs are named after cities and towns in Denmark or Sweden (Ådum, Stockholm, Silkeborg), while bed sheets, comforters and pillowcases are named after flowers and plants. (Häxört or circaea lutetian is an herb in the primrose family).

The rules for naming were devised by IKEA’s founder Ingvar Kamprad, who struggled with dyslexia and had trouble remembering the order of numbers in item codes.

This lead me to find out more about Ingvar who I knew had a checkered background, especially with the Nazis.

I didn’t know he was dyslexic but this strikes such a cord.

One day, it is reported that Ingvar Kamprad overheard one his draughtsman (a kind of designer or engineer) named Gillis Lundgren. The man had difficulties fitting a table into a transport. After many unsuccessful trials he shouted out loud: “Oh God! Let’s pull off the legs and put them underneath!” Ingvar Kamprad understood that his employee was correct in his assessment of the situation. Moreover Kamprad understood the potential of this remark.

Soon afterwards IKEA introduced new product lines of furniture which were designed to be sold unassembled. In this way the cost for manufacturing (no more assembly) and logistics (standard transport costs due to optimized measures) could be reduced significantly.

Great insight, which started a great business… Should have known



In my new years resolutions for 2014, I made a mention to the fact my bets are against hierarchy and traditional. And maybe there is a word which sums this up? The full thing was…

Live the life I choose
Its become clear to me that career and life progression is going to be less that ordinary for me. I’m going to have to carve my own path through life and that means working in an adhoc style sometimes and being true to myself. I won’t lie, life is pretty good right now. Although it may seem like I should be working towards things, I’m always reminded of the Cluetrain rule #7 – Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. As I believe in the hyper-connected world we’re moving into. My bets are against hierarchy and traditional. Maybe there is a word which sums this up?

Well Davelab6 informs me, the word I maybe might be looking for is… Heterarchy… (from Wikipedia)

A heterarchy is a system of organization replete with overlap, multiplicity, mixed ascendancy, and/or divergent-but-coexistent patterns of relation. Definitions of the term vary among the disciplines: in social and information sciences, heterarchies are networks of elements in which each element shares the same “horizontal” position of power and authority, each playing a theoretically equal role. But in biological taxonomy, the requisite features of heterarchy involve, for example, a species sharing, with a species in a different family, a common ancestor which it does not share with members of its own family. This is theoretically possible under principles of “horizontal gene transfer.”

A heterarchy may be parallel to a hierarchy, subsumed to a hierarchy, or it may contain hierarchies; the two kinds of structure are not mutually exclusive. In fact, each level in a hierarchical system is composed of a potentially heterarchical group which contains its constituent elements.

Ok thats one heck load of information wrapped up in something quite profound. What does this mean in simpler terms? Lets say more practical terms…

Numerous observers in the information sciences have argued that heterarchical structure processes more information more effectively than hierarchical design. An example of the potential effectiveness of heterarchy would be the rapid growth of the heterarchical Wikipedia project in comparison with the failed growth of the Nupedia project.[3] Heterarchy increasingly trumps hierarchy as complexity and rate of change increase.

Now thats certainly something which makes a lot of sense/a way of life for me and I’m sure many others out there.

Thanks Dave for sending this my way, always nice to put a name or title to something you feel is important. Interestingly there is a link to a podcast from ITConversations. So may have to fire that one up and listen sometime…

Tags vs Circles for Friends

Gear Head

I’m in total limbo when it comes to Google and my friends

Google Plus delivered a new way to classify your friends (although it was first seen in diaspora’s aspects) but I was using Gmail’s Contacts with the tagging previously.

What this boils down to is Taxonomy vs Folksonomy and credit goes to Stowe Boyd, Thomas Wanderwal and others.

I’ve been thinking about the merits of both approaches and concluded that even if Google included the ability to have circles within circles, it wouldn’t be as flexible as a purely tagging/folksonomy based system. The problem seems to center around classifying friends and people full stop. Categories, Circles or rather Taxonomy’s are too ridged and forced. Which to be frank classifying your relationship with people isn’t.

I refer to this table

Taxonomy Folksonomy
Brittle Flexible
Accurate (if done well) Less reliable
Compliance must be forced Rewards but doesn’t force compliance
Hard to add to Easy to add to
Centrally controlled Democratically controlled
Predictable Organic

The attributes of Folksonomies sound a lot closer to the emergent nature of relationships than Taxonomies.

There is a question which remains however… What happens if Google do adopt Circles within Circles? Or even follow the Twitter lists way of doing things?

Hopefully Google will adopt their own Gmail folksonomy approach in the future, but it does looks very unlikely…?