Trees versus file cabinets

Filed Under Mindjet


April 11, 2005

Not to go on too much about this…but it just goes to show how much we have come to accept these less-than-enlightened metaphors in our work lives. The file cabinet metaphor was appropriate back in the day when people wore skinny ties and had three martini lunches (sigh…). But that was a long time ago.

How far has our work environment evolved since then? In some ways, light years. In others, not so much. The two things that boggle my mind are:

1. That we would try to organize our thinking by using a mental image of a grey metal file cabinet: How memorable is that?

2. That we communicate essentially using a modern version of the telegraph. The metaphor there is send a message, receive a message, send a message, receive a message…Yes, I’m talking about email. It’s great because it’s so immediate. But it is so linear! Reading threaded conversations is like unwinding a scroll.

Neither of these metaphors — both of which are at the absolute CORE of how we try to run our professional lives — reflect the ways huge numbers of us best store knowledge or communicate with one another…

3 Responses to “Trees versus file cabinets”

  1. Don Ollsin

    As regards the filing cabinet. I agree. I now beginning to use mindmaps to store my files relative to the project I am working on. Don

  2. Hobart Swan

    True enough. It’s silly, but I seem to gravitate again and again towards that scene in “Minority Report” where Tom Cruise is working that strange interface of his. I like the way mapping, in being so visual and immediate, stimulates parts of the brain that are not otherwise engaged by commonly used technology. To see a group of people “meet around a map” is pretty amazing to see: People can actually become very exhilarated to see something that moves as fast as the team’s thought process. It’s not perfect. Maybe, as with Mr. Cruise’s amazing analytical machine, our interface needs to engage people more physically…a sort of dance between ideas, information and technology…

  3. Jack Krupansky

    Unfortunately, most of our hard-core knowledge really is locked in our minds and the two big high-growth communication tools (blogs and cell phones) are distinctly relatively low-bandwidth in the sense that it takes a fair amount of effort to get even a simple point across, let alone eploit the potential for collaboration. A decent blog post takes a lot of effort, relative to the time it takes to get your mind around the point you’re trying to make.

    We do need much better tools to help us organize our thinking. We need to be able to integrate our minds and our machines so that thoughts can be transferred a little more efficiently than through the “keyholes” of our mouths and our fingertips.

    — Jack Krupansky