Taxanomic vs Taskanomic


Recently I learnt a very useful way to describe one of the differences between System 1 and System 2, courtesy of Roger Dooley’s Brainfluence podcast (link here). In a very interesting discussion with Neale Martin on habit, there was a discussion of Donald Norman’s distinction between the ‘taxonomic’ rational brain and the ‘taskanomic’ emotional brain.

This is a great way to describe one of the key differences between the task orientated and largely autopilot System 1, and the problem solving and deliberate System 2. Of course, much market research still focuses on the taxanomic brain. Think of the way that many tracking and U&A studies still frame questions in terms of the way that businesses (or Nielsen) categorise products rather than the way that people actually use them.

It reminded me of the importance of “jobs to be done” thinking in innovation, but I think the need to look at problems through the eyes of the taskanomic automatic behaviour goes much further than that. Looking through the prism of tasks or jobs also reminds us of the importance of context in defining the task, shaping decisions and triggering habitual behaviours. Neale Martin rightly stated that one of the critical tasks in getting people to change behaviour is to understand the context, and for a new brand to own a specific context of use.

There is also much that can be done in retail to arrange products according to task rather than taxonomy. Neale Martin stated an example of grouping tequila, orange liqueur and margarita mix together leading to a massive increase in sales. In work I conducted more than a year ago one of the interesting trends was for supermarkets to start creating ‘meal corners’ in some SE Asian countries, where you could go to buy everything you needed to make a specific evening meal, rather than having to hunt up and down multiple aisles.

What a great innovation and a great example of the power of thinking in terms of tasks rather than taxonomy. I hope to see more.

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