Information Architecture for Entrepreneurs 1.3: Objects

An assortment of shapes, or different objects.

This blog is part of a larger class called Information Architecture for Entrepreneurs to help entrepreneurs effectively build their ventures.

The basis of any system consists of creating, manipulating, or organizing different objects. A painter creates objects of artwork on canvases. A seamstress manipulates existing objects by hemming, patching, and altering clothes. A logistics coordinator organizes the routes drivers take to drop off packages. At the heart of all of these three different kinds of companies are objects: the canvas, the clothes, the packages. A fundamental part of information systems are objects. Anything you perceive as one can be understood as an object.

People can also be objects. A hospital system deals with the manipulation, the healing and curing of people with various ailments. Objects can also be abstract concepts, such as clicks. A marketer might concentrate their work on gaining as many click-through between a social media platform and an affiliated shopping platform.

The Importance of Scale

A class is a part of a curriculum in a school, but this one school functions in a system of a university. Which is the object? The answer is, it depends. Many objects are themselves accumulations of other objects. Whether you choose to address something as an object or as a system depends on what scale is most useful to you based on what problem you want to solve.

Take salads. If you look at the level of the individual salad, they are a mix of lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and dressing. This scale might be useful if you are solving the problem of having a healthy but affordable lunch. You want to analyze each ingredient in the salad, balancing for price, taste combinations, calories, and vitamins.

If you however are a store manager, you might have the problem of needing to purchase, lets say, tomatoes for your entire store. Here you are addressing similarly sized objects, but looking at them from a larger problem scope. With this problem you are less concerned with each specific salad, and instead look at how tomatoes are used across a broad array of different foods, such as pizza, paninis, wraps, and salads. At this scale you will have different concerns, such as cost, perishability, demand, storage, and how this ingredient can be used across many foods.

To continue to widen your scale, you might look at how tomatoes are used in several different franchises, or how tomatoes are sourced by several different restaurants across the region. Each different problem scale comes with different concerns. The scope you look at changes how you evaluate the object you are looking at.

The problem you want to solve impacts how you will look at objects. Let us say you are still a restaurant owner, but you are now dealing with not sourcing, but drafting a menu. You are not so much interested in how well tomatoes alone are selling, but how each item on the menu is selling. You have suddenly switched from looking at the level of the individual ingredient to looking at the level of the food item.

Let’s say you are now the owner of a chain of restaurants across the country. You are not so much concerned with how each item is selling at one particular restaurant, and how an item sells across multiple restaurants in your region. Same objects, different problem scope.

Picture of a salad on a table.

Primary Evaluative Objects

Many problems in today’s world happen because people evaluate objects at different scales. In neighborhoods, at the scale of residents, a prospective roadway is evaluated for the air pollution, traffic, noise pollution, and potential fatalities it would bring. At the level of the state, a new roadway is evaluated for how much it cuts down on commute times, and how much economic prosperity it can bring to a region. A lot of tensions are created within communities when different sets of people look at the same objects at different problem scopes, which in turn impacts how these objects are seen (as destructive for a neighborhood or positive for a region).

You as a founder have to first decide what your Primary Evaluative Object of your start-up is. This should be integrally linked to your goal, the ultimate driving mission of your start-up. The PEO is the way you are tracking whether you are meeting your goal. You might have several different metrics that you track, but you should only ever have one PEO. As soon as you have more than one PEO, you will have conflict at some point when your attempts to grow these different objects conflict with each other.

Just like the tension between region and neighborhood, you will have tensions between increasing your PEO and others’ desires. For example, Facebook’s PEO is attention time of the people using the app. This PEO makes it so the network optimizes its design to make it easy to keep scrolling. This PEO also encourages the network to

Real World Steps

Choose a start-up that you like and answer these questions:

  • What is the primary goal of this company?
  • What is the Primary Evaluative Objects of this company?
  • Who are different parties that are also creating, manipulating, or organizing these objects?
  • At what different scopes can you look at this object?
  • What conflicts can you see between this one company and others who are also creating, manipulating, or organizing these objects?

If you have an idea, repeat these questions using your own company.

In the next section, we will discuss another fundamental component of information systems: channels.

Interaction Writer and CEO of Adjacent