MECE stands for Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive. This means that a set of items is composed of independent parts and together, make a whole.
The simplest example is a six-sided die. Each of the sides are mutually exclusive and together, the are collectively exhaustive – meaning they cover the full range of possibility.
What about something like this?
While the platforms may be mutually exclusive we are missing a large number of other social media platforms. What about this?
Still not collectively exhaustive.
One thing we can do is define the group more specifically. Let’s say we’re looking at social media platforms with over 1 Billion Users. How is this now?
Still something missing right? If we defined it as “Social media platforms with over a billion users founded in the US” this would be correct, but we are missing WeChat:
Okay getting better! It is now collectively exhaustive. Is it mutually exclusive? Here I would offer a consultants favorite qualified, it depends.
Social platforms doesn’t seem to be specific enough and what about facebooks multiple platforms, are they really mutually exclusive? (we might have to wait for Zucks next congressional testimony to find out!)
So let’s define them further:
This seems like we’re getting closer right? However, WhatsApp also has a public facing side, so this isn’t perfect either. How about this?
This feels pretty good. The two groups are mutually exclusive and when thinking about only social apps with 1 Billion+ users, it is also collectively exhaustive.
So what’s the point of this?
MECE is not a law. It is a tool to push you to sharpen your thinking. By going through this process, you can challenge the way you are presenting information and try to come up with a clearer way of presenting something.
Clearer thinking is more memorable thinking.