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?

Social media platforms

While the platforms may be mutually exclusive we are missing a large number of other social media platforms. What about this?

social media platforms

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?

grouping of social media platforms

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:

making sure your group is comprehensive

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:

MECE grouping of social media platforms example

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?

MECE grouping of social media platforms example

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.

Do you have a toolkit for business problem solving? I created Think Like a Strategy Consultant as an online course to make the tools of strategy consultants accessible to driven professionals, executives, and consultants. This course teaches you how to synthesize information into compelling insights, structure your information in ways that help you solve problems, and develop presentations that resonate at the C-Level. Click here to learn more or if you are interested in getting started now, enroll in the self-paced version ($497) or hands-on coaching version ($997). Both versions include lifetime access and all future updates.