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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Two Dimensions of Trust

In my post Magic Quadrant or Sorting Hat, I compared Gartner's Magic Quadrant (used to classify software vendors and products) with the Hogwarts Sorting Hat (used to classify young witches and wizards).
  • Leaders: Gryffindor
  • Challengers: Slytherin
  • Visionaries: Ravenclaw
  • Niche Players: Hufflepuff
Gartner's Magic Quadrant is a 2x2 matrix, whose two dimensions are Vision and Ability-to-Execute.

Following my previous post on Sharing Trust, I was thinking about a contrast between two key Hogwarts characters - Hagrid and Snape - based on the two dimensions of Trustworthiness and Ability-to-Execute.

Hagrid is regarded as extremely trustworthy. In the very first chapter of the first Harry Potter book, Dumbledore says he would trust Hagrid with his life. Professor McGonagall agrees, but points out that Hagrid can be a little unreliable. Later in the book, he is tricked by Voldemort into revealing a key vulnerability in the security arrangements protecting the Philosopher's Stone - security experts would call this "social engineering". So he doesn't score so well on ability-to-execute.

Snape, on the other hand, is a very accomplished and creative wizard, who scores extremely high on ability-to-execute. As we progress through the series, it becomes clear that he is successfully deceiving either Dumbledore or Voldemort - or possibly both. But this of course raises serious questions about his trustworthiness.

Trustworthiness - but for whom? Dumbledore trusts both Hagrid and Snape absolutely; other characters trust them with reservations, and only because Dumbledore does. And J.K. Rowling is careful not to present Dumbledore as omniscient - he is hoodwinked on several occasions, most notably by a clever impersonation in the Goblet of Fire.

So there are two ways of trusting people. We can regard them as trustworthy but fallible. Like Hagrid, or for that matter Dumbledore himself. Or we can regard them as reliable but remain suspicious of their true motivation and allegiance. Like Snape, or for that matter Voldemort. Ultimately, this is a question of authenticity.


  1. Interesting - I've been picking up on the I Ching recently, and feels like there's some overlap with yin and yang attributes in the 2x2 model. Yang is associated with leadership and knowing how to decide/advance. Yin is associated with following (a person, a plan, etc), and knowing how to act. Knowing when to use the two - but using them both strongly and wisely - results in the best outcome.

    (The I Ching basically then multiplies this out, but on a kind of 2^6 grid instead, with dynamic (or "moving") attributes, and with each of the 6 having a stronger pull towards yin or yang.)

    1. Meant to add - divination under the I Ching does something similar to the Sorting Hat approach. But (and essentially) it does not categorise things, which is a process leading to a static state (it was rare for Hogwarts students to move house), but instead describe the current configuration of a system, and help to understand one's own position within that system *at this time*.

      If Hogwarts was a Taoist school, you would merely have a certain amount of each house's quality at any one time. Perhaps houses could be defined dynamically then, based on clustering and network techniques...

  2. Scribe, I think perhaps JK Rowling might agree with you about the Sorting Hat. In the final book, she has Dumbledore say "Sometimes I think we sort too soon".

    (If you put that phrase into your favourite search engine, you can find plenty of Harry Potter fans discussing the implications of this statement in relation to various characters in the series, as well as people discussing more general implications for education policy.)