There is a magic and a power about three. Three wise men, three kings, three blind mice, when shall we three meet again, three stooges, three musketeers, three little pigs go to market, the holy trinity. You get the idea, there are lots of trios and threesomes out there.
In my speaking and training apprentice days, the rule of thumb was that people can only absorb four ideas or concepts in one presentation or one day’s training. As a result, the great presentations nailed four big points. And that was it. Job done.
In today’s world, where everything seems to be quicker, faster, and brighter against a ridiculous background of endless noise and distraction, the number four has been discounted and become a three. But this really is a good thing. “Four is so 1980’s! Three is the new black!”
- Three is better than Four
I think that Three is the new Four. But, more than that, ‘Trio Management’ (a title I must trademark and copyright) has real power in our communications.
– Three messages are better than four
– Three lines to describe an idea are better than four
– Three bullet points are better than four.
- Examples where Three is better than Four
- a) I was recently given an incomprehensible 80-page briefing document. We condensed it into three powerpoint slides with three bullet points per page. Suddenly the entire purpose and focus became obvious.
- b) Selling into a global conglomerate, we simplified our presentation to the three big issues, the three big actions and the three key benefits.
- c) A client was heading for a business meltdown. We got him to split the problem into three key areas and got him to agree three key actions under each heading.
- Thought for the Day – what are you going to do about it?
– Which issue could you simplify by breaking it into just three areas?
– Which three of your many clients and potential clients will you contact today?
– What are your three key actions for today?
May the ‘Power of Three’ be with you!
As you can see from the above application of trios, condensing and simplifying to the power of the three really does have a power and an honest simplicity. For instance:
- Describe your business in three words, or
- Describe your ideal client in three words, or
- Describe your big business problem in up to three words.
The three-ing of a description or a target or a problem concentrates the mind in a really valuable and waffle-free manner.
Likewise, you ‘three’ a meeting or a discussion:
- Who are our three biggest competitors?
- What are our three best products?
- What are our three best opportunities to explore?
I think you get the idea.
Even Google and Intel use the Power of 3 in their OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). The challenge is to select 3 objectives only and then 3 key results for each staff member to pursue for each objective. This is a great system for maintaining focus and accountability.
Condensing and simplifying lists to three or three lots of three keeps you thinking crisply and focusing on the big ideas. In effect, you are working the Pareto Principle (AKA The 80/20 Principle) which is also known as the ‘Law of the Vital Few’ or the ‘Law of the Trivial Many’.
I would like to recommend that you start applying a three mentality to some of your communications. People love it.
So, to conclude:
- Recognise the power of three.
- Find times and places where you can communicate using the power of three.
- Just do it (three words!)