Pop-quiz: What do these have in common?
- The three little piggies
- Vini, vidi, vici
- The three branches of government
Why is the rule of three so important?
Whether you're telling a story, coining a phrase or explaining how our society works, you'll come across groupings of three. We don't need to get into the psychology of it, but our brains are wired to recognize, enjoy and memorize better information which is presented in groupings of three. Two groups can often feel too rough, and 4 or more groups are usually impossible to memorize.Groups of threes are often the key to make information easily digestible. Keep an eye for the next recruiting presentation or politician speech, and count the number of times they say "There's three factors we need to consider".
How can you use it?
If you ever hear a consultant say "this is such a laundry list of ideas" you know you're in bad sheets (pun intended). Consultants hate long lists without structure almost as much as staying in hotels without a loyalty program.
So if you've come up with multiple ideas, how can you deliver them nicely? Ideally you'll have a fully MECE structure to deploy. However in some cases that's not possible (often due to time pressure). So the rule of three is a nifty trick you can use. You just need to:
- Review the whole list of topics you want to discuss
- Group / ungroup your ideas into three logical buckets which are easier to communicate (remember, MECE), and communicate these buckets first (remember, top-down)
- Finally, subdivide them down into your actual “raw” topics
A quick example
Our client is an apparel retailer and needs to improve its value proposition … what can it do?
The laundry list approach
“I see several things we could do. We could lower our prices, we could review the price ladder as to make sure we have the right entry prices, we could introduce new product lines like athleisure, we could remove some product lines like kids wear, we could explore broadening our men's clothing range, we could train our staff better, we could make refurbish the store, we could…”
Tough to remember everything right?
The rule of three approach
Well the three main elements of the value proposition I would focus would be pricing, assortment and service levels.
- Within pricing, I’d explore lowering prices across the board, or just the entry priced products
assortment, I would…”
You get the idea.
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Other methods focus on helping you memorize dozens of frameworks and pre-packed structures. We take a different approach. We believe that distinctive candidates and distinctive consultants don't rely on crutches and that they use their own minds to solve the toughest problems. We're here to help them master the concepts and processes they need to be able to shine. We can support you in:
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