The Rule of Three is a framework for focusing your attention on a vital few. It also makes things more memorable. People can remember three; add more and retention falls off.  

Look around and you’ll find The Rule of Three in:

  • Memorable quotes of great leaders — Thomas Jefferson’s “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
  • Story structures — there is a beginning, a middle, and end; story titles — The Three Musketeers, Three Men in a Boat, Three Sisters.
  • Marketing messages —  Steve Jobs famously used three adjectives to describe the iPad 2: thinner, lighter, and faster. Three words told people what they needed to know.
  • Strategic communications – During HP’s era of exponential 20x growth, the entire organization focused each year on three overarching goals that the CEO continuously reinforced.

The Rule of Three: A Way to Combat Complexity

The complexity of what we have to deal with has exceeded our ability to remember what to do.” ~ Atul Gawande

The Rule of Three is a practical way to combat the complexity that surrounds us. The U.S. Marines, for example, who operate in extremely complex environments, follow the Rule of Three.

When planning, they limit their attention to three key goals. To identify action options, they distill many possibilities down to three. When the action starts, each Marine has three people for whom he or she is responsible.

The GEO Mindsets™ — Think Strategically, Focus Sharply, Move Quickly — are designed to combat complexity for leaders and their organizations. When a critical mass of leaders buy-in and align around these three mindsets, the result is better cross-boundary collaboration that often leads to accelerated growth and performance.

Thanks for exploring this GEO Leadership Action.

What are your key Takeaways?

I’ll look forward to your comments.

Leland Russell
Founder / CEO
GEO Group Strategic Services