Focus on only three things

Focus on 3 things

Past and current clients will smile at the title, as I love the “rule of three” and always look to get them to distil their focus down to three things, no matter the size of the company, the complexity of the challenges, opportunities, issues they face. However, what is this based on? As I like to joke, I’m “wide but shallow”, knowing a little about a lot of subjects, but (in all seriousness) there is at least some depth to what I have learned and share to teach.

This week’s guest on #WhatComesNextLive was the sage Alan Dean, who dispensed wisdom and “nuggets” including some concise takeaways at the end of the half-hour show that can help every leader.

After the show, we got into a great conversation around applying neuroscience to leadership and communications. This is a field I’ve studied over the years but do not profess to be an expert, so happy to hear Alan Dean recommend someone for me to follow, David Rock of the Neuroleadership Institute. I then smiled at seeing find validation for my “rule of three” thinking in a piece David Rock wrote for HBR, where he noted a project where he had supported Microsoft. An excerpt:

After about a year of thinking things through, we went from over 100 competencies to three big ideas: Create clarity, generate energy, deliver success.

This is what you might call a radical departure, especially for a company that put a personal computer on every desk through painstaking thoroughness. “There is a dramatic leap of faith needed to agree that you don’t need to be complex to be complete,” Whittinghill says.

Today those leadership principles, which premiered in mid-2016, have spread across the company. “Clarity,” “energy,” and “success” have become part of the way Microsoft talks to itself about itself.

Tell Employees What You Want Them to Strive for (in as Few Words as Possible)

Oh, and in that piece, David Rock also referred to a famous paper from 1955 on “chunking” which notes that the average human can only retain a limited amount of information. What is that magic number? read on, and again my clients will smile as I so often raise this when helping them to keep the focus on distilling to “three”. Well, that and the Da Vinci quote: “Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication” 🙂


Also published on Medium.