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Sunday, March 6, 2011


Over the years I have learned to appreciate the power of "three" which is hardly a new concept. The ancient Egyptians coveted the "three" and exemplified its use as triads in their pyramids thereby providing a path for deceased pharaohs to transcend to the sun as the "King of the Dead." Just about every religion and philosophy pays respect to the concept of "three." For example, in the Christian world, we respect the Holy Trinity.

"Three" is an important part of mathematics, particularly Geometry. In music, three notes in a triad is the basic form of any chord. In writing, it is common to build an argument based on three points. I frequently use the power of "three" myself to rationalize an argument. It helps me think through a hypothetical proposition. Within any paper or lecture there are three fundamental parts: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.

The concept of three separate but equal branches of the American government establishes a set of checks and balances so that one part of government doesn't overpower another. Not surprising, businesses tend to think in terms of threes as well; the triad of business is: the company, the customer, and the vendor (supplier). All business models can be subdivided into three fundamental areas of responsibility that can be subdivided into three levels of activity (operational activities, control functions as represented by middle management, and policy functions representing executive decisions).

There is a general tendency for the human mind to think in terms of threes. For example, we use the power of three to analyze a problem (cognitive reasoning), and we readily recognize the relationship of three objects, e.g., the Bermuda Triangle, the Molasses/Rum/Slave Triangle, and other trade triangles.

The power of "three" influences our arts and sciences and touches our lives in so many ways that it affects our perceptions and how we think. For example, the expression "three times is a charm" is generally regarded as something positive. However, there are negative connotations to "three" as exemplified by the expression, "Everything comes in threes." When I was younger I used to dismiss this notion as an old wives tale, but I have found over the years there is a certain element of truth to it.

Airplane accidents tend to come in sets of three. I have seen this too many times to just dismiss it as nothing more than a coincidence. Disasters in general tend to come in threes. For example, I have seen it with major storms and hurricanes down here in Florida. It seems I attend funerals in threes, and see personal accidents coming in threes. I also seem to incur major bills which I inevitably have to pay in threes. Interestingly, everything that "comes in threes" seems to have negative connotation associated with it, rarely does it seem positive, like hitting the lottery or some other form of good luck.

Maybe because the number "three" is so impressed on us that disasters become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, we're not satisfied until we realize our third and final accident. Whether the concept of "three" is real or imagined, I take it rather seriously, as do a lot of people. As an aside, this is the third draft I have produced of this article; do you see what I mean?

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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