I am sure that you have all seen a concept presented in a three dimensional diagram – the X, the Y, and the Z access. When I drew a three dimensional box once the comment from one of my colleagues was ‘oh you must be a guru because only guru’s work in three dimensions.’
I have found that this comment spoke volumes about the quality of the idea. Putting things in three dimensions is a sign of defeat. It tells people that the only way you can think of something is to make it so complex that only a guru can understand – and that means it’s a weak idea.
The value of an idea exist in transmitting understanding, so the more complex an idea, the less value it has – unless you can make it readily transmittable. More often than not, three-dimensional ideas reflect weak thinking for this reason. You ask people to keep three forces in their mind because you cannot reduce the idea into simpler forces. While there are some ideas that require three dimensions, they do not include most business ideas.
So why is this a topic of discussion?
Because in creating IT plans and illustrating IT concepts we often depict things in three dimensions and try to show the forces and tradeoffs that really do not matter. The result is overly complicating ideas that make them difficult to transmit and therefore of less value.
Think of a bird flying across your back yard.
A flying bird exists in three-dimensional space; but its path is largely determined by two forces, gravity and lift generated by beating its wing. These forces cause the bird to fly in a vector rather than jump from one point in three-dimensional space to another. In other words there are really two forces at work that matter.
It’s the same way for many business ideas. The desire to be three-dimensional is gratifying, intellectually but not necessary to transmitting the idea.
If you feel the urge to go three dimensional, apply a few simple points to your thinking:
- Who are your presenting the picture for and what do you want them to do with it. If it is for yourself and to impress others with your intelligence, then go for it. It its to illustrate a point to support a decision or alert people to an issue, then go back to the drawing board.
- Are there really three forces at play or are two of the force really just different versions of the same thing.
- Can the response of the object in the three dimensions really change in three directions all at once? Often the real behavior is to move in steps responding to a force, then responding to others as sign that there are really only two forces at play at any one point in time.
- Do your options really exist along a continuum of three options or are there a definable set of options and implications – if so then use a table and make the options explicit.
Ask these questions the next time you see a three dimensional model and identify where additional thinking is needed to strengthen and simplify the idea. Your audience will appreciate it.