There are dozens and dozens of 3 legged stool analogies. The Three Legged Stool of Retirement Planning …of Politics …of Sustainability …of Accounting …of Organizational Architecture.
And all the headlines: Why Leadership is Like a Three Legged Stool. Apple’s three-legged stool at WWDC 2019. ‘The three-legged stool’: McDonald’s recipe for franchise success.
Think about it, when is the last time you saw an actual stool with three legs? Almost all stools have four legs now. Bar stools? Four legs.
Why do we still say three legged stool?
Three legged stools used to be associated with milking cows. Back when everyone had some kind of farm background, most everyone had probably handled one. I’m not sure I’ve ever owned one. My grandparents might have had one.
When I was researching this, the top suggested search question around 3 legged stools was, “What is a 3 legged stool?” Apparently, a lot of people are confused by the phrase. The next suggested question was “Why does a 3 legged stool wobble?” Apparently, people who do find one, find it unstable.
We like concepts with three parts. There’s something satisfying about it being an odd number and only a few things. Even my own Idea Friendly Method has three parts.
We just need a better way to describe our three-part ideas than three legged stool.
What to say instead
Why not use a more up to date model of 3 legs? Let’s say a tripod. That has three legs and is much more familiar.
Almost everyone today has seen a photographer using a tripod. News cameras are often shown on tripods. Video cameras use tripods. Lots of people own at least one tripod. I counted ten in my house, from tiny ones for my phone to heavy duty ones for my big DSLR camera.
You can probably use that in your analogy, that there are all sizes of tripods for different size ideas.
You could even get your hands on a tiny pocket-sized tripod to show to people when you talk about your famous three part idea.
As a bonus, you can talk about how photographers may carry their cameras when they’re shooting quickly and informally. But when they want to be stable, they use a tripod. Can you see a similar theme in your three part idea?
No more three legged stools, OK? Stick with tripods.
Thanks to Kathleen Minogue of Crowdfund Better for the conversation that inspired this post.
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