Only Pick Two

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DENNIS HOFFMAN, CEO ENGAGE USA

DENNIS HOFFMAN, CEO
ENGAGE USA

Have you ever seen one of those triangular diagrams asking you to “only pick two” of three seemingly essential options?

Sometimes they’re used to represent a college student’s painstaking decision of how to spend their very limited free time on activities like studying, sleep, or socializing. 

Bill Jacobs posted a diagram on the Analytical Ones website that applies to business and fundraising (or almost anything). 

He ominously calls it The Triangle of Truth. 

Though The Triangle of Truth may sound like a weapon you’d expect the Spanish Inquisition to use, it can actually be a pretty useful tool.

You’re asked to select only two -- Time, Quality, or Cost.

“The Triangle of Truth” via  Analytical Ones

“The Triangle of Truth” via Analytical Ones

Whether it’s an upcoming direct mail campaign or the next time you replace your roof, this diagram can be really helpful deciding what to focus on and what might be okay to sacrifice a little.

Playing out the roofing example, you could hire the best contractor in town who’d put your roof up within the week -- if you’re willing to let him name his price. 

If you’re less concerned about quality, you could go with a roofer who uses cheaper materials and let him install it whenever he has the time. You could save a lot of money this way. 

A problem with these kinds of graphs is that they imply you need to totally abandon whatever option you don’t pick. I don’t think this is true.

Maybe saying “focus on two,” rather than “only pick two,” would be more accurate. The third option is still in the equation. 

So while diagrams like these may not be perfect, they can definitely be useful when planning almost anything -- but maybe they should call it The Triangle of Partial Truth instead!