Entangled trios

From Cynefin.io
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Triads are groups of three people and entangled is a variation on this that brings together people from radically different backgrounds with no prior interaction but with a common purpose. This entangling leads to a more extensive and diverse exploration of the issue at hand which may lead to new ideas that can be explored. The 3 are kept together by a shared purpose and by well-crafted set of actions which ritualise the exchange of knowledge and lead to new possibilities.

For example, a child, a parent, and a teacher can be brought together to discuss their perspectives on education. They all have something to come together for; namely their perspective of education yet they also bring a different context to the conversation. This might be in contrast to 3 teachers being brought together, to discuss the same issue.


The benefits of using Entangled trios are basically:

  • Weak-signal detection: with the different perspective being engaged and the lack of groupthink weak signals are likely to be detected as the small details often are surfaced
  • Connect the formal and informal networks: since the members of trios come from radically different backgrounds this will lead to connections between the existing silos allowing for the communication and in doing so they lower the energy cost of communication.
  • Provide the basic building block or scaffolding to manage the formation of networks: the trios themselves can be the building blocks to support the formation of networks and in acting in this manner provide scaffolding to support the emergence of networks


An example would be an IT expert, an IT apprentice, and a user who has been trained to engage with IT. One is an expert in the domain, one brings a degree of (informed) naivety and the other is focused on the business or needs.

Name and history

The name is a combination of entangled and trios and the idea to assemble a series of roles in new combinations which allow us to manage the entanglement to optimise the diversity. You are bringing people together in a different context rather than forcing them into mediated workshops.

  • Entangled: Tangled or twisted together or caught in a snarl or entwining mass.
  • Trio: A combination of 3 people or things

The roles involved may be a combination of the following although this list is not exhaustive:

  • Formal job roles or functions within the organisation
  • Roles that transcend the organisation and are recognised in society as a whole such as Doctor, Priest, etc.
  • Abstractions such as archetype characters, trusted friend, and the like

This enables us to build informal networks similar to Social network stimulation but in a much more focused way. These can also be run as part of a conference to support the formation of these informal networks.

Prior knowledge

Although no prior knowledge of the method is needed it is recommended that at least one of the participants is familiar with principles for complex facilitation that are set out in this article. In the case where you are engaging young children they can not be expected to be familiar with these concepts but being young they are likely to have open minds and not exhibit the basis that education brings.


Entangled Trios Preparation
  • Make a list of the various roles that exist within the organisation of interest and then cluster and group these. For example:
    • at a school: teacher, parent, pupil
    • in a local community: social worker, health worker, local police officer
    • at a software company: recently hired developer, established veteran developer, user trained to talk to IT
  • Pick an incentive that will motivate people to participate. Usually, the cost of the incentive will be more than covered by the value of what the trios produce. For example
    • If a trio comes up with a good idea, funding will be allocated so that it can be implemented.
  • Pick an initial pair of roles that is diverse and that is highly likely to benefit from exchanging information. Note: there is the option of conditional trios where the third member-only joins the group to support realisation
  • Decide how the trio will be completed. One option is to let pairs choose among a list of other roles as part of their first tasks. Another is to predetermine the third role and let the pair select a person who occupies that role to fill their trio. Yet another is to make the third role conditional. For example, a pair that is focused on finding new ideas would only be joined by someone in local government when they found a good idea in order to help implement it.
  • Decide on details of how the trios will meet. Where? What frequency? Not all details need to be predetermined. Depending on the context, times and places can simply be provided as suggestions or as defaults.
  • Recommended - Set up SenseMaker to help each participant keep a diary. Decide how frequently the diary should be kept.

Key elements and artefacts

  • The Participant should keep a diary


Once the preparation has been complete the basic workflow is:

Publicise the initiative and allow pairs to form.
If this option was chosen during preparation, pairs complete their trio early in their formation.
On a regular basis:
  • Each participant keeps their own diary.
  • Trios (or pairs, if the trio has not yet been completed) meet in order to work on their focus and possibly discuss their diary entries.
  • Collect and possibly publish insights into the diaries.
Depending on the context, the information contained in the diaries may be sensitive or protected.
At a later time:
  • If the option of conditional trios was chosen, pairs complete their trio as soon as the condition is met.
The third member may be need to support moving forward with realising the initiative

Do's and Don'ts

Note although this is label entangled trios it is viable to start with just two people, that is a dyad and allow the third person/identity to be added during the engagement

Virtual running

The default is to state that it cannot be until we have developed and tested practice. If it can be run virtually then we describe it here.


Link to other articles on this wiki that are relevant.

  • Triopticon The Raven groups in the Triopticon can be viewed as a type of Entangled Trio
  • Social network stimulation covers an approach to the building of informal social networks within an organisation



Blog posts


Link to case articles here or third party material

Related methods and approaches