A holistic way of thinking about meetings

My theory, Three Net Theory (3nt; www.3nt.se; 3ntwiki [3ntwiki]), is based on the concepts of tacet knowledge (Polanyi), reflective practitioner (Schön); system (von Bertalanffy); on Gregory Bateson’s definition “(a bit) of information is a difference that makes a difference” and on chaos researchers’ description of chaos: it’s about unpredictability.

A meeting is a situation and can be described with the 3nt concepts “possibility room” and “leading factor”. A leading factor is something that CAN make a difference. Examples of leading factors are time and place; ideas, dreams, visions and goals; questions; emotions, perceptions, knowledge and misconceptions; words and concepts; things etc.

The wall of a possibility room is a system of leading factors, of “leading elements”. Inside the room there are “internal elements” that also are leading factors - they can make a difference. Outside the possibility room there are outer elements which can not make a difference for what is happening inside the room.

The leading elements in the wall of opportunity constitute order and predictability, inside the possibility room there is chaos and unpredictability. Arrangements, solutions, answers can arise from chaos through self-organization - emergence emerges. What can happen during a meeting, i.e. what can emerge in a possibility room depends partly on the leading elements that create the order, partly on how internal elements interact, self-organize themselves.

Well - what do you think about leading factor and possibility room as tools in a discussion about meettings?

Could you explain that concept a bit more? The way you describe it, with “walls” and an inside and an outside, it sounds like a metaphor to me. But what can we do with that metaphor? How do you determine which factors are inside the room (and can therefore, according to you, make a difference) and which are outside (and can’t make a difference? Why not?). How do I know if an idea inside or outside the possibility room?

Why is it called a “leading factor”? It seems to me that since anything can make a difference, anything can be a leading factor. So wouldn’t it me more interesting to specify what actually makes a difference? And how it makes a difference?

So the wall of the possibility room is a “wall of opportunity”? What do you mean by that?

Hm, that sounds counter intuitive to me: if there is possibility inside the possibility room, I would not expect it to be ordered and predictable.

Where do these leading elements come from and how do they act (i.e. make a difference)?

Finally, do you have something like an elevator pitch that would explain what the benefits are of looking at meetings through the lens of your theory?


You ask why it’s called a leading factor.
I wanted to give teachers adequate concepts in order to be able to talk about their work. A teacher is a leader who has to make differences. The tools for doing this are leading factors. Reality is not totally predictable – the teacher may succed, or not. That is why I define ”a leading factor is something that CAN make a difference”.

Making a difference is about power; making a difference shows some sort of ability, of power.
Switching on the light is a way to show your power; the lamp obeys you immidiately - that is predictable.

When working with people the situation is not so predictable. Possibility rooms are your tools to get power - at least to some extent. Since there is unpredictability inside a possibility room self-organization processes may emerge so possibility rooms are not always reliable tools. What you can do is to enhence the probability for something wanted to happen.

I think the best way to explain is by a couple of examples.
By formulating a question, I gain power over people’s thinking - leading factors and possibility rooms are about power, how to make a difference in their thinking.

As a teacher I sometimes want my pupils to focus on some issue. A possibility room is then an adequate tool since it gives frames around their thinking. A question like ”what’s your name” is a possibility room defined by the its words: the question is about YOUR name, not her or his; it’s about your NAME, not your adress or nationality; the words are leading factors – they lead the persons thoughts by giving frames for the thinking. In this question/possibility room there are only two inner elements: you and your namn. The probability of a correct answer is very high.

The question ”what’s his name” contents a male and a lot of names. The predictability is low and probability of a correct answer is not very high – it may be the correct answer or “I don’t know”.

Inside a possibility room there may emerge self-organization processes so inside a possibility room like this there may emerge guesses.

Did I to some extent answer to your questions?


I realizes that i missed one leading factor in my example: knowledge. Knowing the answer can obviously make a diifference!

In the first case - “what’s your namn?” the person probably know the answer to the question but that may perhaps not be the case to the second question.

You ask for a elevator pitch.

Usually a meeting is supposed to be a leading factor - you hope that it will make at least some difference.

At a meeting people use leading factors such as goals, directives, questions and answers to get some meaningful result. And those leading factors are systems of leading factors called words …

So a meeting is a big system of leading factor - some of them are there from the beginning and some of them emerge during the meeting.

Dear Gunnar Cardell, Thanks for sharing these tools for more holistic understandings of meetings. With some slight re-tooling, I can use them. Using bio-mimicry, I visualize a meeting as a one cell organism in an ocean. The cell can evolve in many ways–possibility cell–and yet in a difficult situation, it may contract its permeability and shut out external inputs of unexpected possibilities for increasing internal order and survivability. So I see a healthy meeting can be more aware of various modes as it unfolds its possibilities and functions.