The Pyramid Principle – Logic in Writing and Thinking

A book about structuring your arguments to get your points across clearly by leveraging the pyramid principle.

This absolutely essential book for any young professional was written by Barbara Minto. She started out as a consultant at McKinsey and during her 10 years there, she developed the Minto Pyramid Principle. More on this below. After concluding her time at McKinsey she started her own consultancy specializing in teaching business people how to communicate clearly. All in all, she now has 50+ years of experience in consulting focusing on clear and logical communication. That makes her a true expert within the area.

Thankfully, she has published the book The Pyramid Principle, which is basically the bible when it comes to written and oral communication. In a nutshell, it’s about how to communicate in a clear, crisp, and compelling manner. This is one of the core tools from the consultancy toolbox, so often referred to. Reading this book will teach you how to communicate top-down and bottom-up, and when to use what.

But it’s not something you can just pick up at apply immediately after a quick read through. It takes years of practice. I like to draw a parallel to chess in this context; it takes a few moments to understand, but a lifetime to master. About a year ago I attended a seminar on the pyramid principle facilitated by two McKinsey directors with a combined 50 years of consulting experience. If I ever met an expert it has to be the two of them. But they openly admitted that they were still, to this day, refining their technique. So, if you are a declared lifelong student, this should excite you.

The book is divided into two parts; 1) logic in writing and 2) logic in thinking. In the first part you are introduced to why a pyramid structure makes sense and how to structure your arguments in this way. Further, you’ll learn how to structure both deductive and inductive arguments. In the second part of the book she dwells on some links to problem solving to which the pyramid principle is closely related.

This is no doubt one of the most important book I have ever read and use the techniques on a daily basis. It will improve your abilities to communicate clearly. So, if you want to make sure your points gets across the table or in your mails, you have to read this book!

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