"Reviewed Apr 09 M Rhodes The Pyramid Principle ISBN 0 273 65903 0 Author Barbara Minto Overview This is an excellent book with many valuable rec"
Reviewed Apr 09 M Rhodes The Pyramid Principle ISBN: 0 273 65903 0 Author: Barbara Minto Overview This is an excellent book, with many valuable recommendations and tips for writing well-structured business documents. Minot suggests a framework that is highly effective in any non-narrative writing and it is used in most top-class consultancy firms. It also offers insight on hypothesis-led problem solving, inductive and deductive reasoning. Rich with examples it allows the reader to understand unstructured and unorganized thinking and writing and recommends methods for more logic writing and thinking. Logic in Writing Chapter 1 – Why a Pyramid Structure Minto suggests that: The mind naturally sorts information into pyramidal groupings to comprehend it. Ideas that arrive pre-sorted into pyramids are more easily understood. A pyramid structure should therefore be the natural form for communicating. The clearest sequence will also be top down information in a natural hierarchy CAR /|\ / | \ Ford Seat Vauxhall With a limited amount of mental energy, a reader needs information presented do that a minimal effort for comprehension is required. Chapter 2 – The Substructures Within the Pyramid Having information structured into substructures can assist with the discovery process: Vertical relationship between points and sub-points. Horizontal relationship between sub-points. Ensure a narrative flowing from the introduction. Chapter 3 – How to Build a Pyramid Structure Minto suggests that the construction of information pyramids is best constructed from the top down. This allows the reader to grasp the subject and gain a context before continuing to understand the finer details. The sequence is: 1. Introduce the subject 2. Decide the questions that the reader would be interested in finding an answer to 3. Craft an answer to that question 4. Match the answer to the introduction? 5. What is the situation? 6. What is the complication? 7. Do the questions and answers match? 8. What new questions are raised? 9. Will they be answered inductively or deductively? 10. What is the complication? 11. Repeat until you have explored the issue. Minto provides an example of the process: Subject – Room costs Question - Are they too high? Answer – Yes Situation – Room costs are the major contributor to costs Complication – They may make us uncompetitive Question 2 – Are they too high? Answer 2 – Yes New question – How do we cut them? Key point – Eliminate unnecessary steps to reduce costs Chapter 4 – Fine Points of Introductions Introductions are designed to set the scene and remind the reader of the subject rather to inform. Minto suggests that they should always contain: The situation The complication The solution The length of the introduction should be long enough to set the scene and short enough to ensure that the reader isn’t discouraged by reading it. It should tell a story that leads the reader into wanting to know more. Chapter 5 – Deduction and Induction: The Difference Deductive reasoning: A fact or statement is made A related fact or statement also made These 2 facts can then be used to ‘deduce’ a third fact For example: All men are mortal Socrates is a man Therefore Socrates is mortal If the first 2 facts are true and the deduction is well structured, then the deduction can be taken as fact. Inductive reasoning: This is more difficult because it relies on a more creative approach to reasoning. Information is collected and then a wide view over the facts is taken to develop a conclusion. Inductive reasoning uses 2 devices: Grouping ideas, concepts or facts Identifying the misfits in the sample For example: Leonardo da Vinci had many skills o Artist o Scientist o Sculptor o Linguist o Philosopher He was therefore a well educated and creative person Chapter 6 – How to Highlight the Structure Minto has some ideas on how to structure a document so that it is easier for a reader to fins the specific information that they are interested in. Make major points in the introduction Headings – use different fonts, styles and locations to separate the document into logic groups Underline key points Use bold test to highlight ideas or key concepts within a sentence or paragraph Use numbering to break down sub ideas (I have used bullets in a similar fashion) In short documents, consider using spaces or indents to highlight division in the thinking Logic in Thinking Chapter 7 – Questioning the Order of a Grouping Place ideas, issues or factors in a logical order: Divide a whole into parts Create a clear cause and effect relationship Classify things together Put items in time order For Example: Items related to a school curriculum: Maths English Science Art Music Beware: Confused logic False grouping Chapter 8 – Questioning the problem-solving process Problem solving begins with problem setting. Define the problem. When you define the problem you recognise that a particular situation produces a specific result: 1. What is the problem? 2. Where does it lie? 3. Why does it exist? 4. What could we do about it? 5. What should we do about it? Minto suggests logic trees as one mechanism for analysing the problem. These have 5 general forms: 1. Financial structure – such as costs breakdown, contribution or Return on Investment 2. Task structure – such as a work or product breakdown structure 3. Activity structure – to trace the activities to investigate a process 4. Choice structure – to assesses choices and find the undesirable effect that results 5. Sequential structure – to more rigorous form of choice structure that also looks at the timing of elements of the process By breaking down problems in a logic and structured manner, often the key issues are identified. Chapter 9 – Questioning the Summary Statement Deductive reasoning requires a simple summary as the logical argument is clear throughout the text. An inductive argument requires the reader to make the same inductive leap as the author, normally achieved by a set of related statements that draw the inductive ideas into an easily recognisable conclusion. These statements, Minto calls intellectually blank because they become contrived to draw the reader to a conclusion that should have been more clearly expressed in the rest of the text. Chapter 10 – Putting it into Readable Words Writing consists of 2 steps: Decide on the point you want to make Use clear and logic to make it Minto suggests you make a document paint an image in the mind of the reader. Use words that create strong memorable pictures in the mind of the reader. This will make it readable and allow the reader to remember what has been read even if the words are not specifically remembered. Conclusion Overall this is a solid text that offers some great ideas on how to structure arguments and documents for clear communication and great effect. Is does, in some ways, practise what it preaches and does use some devices for clarification and logical argument but does not always follow the methods prescribed. Most documents that express complex ideas or try to persuade are significantly improved by images and graphics, but although they are used in throughout the book, Minto does not specifically mention the use of images and graphics. Overall, this is a useful book if you are looking for guidance on how to structure a logical argument into a formal document such as in business or academic setting. Not particularly engaging as a read but it does have a large number of examples that reinforce the ideas and overall an instructive book for those who use information to influence and persuade. 4/5