Welcome back to the CEO Book Club! Ajay Patel, CEO of SMA, just finished reading for the fourth time, Barbara Minto’s classic book “The Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing and Thinking.” This book is an essential reference for consultants and anyone who must communicate complex ideas to help make business decisions. The Pyramid Principle is required reading at business schools and many consulting firms. Barbara Minto was a consultant at McKinsey and Company from 1963 to 1973. Since then she has taught tens of thousands of students.
The author argues that the secret to clear, effective writing is beginning with your conclusions, and then working backward using a coherent logic constructed of individual arguments each based on a group of conclusions developed from insights derived from data. This pyramid creates a logic of reasoning that is clear and persuasive. The author explains that each argument should be mutually exclusive, and the combined arguments combined, are comprehensively exhaustive. Minto is credited with coining this phrase, commonly referred to as MECE.
The pyramid method can be used to present advice, write reports and prepare presentations. Though we develop recommendations based on a bottom-up analysis and synthesis of conclusions, it is better to communicate using a top-down approach as depicted by the pyramid, similar to how decisions are typically rationalized.
Anyone who has to think, present, or write clearly about a domain topic will benefit from reading The Pyramid Principle.