Barbara Minto in her book The Minto Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing, Thinking, & Problem Solving describes a method called the Minto Pyramid, which makes it possible to convey ideas to listeners in a more accessible and understandable way, and also helps to structure information more clearly and clearly.

Minto Pyramid Book Cover
Minto Pyramid Book Cover

The book consists of 4 parts that describe the principles of the pyramid. Parts, in turn, are divided into 12 chapters.

Part 1. Logic in writing

The first part explains the Minto pyramid principle and shows how to use it. The order of presentation of ideas is very important. The best way to provide information is when a generalizing idea is given at the beginning and then it is argued or detailed. Thus, the correct grouping of ideas is represented in the form of a pyramid. To verify the correctness of the text structure and its compliance with the pyramid principle, it is necessary to check whether it is subject to the following three rules:

1.          Ideas at any level should be summaries of the ideas below.
2.          Ideas in each grouping should be of the same kind.
3.          Ideas in each grouping should be logically ordered.

The structure of the pyramid consists of the following components:

  • the vertical relationship between paragraphs and subparagraphs allows for a dialogue in the form of questions and answers.
  • the horizontal relationship within a group of subparagraphs – all ideas should be logical, that is, presented in the form of either inductive or deductive reasoning. The deduction method helps to group ideas consistently. This means that the first idea describes the general situation, the second clarifies the thought, and the third concludes, logically following from the first two. The induction reasoning helps to group ideas that, on the contrary, do not follow from each other, but are represented by each in itself and can be combined by one plural noun.   
  • the introductory flow in the story form is a question to which the rest of the document answers. The structure of the introductory part: Situation – Complication – Question-Answer.

The Minto pyramid principle has two approaches: the top-down approach and the bottom-up approach. The most convenient is the top-down approach.

Part 2. Logic in thinking

The second part tells how to look at your reasoning from the point of view of criticism and verify the correctness of generalizations. This part discusses the techniques used for concise and correct grouping. 

One of the techniques is imposing a logical order. The human brain is capable of only three types of analytical activity.
Time order – you represent the measures that need to be taken to achieve the desired result, in the order in which they should be implemented.

Structural order is the order of description of any structure, which can be represented by a diagram, picture, etc., it is the division of the system into component parts.

One of the techniques is imposing a logical order
One of the techniques is imposing a logical order

Degree order is the order in which, within a single group, you build objects and concepts that share a common characteristic. These types of order can be used individually or in combination with each other, but at least one of them is required.

Another technique is summarizing grouped ideas. At first, it is necessary to formulate your ideas as accurately as possible, imagining the results of each of them. Then combine similar measures into subgroups. And finally, to formulate the summary statement, which is the intended result of the implementation of the proposed measures.

Part 3. Logic in problem-solving

The third part is largely intended for those who have consulting documents or to analyze complex problems and present their conclusions on their basis.

It is necessary to analyze the problems according to the standard scheme
It is necessary to analyze the problems according to the standard scheme

The author describes the following logical process: defining the problem – structure the analysis of the problem – analysis/solution search – construction of the pyramid of thinking. To determine the problem, you must select the following elements:

  • The disturbing event;
  • P1(undesired result);
  • P2(desired result).

It is necessary to analyze the problems according to the standard scheme: data collection – description of the data received – data synthesis – recommendations.

Part 4. Logic in presentation

The fourth part of Minto pyramid discusses techniques that allow you to use the principles of the pyramid in presentations to improve the clarity of the statement. The author divides this part into three chapters, which describe different ways of reflecting the pyramid.

Use the graphic slides to illustrate the data
Use the graphic slides to illustrate the data
Reflecting the pyramid on the page.

It is necessary to make a visual structure of the document. There are the following methods for highlight the structure of the text: headings, underlining points, decimal numbering, etc. also, we must not forget about the links to move from one group of ideas to another.

Reflecting the pyramid onscreen.

When creating text slides, express your thoughts succinctly and simply. Use the graphic slides to illustrate the data. Sketch of the presentation for the correct order of the slides. Rehearsals will help to make the presentation effective.

Reflecting the pyramid in prose.

To clearly express your ideas, mentally imagine what you are talking about, and then describe this image verbally.

In her book, Barbara Minto explains how her “rules” will help you in business writing, verbal communication, reasoning, and problem-solving. Although the book is intended for a wide range of readers, the abundance of practical advice from the life of a consulting company will be useful in many ways to people working in this field.

I also recommend you to read Rainmaking Conversations. These two books will teach you how to be more effective not only in business but in general as well.