Minto's pyramid principle. Golden Rules of Thinking, Business Writing and Oral Speaking

Imagine that there are some secret principles of communication, using which you are doomed to success. You manage to convey information to a client, partner, boss, spouse, your child, an opponent, a neighbor... or any person so that he signs an agreement, makes a purchase, raises your salary or gives you a new position, agrees to all your conditions, and so on, in general, you get the desired result. Is this possible? Yes. Your secret weapon is the Minto Pyramid. Use it in negotiations, correspondence, polemics, your publications, in any form of communication with other people, and the consequences will pleasantly surprise you.

Barbara Minto. Curriculum Vitae

Before the Barbara Minto principle appeared, this woman graduated from Harvard University. She received a high degree of education - Master of Business Administration. McKinsey & Company hired her as a consultant in 1963. By the way, this was the first woman allowed to work in this large company. Barbara's natural talent for writing competent business letters at any level helped her get this position. Her career at McKinsey spanned a dozen years. It was Barbara's staff and colleagues who became her students and pioneers in the study of writing practice. Her success has developed. Since 1973, Minto has operated his own corporation, Minto International Inc. Students receive her invaluable knowledge at major universities (Harvard, Stanford), as well as in European companies in Chicago and the USA. More than 10,000 people have already learned structural thinking. The program is required at many MBA business schools. Employees of the giants Ernst & Young, Walt Disney and American Express regularly undergo advanced training on Barbara Minto's developments.

Find suitable ideas

There is no need to collect all the data on the meeting topic. Find a few ideas that answer questions that are important to your listeners.

For example, you will discuss participation in online conferences with the owner of the company, the director and fellow managers. Let's try to find ideas that support our main idea from the positions of our interlocutors:

  • The goals we set for live events will be achieved in online conferences.
  • We will save a third of the budget for participation in events without missing out on key events.
  • We will prepare a plan for integration into online conferences in three days. It won't be difficult.

Features of thinking

The right move by consultant Minto was to go back to the roots. All rational people have thinking. If you understand how to properly manage your primary skills, you can rise to a higher level in self-education. Based on her knowledge of how human thinking works, Barbara developed her signature pyramid-shaped naming system. Having studied the principle of the Minto pyramid, anyone can easily and concisely compose reports, present presentations, write business letters and books. Taking into account all the points, the result will be the delivery of information in the most comfortable form for the thinking process.

Relationships and logical chains

A person who encounters more than four or five objects tries to organize them into logical groups in order to remember them. All intellectual processes are based on generalization. Therefore, we can consider that the information stored in the head is a huge network of interconnected pyramids that have something in common. This descent of ideas must be based on logic.

You need to give the main statement first, and build a logical chain from it. It is only necessary to decompose all the chaos of information into understandable groups with a generalizing image at the head. Go from the simple and main to the complex and particular. This skill can take years to develop. Barbara Minto gives the example of a standard trip to the supermarket. When going to the supermarket, a married couple makes a list using the pyramid principle.

But how to present information? Only based on the system of concepts of the person to whom the speech is addressed. Simply put, the report must be conveyed in a form that is comfortable for the interlocutor and understandable to him. You cannot use deliberately complex and ambiguous phrases - this will lead to difficulties in their perception.

So, let's summarize the facts:

  • Ideas at any level of the pyramid should generalize the ideas grouped below.
  • The ideas of each individual group must be of the same type, that is, they must have something in common.
  • Each group's ideas should be arranged in a logical sequence.

Barbara Minto's approach is good for its versatility, simplicity and logic. By using her diagrams and reading the explanations, you will not regret the time spent. And reports, speeches and written documentation will acquire the long-awaited persuasiveness and beauty of constructing facts and diagrams.

List of sources used:

Editor: Chekardina Elizaveta Yurievna

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Hierarchy based on the principle of building a pyramid

What is the principle of the Minto pyramid? The essence of the main idea is reflected at the very top, all minor accompanying details are located in the plane of the base. The human brain perceives precisely this correct principle of the Minto pyramid. The rules are simple and adapted for any person, so an individual with any level of education can acquire useful knowledge. This method of conveying information significantly saves time resources. In other situations, the interlocutor may not listen to the end or may not finish reading the information offered, but the whole essence is reflected at the beginning. Therefore, the goal is achieved in 100 percent of cases.

The essence of the method

This principle received the name “pyramid” for a reason, because it figuratively looks like a triangle, the top of which is the main idea, which is important to convey to the interlocutor, and the bottom – clarifications.

This method of presenting material is almost ingenious, because due to various circumstances, the person with whom you are communicating does not have the opportunity to listen to you to the end, or to study the entire letter received, but, oddly enough, will understand the essence of your message due to that it will be indicated initially. And this greatly facilitates business and partnership relationships.

And in love and friendship, it will also not be superfluous to understand each other the first time.

So, the triangle is multi-level, on the first of them, as we have already said, is the main purpose of the appeal, what you want to convey to the other person. On the second, you need to divide your idea into several components and present it in more detail, respectively; on the third, dividing the information of the second level, and on the fourth, the third. And so on until you finish forming your idea, until you realize that you have laid out everything that was necessary.

It is recommended to make no more than 4 levels, this is the most optimal volume for understanding, otherwise you will require a lot of time from your interlocutor. When giving a report, for example, you don’t have to limit yourself, but take into account that people cannot concentrate on one activity for too long, so at one point they will get distracted and stop perceiving what you are diligently telling them about.

Some situations do not allow you to immediately identify the main idea, since thoughts are confused and it is not possible to grasp it. In this case, they use a pyramid, with the top down, that is, they begin to talk about details and nuances, slowly forming the main thing that needs to be conveyed.

Multi-level system

The order of constructing a pyramid is to divide the main idea into secondary ones. Each subsequent level involves dividing the goal into two, four, six blocks for reflection. All processes must be logically and chronologically followed. The number of tiers of the pyramid is not limited. But it is important to remember that the resources of the human brain are not limitless. It is capable of adequately processing only a certain amount of information. If the speaker has something to say, it is necessary to divide his material into 3-4 blocks, not counting the main idea. With a large flow of new thoughts, a person loses concentration and quickly gets tired.

State the main idea

A pyramid is a hierarchical structure. All components in it are arranged from major to minor. Therefore, preparing a speech begins with searching for the main idea.

It can be uncomfortable to start “head-on”, since more often we use another, seemingly “safe” strategy: first we lead the interlocutor to our idea with the help of reasons and premises, and then we show him the conclusion. In reality, it wastes time and confuses the audience.

It’s easier to put the details of new information into an already understandable general context - just like putting together a puzzle by first assembling the frame.

You must immediately explain that I will prove your theses, what idea you propose to consider with you during your speech. Otherwise, your thesis will not necessarily lead the listener to your conclusions.

For example, a planning meeting is coming up on your company’s event strategy during a period of restrictions for public events. The questions on the agenda are: whether to transfer full participation to online conferences, whether to adjust the budget for these items, and in what direction.

Formulate right away what point of view you want to justify to your colleagues.

For example, the main point of your meeting speech would be: “We should not reduce participation in conferences because they are moving online. The budget can be reduced significantly without compromising key events.”

Shutterstock/Antonio Guillem

How to build a Minto pyramid correctly

The Minto pyramid principle has two ways of building. The most convenient and correct way is from top to bottom. In this case, the problem is identified, and the accompanying speculations come from it. The second method is suitable for people who have not yet fully decided on the main thesis of the story. In such a situation, you can start building a pyramid from the bottom up. Sometimes it happens that secondary thoughts bring out a clear and clear goal, helping the author to concentrate on the object. For information to form into a pyramid by itself, it is enough to answer a few questions.

Standard methods of transmitting information

The author of the book believes that at the beginning of any text there should be a generalizing category, a statement, like a pyramidion - the main stone at the head of the pyramid.
Causal chains of connections descend from it. When a person reads, he perceives facts from top to bottom. When he writes the text himself, he summarizes his thoughts “bottom-up”, connecting sentences into paragraphs. These are the standard ways of transmitting information.

So, the construction scheme is as follows:

  • To better understand information, the reader involuntarily breaks it down into subordinate blocks, grouping ideas according to the pyramid principle.
  • Any group of ideas is easier to understand if it is initially structured this way.
  • Therefore, any document should be composed in the form of a pyramid of ideas.

Questions to determine levels

Interrogative sentences help you correctly formulate your thoughts.
They can be specified for each individual case. The most successful method is to write down all your thoughts on a piece of paper and determine whether it is possible to group them into categories by finding connections. The conclusion from all the questions and connecting points will become the top of the pyramid, level number one. Questions for building the Minto pyramid

Level 1Level 2Level 3
What is it about (subject)Current situationNew questions after answering the previous one
Problem (question)Difficulties in solving the problemAnswer method (inductive, deductive)
Proposed solution (the answer will be the main gist of the speech)Is the decision process currently underway?Is there a general sign of grouping all thoughts


Writing texts, giving presentations or preparing recommendations based on the Minto pyramid principle is carried out by applying the three levels of the pyramid described below:

Start with an answer, a thesis, or a key point.

The use of a top-down pyramid structure in communication methods implies that the question asked is answered directly. This could be recommendations, research findings, a thesis statement, or other key aspects.

The Minto Pyramid Principle transforms the traditional method used to develop the final solution. Typically, the conclusion of a text or presentation is given after the facts have been presented and after a discussion of the analytical findings and ideas presented. Using Minto's Pyramid Principle, Barbara Minto explains why the answer must be clear and specific. And only after this are given supporting arguments or motivations. The main reasons for this are to maximize and make efficient use of the audience's limited time. For example, most negotiations with superiors involve providing recommendations. The reason for making a recommendation first and then offering motivation is that often managers already see the conclusions or recommendations that result from the many arguments and reasons provided. This happens because they think vertically, focusing on the bigger picture.

Moreover, the method of direct messages is more persuasive than negotiations, which are conducted in an evasive manner. The style of direct messages is a demonstration of persistence and self-confidence.

Group arguments and summarize main points

Now that the key point has been made, it is time to discuss the reasons or motivation for giving the presentation. According to the Minto pyramid principle, this level involves combining all arguments into main ideas. Each idea is a summary of a specific recommendation or response, starting with the first step.

Present supporting information and ideas logically

The pyramid then branches from each argument down to the lowest level, where supporting information and ideas are provided that should demonstrate the validity of the arguments presented. These three levels form a pyramidal structure.

Always give priority to the big picture idea at the top of the pyramid

Clarity and logic can be applied to storytelling by paying attention to the structure and order of arguments

If the arguments and ideas presented include a particular flow, repetition, or cause-and-effect constructs, they should be arranged in chronological order. It is also a good idea to present the most important arguments and ideas first.

Book work by Barbara Minto

To provide access to invaluable knowledge, the book “The Minto Pyramid Principle: The Golden Rules of Thinking, Business Writing and Oral Presentation” was created. It is based on examples from the lives of employees of a consulting company. Analysis of numerous situations will be useful for workers in any field of activity (numerous reviews confirm this). You can also call this book copy a real guide for everyone who strives to achieve the best in this life. The practical situations contained in the book “The Minto Pyramid Principle” are intended for a wide range of readers.


In 1973, I published six articles entitled “The Pyramid Principle,” which introduced a new method for detecting logical errors in written documents, particularly consultant reports. I explained that the text is easily perceived only if it is structured according to the pyramid principle.

The variety of relationships between statements in such a pyramid is limited to three logical directions (up, down and sideways), which makes it possible to formulate general rules.

The pyramid principle was developed by me while working at McKinsey & Company, first in Cleveland and then in London. McKinsey quickly realized that my calling was not numbers, but texts.

While studying report writing manuals, I discovered an interesting fact: an incredible number of books talked about how to write sentences and paragraphs, but there was not a single one that taught how to build reasoning. Not a single book said “think logically” or “make a logical plan.” Then I asked myself what generally distinguishes a logical plan from an illogical one. And I discovered that this difference lies in the “pyramidal” structure.

This structure can be used in any document. Let's take a simple letter as an example. First, let's look at it in its original form, and then in its edited form.

In 1967, some experienced McKinsey employees pointed out the weaknesses of the concept and helped correct them. Today, the pyramid principle I developed is a McKinsey standard.

In 1973, I left McKinsey to introduce my ideas to a wider circle of people. To date, about 10,000 employees of consulting firms and companies from different countries have taken my course. The first two editions of this book were published in 1981 and 1987. A video course was also created (in 1981 - the first version, in 2003 - the second) and a computer program (in 1985).

I'm glad that as a result of my many years of work, the Minto Pyramid Principle has become a standard in the consulting industry, and the basic pyramid concept has been used in many other courses.

Many years of teaching experience and recent work on a new version of the video course allowed me to take a fresh look at my concept, improve and expand it.

Here is a new version of the book, which combines all the rules and techniques of the reasoning process that I have developed. It contains new chapters on ways to identify and analyze errors in the construction of text, as well as on visually displaying the structure of the pyramid on the page or screen.

The book consists of four parts.

• Some changes were made to the first part (“Logic in Writing”) compared to the previous edition. This explains the pyramid principle and shows how to use it. After reading this part, you will master the technique of drafting simple documents.

• The second part (“Logic in Reasoning”) tells how to look critically at your reasoning and make sure your generalizations are correct.

• The third part (“Logic in problem solving”) is completely new. It is intended for those who have to write consulting documents or analyze complex problems and present their conclusions based on them. It describes the principles of analysis that allow you to build your reasoning in the form of a pyramid at this stage.

• Part four (“Logic in Presentations”) discusses techniques for using pyramid principles in oral presentations.

You will have to do a lot of work before you learn to apply the principles of the pyramid. However, if you follow the guidelines offered in this book, you will be able to:

a) quite significantly reduce the time spent on preparing the final document;

b) improve the clarity of the text;

c) reduce its volume.

The result of your efforts should be a clear and concise text of the document, compiled in record time.

The price of learning structural thinking from Barbara Minto

Classes are held in groups of 10 people. The duration of training is two and a half days. It is worth noting that the cost is high. It is $27,000. This fact is justified by the incredible popularity of the technique developed by Barbara. The demand for its services is growing exponentially. Every person knows that investing in one's education is the most useful. More than one generation of specialists from foreign universities has been studying Minto’s book. The training program has stood the test of time and has become a reference book for successful specialists.

Anchor each idea with a conclusion.

After each group of facts, provide conclusions so that the listener follows them in your direction. At the end of the speech, list the main ideas and formulate a general conclusion - repeat the main idea, relying on your evidence.

An example of the main conclusion at the end of the speech:

The goals that we set before participating in professional conferences remain relevant for us. Online conferences in some cases give us more opportunities, including free participation in previously uncovered events. This way, we can increase productivity on the same budget and even reduce costs by eliminating stand construction - without giving up on key events.

Now it seems that everything has collapsed, but in fact it is not very difficult to rebuild our work. For now, it is enough to follow clear steps, collect information from external resources on events and from internal resources on current topics that we are ready to present online.

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