Thinking Tools #8 – How corporate templates can frustrate clarity

Thinking Tools #8 – How corporate templates can frustrate clarity

This week’s insight from Shane Parrish’s The Great Mental Models offers some useful ways to test our mental maps.

In the chapter called ‘The Map is Not the Territory’, he talks about problems that the disconnect between reality and a map (or model) can bring and offers three tips for avoiding those problems. 

Again, I have pondered on these and applied them to communication.

Reality is the ultimate update. We need to be willing to change the way we think about a situation based on reality not institutional practice, our past views or habits.

Corporate templates are a classic example here. It is easy to assume that because they are in common use, they are both fit for purpose and set in stone. Experience tells me neither is always true. Like anything, templates need to shift with reality.

We have worked with many clients that have shifted not just their templates, but also their playbooks outlining their working process for solving problems as well as communicating.

Consider the cartographer. Understanding who drew the map or designed the model is key. The model might be the way your predecessor communicated updates to your leadership team, or the template they used. It helps to understand them and their way of operating before following blindly.

Many templates are created by frustrated leaders as a data collection tool. They design them so that teams provide leaders with the data they need. Unfortunately, they often don’t go a step further and leave room for the teams to tell a story based on that data.

We have a module on ‘wrangling’ templates in Clarity First and also help where templates can benefit from a refresh. This will, in fact, be our topic of discussion for our first February working session.

Maps can influence territories. This is an interesting and short point in this part of the book.

In my mind, if a corporate template is a map outlining the rationale for a decision, then that template can certainly impact the territory of leadership discussions. We see this very often.

If the map is poorly constructed, the discussions will lead to poor outcomes: clarification questions and delays rather than quality decisions made quickly. 

As you can gather, templates are a bug bear of mine. They so often get in the way of powerful communication and quality decision making.

Talk soon,
Davina

 

PS – Our new kit for ‘pitching your manager' is now available. It includes an updated program brochure as well as a script you may like to cut and paste into your email or use to guide your conversation with your manager. Click here to learn more.

PPS – I receive a small commission if you click the link and decide to purchase a copy of Shane's book from Amazon.


Related posts include:

 Past posts from this series … 

  1. A fabulous thinking tool to help you solve problems and communicate 
  2. Further thinking tools
  3. Thinking Tools #3 – Using inversions to identify gaps in our thinking
  4. Thinking Tools #4 – Getting out of your own way 
  5. Thinking Tools #5 – Avoiding Blind Spots
  6. Thinking Tools #6 – How to have a latticework of theory
  7. Thinking Tools #7 – Avoiding becoming a tragic tale 
Past posts on thinking skills ….                                                                                                                                
 
  1. How to use your critical thinking abilities to turbo charge your communication
  2. Strengthen your critical thinking abilities
  3. 4 Ideas to make structured thinking stick

 

This post was prepared by Davina Stanley, founder of The Clarity First Program and author of The So What Strategy.

Davina has been helping experts communicate complex ideas since joining McKinsey as a communication specialist 20+ years ago. 

She helps experts clarify their thinking so they can prepare powerful and strategic communication in any format. It might mean preparing for a difficult meeting, getting ready for a project steering committee, putting forward a business case or writing a board paper.

She bases her approach on The Minto Pyramid PrincipleⓇ combined with other powerful techniques to help experts of all kinds globally strengthen their communication skills.

 

Thinking Tools #7 – How to engage self-interested stakeholders

Thinking Tools #7 – How to engage self-interested stakeholders

This week’s insight from Shane Parrish’s The Great Mental Models is all about understanding the motivations of people.

This is central to understanding our audience, and Shane offers three particularly useful considerations for us in that regard.

He offers a side-bar story calling us to beware ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’

This is a parable best summed up with a quote from Aristotle:

 

“What is common to many is taken least care of, for all men have greater regard for what is their own than for what they possess in common with others.”

 

In other words, people are highly self-interested.

In preparing your communication we need to understand our audience’s interests deeply, if we are to get the results we seek.

In Clarity First, we invest significantly here as we find that it is not at all uncommon to start preparing a piece of communication only to discover we aren't clear enough about not only who we are communicating with, but what we will communicate about.

For example, I helped a product manager from a global technology company prepare a pitch recently that involved deep stakeholder analysis.

We realised fairly quickly that there were a number of critical stakeholders who were neutral or potential objectors to her idea, and we took time to unpick their issues using our three-question stakeholder analysis framework.

The patterns unearthed by the analysis helped her see that not only did she have some extra leg work to do before requesting resources from the leadership, but specifically what kind of leg work would help.

She not only changed her story as a result of our 90 minutes together, but radically shifted her stakeholder engagement strategy and the way she presented the pitch itself.

Next week I will have another post stemming from Shane's excellent book.

Talk soon,
Davina

 

PS – Our new kit for ‘pitching your manager' is now available. It includes an updated program brochure as well as a script you may like to cut and paste into your email or use to guide your conversation with your manager. Click here to learn more.


PPS – Related posts include:

 Past posts from this series … 

  1. A fabulous thinking tool to help you solve problems and communicate 
  2. Further thinking tools
  3. Thinking Tools #3 – Using inversions to identify gaps in our thinking
  4. Thinking Tools #4 – Getting out of your own way 
  5. Thinking Tools #5 – Avoiding Blind Spots
  6. Thinking Tools #6 – How to have a latticework of theory 
Past posts on thinking skills ….
  1. How to use your critical thinking abilities to turbo charge your communication
  2. Strengthen your critical thinking abilities
  3. 4 Ideas to make structured thinking stick

 

PPPS – I receive a small commission if you click the link and decide to purchase a copy of Shane's book from Amazon.

 

 

This post was prepared by Davina Stanley, founder of The Clarity First Program and author of The So What Strategy.

Davina has been helping experts communicate complex ideas since joining McKinsey as a communication specialist 20+ years ago. 

She helps experts clarify their thinking so they can prepare powerful and strategic communication in any format. It might mean preparing for a difficult meeting, getting ready for a project steering committee, putting forward a business case or writing a board paper.

She bases her approach on The Minto Pyramid PrincipleⓇ combined with other powerful techniques to help experts of all kinds globally strengthen their communication skills.

 

Thinking Tools #6 – Why you need a latticework of models in your head

Thinking Tools #6 – Why you need a latticework of models in your head

 This week’s post leads me to talk about patterns, which we find to be an essential communication tool.

 

Shane Parrish of The Great Mental Models quotes Charlie Munger in this regard. He discusses the importance of relying on a ‘latticework of theory’ rather than ‘banging back facts’.

 

“The first rule is that you can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang ‘em back. 

If the facts don’t hang together in a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form … 

You’ve got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head.”

In our world, we work with a number of models, but most particularly grouping and deductive storylines.

These two mental models blend synthesis and logic to distil and deliver powerful messages.

We have gone further than using these two models alone and developed patterns that provide useful models for our clients who need to communicate complex ideas.

We introduce these in The So What Strategy and help people take full advantage of them in Clarity First by doing three things.

  1. Learn the foundational principles of synthesisgrouping and deductive structures, which we focus on during our initial Warm Up and Core levels of the program.
  2. Identify which of the seven most commonly used patterns suit your purposes best. This is for people who have completed the Core Curriculum and then progressed to the Sprint Level.
  3. Establish which situations merit a ‘flip’ of one or more patterns, where you leverage your understanding of the basic principles to modify a pattern to suit your specific needs. We had a great discussion about this recently with our most advanced members who are at what we call the Momentum level. Having the depth of understanding combined with the intellectual agility to adjust the patterns quickly to suit your needs is a fabulous thinking ability.

 >> Click here to join the waitlist for the 2021 Clarity First Program. We’ll let you know as soon as the doors open, given we are offering only 50 places this time.

You may also like to get a copy of our ‘Pitch Your Boss' kit, which includes text that you can cut and paste into an email seeking support to join the program.

Have a great week,

Cheers,
Davina

 


PS – Related posts include:

Past posts from this series …

  1. A fabulous thinking tool to help you solve problems and communicate 
  2. Further thinking tools
  3. Thinking Tools #3 – Using inversions to identify gaps in our thinking
  4. Thinking Tools #4 – Getting out of your own way 
  5. Thinking Tools #5 – Avoiding Blind Spots
Past posts on thinking skills …
  1.  How to use your critical thinking abilities to turbo charge your communication
  2. Strengthen your critical thinking abilities
  3. 4 Ideas to make structured thinking stick

 

PPS – I receive a small commission if you click the link and decide to purchase a copy of Shane's book from Amazon.

 

This post was prepared by Davina Stanley, founder of The Clarity First Program and author of The So What Strategy.

Davina has been helping experts communicate complex ideas since joining McKinsey as a communication specialist 20+ years ago. 

She helps experts clarify their thinking so they can prepare powerful and strategic communication in any format. It might mean preparing for a difficult meeting, getting ready for a project steering committee, putting forward a business case or writing a board paper.

She bases her approach on The Minto Pyramid PrincipleⓇ combined with other powerful techniques to help experts of all kinds globally strengthen their communication skills.

 

Thinking Tool #5 – Avoiding Blind Spots

Thinking Tool #5 – Avoiding Blind Spots

I loved my ‘fast fly’ through this book and am realizing how much more I am finding useful by going slowly and preparing these posts for you.

Thank you for encouraging me to slow down!

I am still in the introduction reading about the power and dangers associated with mental models and the concept of blind spots has jumped out at me as worth our attention.

In the Great Mental Models Vol 1, Shane Parrish suggests that we need a latticework of mental models to be maximally effective.

He quotes Alain de Botton from How to Make a Decision

“The chief enemy of good decisions is a lack of sufficient perspectives on a problem”

Taken together these points are a powerful reminder on how to avoid blind spots.

Bring people together who have a variety of models in their heads to work through any problem. In our world of storylining, there are many ways to collaborate to get to a better answer faster.

This week I was working with a group of product managers in a US technology company where collaboration was a key topic of discussion.

The group has loved the specific way we have encouraged them to collaborate to ‘land their messaging’ that kills three birds with one stone: it integrates into their natural working rhythm, lifts the quality of their messaging and saves them time.

These and others tell me that they no longer spend so much time chasing for responses, reworking their papers to present again and again to decision making bodies.

They also have much more valuable discussions with members of these bodies. They receive fewer clarification questions and more substantive ones.

We will take a break from our regular posts next week given the Christmas holiday season and will resume in the new year.

We wish you all a wonderful holiday season.

 

Warm regards,
Davina

 

 

Related posts include:

 Past posts from this series …

  1. A fabulous thinking tool to help you solve problems and communicate 
  2. Further thinking tools
  3. Thinking Tool #3 – Using inversions to identify gaps in our thinking
  4. Thinking Tool #4 – Getting out of your own way

Past posts on thinking skills …                                                                                                                                   
  1. How to use your critical thinking abilities to turbo charge your communication
  2. Strengthen your critical thinking abilities 
  3. 4 Ideas to make structured thinking stick

 

PS – There are two things to know about Clarity First this week: 

  1. Our new kit for ‘pitching your manager' is now available. It includes an updated program brochure as well as a script you may like to cut and paste into your email or use to guide your conversation with your manager. Click here to learn more.
  2. The waitlist is now open. Add your name to the list so you hear when the doors will open before anyone else. We are limiting participation to 50 new members this time.

PPS – I receive a small commission if you click the link and decide to purchase a copy of Shane's book from Amazon.



 

This post was prepared by Davina Stanley, founder of The Clarity First Program and author of The So What Strategy.

Davina has been helping experts communicate complex ideas since joining McKinsey as a communication specialist 20+ years ago. 

She helps experts clarify their thinking so they can prepare powerful and strategic communication in any format. It might mean preparing for a difficult meeting, getting ready for a project steering committee, putting forward a business case or writing a board paper.

She bases her approach on The Minto Pyramid PrincipleⓇ combined with other powerful techniques to help experts of all kinds globally strengthen their communication skills.

 

Thinking Tools #4 – Getting out of your own way

Thinking Tools #4 – Getting out of your own way

Given the positive feedback on this series so far, I have returned to the front of Great Mental Models so we can gain full value from this excellent book.

In doing so I found a very useful set of ideas which relate directly to our need to communicate robust thinking.

It’s all about perspective …

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says

‘Morning boys. How’s the water?’

After a while one of the young fish turns to the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?’”


In this early part of the book, Shane Parrish talks about three thinking failures: not having the right perspective or vantage point, ego-induced denial and distance from the consequences of our decisions.

Others might describe these as cognitive biases, also a useful tool for checking ourselves.

In our worlds these three thinking failures affect our decision making and hence our communication profoundly.

In this post I am reinforcing some of what we cover in the core modules while also adding some extra nuances to help you communicate robustly.

Keep your ‘eyes fresh' so you can maintain a healthy sense of perspective. This is where understanding our audience deeply comes in. We pose five questions in the first part of our So What Strategy process to help untangle this.

These questions help us work out who really is our audience and what we need to do to engage them in our idea. It is not at all uncommon for this analysis to change not just what we think we need to communicate, but who we communicate to.


Remember the influence of egos – our own and others. This is essential if we are to learn from others both as a giver and receiver of information. As a communicator, we may fear criticism too much and hesitate to share our good ideas. As a receiver, we may be too critical if we think someone else’s idea will upend our own achievements.

The risk is that we are too invested in our ideas to expose them to proper critique and that we bump into others’ egos by not having sufficiently navigated around what mattered to them.

Create the right balance between proximity and distance. Sufficient distance gives us perspective and clarity (aka putting our storyline in a drawer for an hour and getting lunch before checking it), but too much means we don’t see the issues that matter. Being removed from the consequences of our decisions can be a real trap.

We offer specific strategies to help members ‘freshen their eyes’ so they can maintain a critical perspective when reviewing their communication.

I hope that helps and look forward to sending you more ideas from The Great Mental Models again next week.

Kind regards,
Davina


PS – The Clarity First Waitlist is now open. Add your name to the list so you hear when the doors will before anyone else. We are limiting participation to 50 new members this time.

PPS – I receive a small commission if you click the link and decide to purchase a copy of Shane's book from Amazon.

Related posts include

From this series …

  1. A fabulous thinking tool to help you solve problems and communicate
  2. Further thinking tools  
  3. Thinking Tools #3 – Using Inversions to identify gaps in our thinking
Past posts on thinking skills ..
.
  1. How to use your critical thinking abilities to turbo charge your communication
  2. Strengthen your critical thinking abilities
  3. 4 Ideas to make structured thinking stick

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post was prepared by Davina Stanley, founder of The Clarity First Program and author of The So What Strategy.

Davina has been helping experts communicate complex ideas since joining McKinsey as a communication specialist 20+ years ago. 

She helps experts clarify their thinking so they can prepare powerful and strategic communication in any format. It might mean preparing for a difficult meeting, getting ready for a project steering committee, putting forward a business case or writing a board paper.

She bases her approach on The Minto Pyramid PrincipleⓇ combined with other powerful techniques to help experts of all kinds globally strengthen their communication skills.

 

Thinking Tools #3 – Using inversions to identify gaps in our thinking

Thinking Tools #3 – Using inversions to identify gaps in our thinking

The first time I recall using the inversion strategy was during my interview with McKinsey.

I remember a Senior Engagement Manager called Saimond putting me through my paces around a case and then posing a leading observation.

“So, you have given me some great demand side ideas there …”

As someone with a kindergarten teaching and then communication background I had not used economic concepts much. But thankfully I had helped review my university boyfriend's economics essays and twigged that he wanted more and different ideas from me.

So, I responded that he was right, and that perhaps he would like some supply side ideas too?

I then invented some on the spot. Using opposites has turned out to be a useful thinking strategy in many situations since.

It is also another model discussed in Shane Parrish's new book The Great Mental Models  which I posted about last week.

Given Clarity First members have asked me to pick my way through Shane's models in bite-sized stages, I am extending my series of posts on this book. Unsurprisingly, today's focus is on opposites, or as Shane Parrish calls them ‘inversions'.

Choosing options: One natural place to use this strategy is when choosing a set of options to evaluate. He offers two strategies to help you use inversions:

  1. Start by assuming that what you are trying to prove is either true or false, then show what else would have to be true
  2. Instead of aiming directly for your goal, think deeply about what you want to avoid and then see what options are left over

Checking our ideas are MECE: We can also use inversions in other ways when we are identifying whether we have a complete – MECE – set of ideas in our communication.

Clarity First members received a deeper email on this topic with a list of ways they can use inversions to strengthen their communication.

The waitlist for the program starting in late February 2021 will open soon.
Watch out for my email as I will be limiting the number of places available and ‘Waitlisters' will get the first opportunity to join.

Our communication is only as good as the ideas that underpin it.

I hope that helps.

Regards,
Davina


PS – Related posts include:

From this series …
1. A fabulous thinking tool to help you solve problems and communicate
2. Further thinking tools

 

PPS – I receive a small commission if you click the link and decide to purchase a copy of Shane's book from Amazon.



 

This post was prepared by Davina Stanley, founder of The Clarity First Program and author of The So What Strategy.

Davina has been helping experts communicate complex ideas since joining McKinsey as a communication specialist 20+ years ago. 

She helps experts clarify their thinking so they can prepare powerful and strategic communication in any format. It might mean preparing for a difficult meeting, getting ready for a project steering committee, putting forward a business case or writing a board paper.

She bases her approach on The Minto Pyramid PrincipleⓇ combined with other powerful techniques to help experts of all kinds globally strengthen their communication skills.