It is fascinating to me that the whole idea of ‘constraints' feels like more of a limitation than a liberation.

Nobody – me included – likes being kept in physical or intellectual shackles and yet they are incredibly powerful. Liberating, even.

If we trust a simple set of constraints – rules – we can invest our thinking energy where it has most impact.

In the case of preparing communication, this means creating greater meaning as economically as possible.

This has been more evident than usual in my coaching sessions in past weeks and I wanted to share an example with you.

When coaching a finance executive yesterday, we went from making bland and frankly boring statements to communicating impactful ideas by using constraints.

In this particular case, our main message needed to be a recommendation rather than an observation. Let me show you what I mean:

Observation – We are allocating unspent funds to teams that have demonstrated that they can be compliant with the ABC policy funding agreement

Recommendation – We recommend allocating the unspent funds to teams that have invested in a step-change in talent development

The second version is so much more meaningful – and interesting. It is also the result of sticking to some simple rules, or ‘constraints' that push for clarity and insight.

Similarly, we have been talking about constraints in the problem solving context during the recent Clarity in Problem Solving program.

I was delighted to see in a recent HBR article that I am not alone in encouraging people to stick to some simple constraints.

>> Click here to access the article and another recent one by me on the topic of constraints also.

I hope you find it as interesting as I did.


Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk and the occasional graduate.

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.