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,



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


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




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.