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,


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.