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Customer Review

TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 May 2010
Minto's book reflects as much the organisation (McKinsey & co.) and industry (management consulting) she comes from, as it does advice on structuring writing and thinking. By that I mean that the writing style propagated is going to be directly applicable to management consulting, accepted well internally (i.e. within consultancies), while clients might continue to cringe at it. Having seen the system from both sides (as a consultant and a client), I can understand how.

The basic premise of the book is to introduce some standard consulting tools for structuring thinking and writing

- the pyramid principle of organising your thoughts and summarising up front (drawing the conclusion for the reader from the start) rather than at the end and presenting directive supporting arguments later;
- the situation, complication resolution (question-answer) structure;
- the MECE (mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive) way of organising thinking.

All of these are occasionally useful - dealing with relatively straightforward problems in situations with little dynamic complexity, and exclusively for business type writing. While it is the natural inclination of a consultant to be strongly prescriptive (thou shall do this or that) and while inductive reasoning is preferable (as one can hide weak arguments better that way) this is not an approach that will always work with clients (or in a non-consulting corporate environment), and is certainly not something that will help you writing academic publications, or help you in fiction writing at all - in fact one needs to throw all the advice given here overboard before attempting any of these latter two.

In terms of style it is also very strongly reflects Minto's background - strongly prescriptive, not seriously considering any alternatives but hers, sloppy in literature research (taking the most convenient or widely read source, rather than the most profound or the original one) and relatively condescending - if you've ever worked in the industry, there is at least some entertainment value in being reminded of it (if you've just faced it from the receiving end as a client, I am sure it will produce groans).

On a final note, a book on clear writing and organising thinking logically, should read well and the points made should immediately jump out at the reader and stick with him. Here Minto falls short on both counts - having had several years of consulting behind me I still found it very tedious to follow (in spite of knowing the content relatively well) - if not exactly difficult (there is no attempt to make this a research supported scientific treatise), and the lack of chapter summaries at the end (and corresponding blankness on what exactly she was trying to convey in the specific chapter) directly negates the pyramid principle of writing for the application presented - a 'how to' guide.
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