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Judge's Crime against communication

19th Apr 17

By Geoffrey Stackhouse, Managing Director, Clarity Solutions


District Court judge Garry Neilson has been spanked by the State's highest court for delivering a 17 hour + judgement after a six day court case.

And it's not just the waste of court time that raised his Boss's ire, the real crime was that the plaintiff had to sit through three days of legal blather before he found out if he had won or lost. He won.

While this is an extreme case, it's the typical behaviour of weak and inefficient communicators. Instead of leading with their conclusion and backing it up, which comes across as an insight, poor communicators force you to follow the twisted and tortuous journey of their original thinking and discovery process - before revealing the answer you've been waiting for.

I'm sure you've been there. Whether it's an email or a presentation, you're sitting there trying to work out what he or she means. 

When you lead with your conclusion and support it logically your communication is transformed. Your audience's focus shifts from trying to understand what you mean, to processing your meaning, evaluating the logic of your argument, and working through the implications.

And that takes communication to a much higher, more efficient level.

It's called Structured Thinking - sometimes known as the Minto Pyramid Principle or the McKinsey Pyramid Principle.  At it's simplest level, you make a claim and back it up. But really it's a process to help you do the hard yards and distill your thinking rather than abusing your audience with waffle.

Structured thinking powers one of the tools we teach in our media training workshops. But its also one of our most popular workshops in it's own right. 

And back to Judge Neilson, it's no surprise that his epic 17 hour judgement was overturned on appeal. Lazy communicators use a barrage of words as a smokescreen to hide their lack of understanding. Because when the fog is dense you can't tell that the Emperor has no clothes.

Here's what you can do to to avoid being a "Naked Emperor":

  1. Lead with your conclusion - tell your audience the solution or insight they need to hear.
  2. Back it up with logic, and make sure it's inductive logic so you bring your audience with you.
  3. Give them the tip of the pyramid - your conclusion and key line arguments - so they know your answer in 30 seconds.

Want to know more about Structured Thinking or the Minto Pyramid Principle? Email us for more detail or check out our corporate training programs here.

And Judge Neilson, if you're reading, first session is free as part of our campaign to stamp out crimes against communication.