Thinking Differently and Writing Logically: Applying the MECE Framework

Trevor Grant
11 Jan 2022
min read
Channel the structure of a consultant's mind to create persuasive and comprehensive content.

In Apple's iconic "Think Different" campaign, they pay homage to the trailblazers, the misfits, and the rebels. These are the types of people we often encounter at Read Write Own, the visionaries working tirelessly to shape the future. Their passion is ideal for innovation but not always for effectively conveying ideas to stakeholders. Complex thoughts can be difficult to share in a way that's easy for others to grasp, especially when dealing with numerous ideas or aspects.

Enter the consultants who bring order to chaos, and have a framework for everything. To communicate and rally communities around their visions, founders and operators can benefit from a consultant's approach.

MECE Basics

Developed by renowned McKinsey consultant Barbara Minto, the Mutually Exclusive (ME) Collectively Exhaustive (CE) framework tackles open-ended challenges with thorough logic.

Mutually Exclusive information avoids overlap, while Collectively Exhaustive information leaves no gaps. By dividing the problem into smaller, manageable components and examining them individually, the MECE framework allows users to consider all possible aspects of the situation and make well-informed decisions.

  • Mutually Exclusive (ME): This principle requires that the categories or sub-problems identified are distinct from one another, with no overlaps. This prevents double-counting and allows for a more accurate analysis of each aspect of the issue. In other words, every element of the problem should belong to only one category.
  • Collectively Exhaustive (CE): This principle demands that all potential aspects of a problem are considered and addressed, leaving no stone unturned. By doing so, you can ensure that your analysis captures the entirety of the situation, reducing the risk of missing any critical information.

Applying MECE to Your Writing

Utilizing the MECE framework can be your ally when dealing with large, open-ended problems – like staring at a blank page. As an effective communicator, your job is to persuade your reader as quickly and completely as possible.

Visual decision maps, like those created with Lucidchart or just pen and paper, are useful for outlining an article's structure. Break down your topic into components that lead to solving the core question.

Image of Three steps to apply MECE to your writing

Prioritize the Reader

Suppose your company is launching a new product update and has hired an important team member. To communicate its significance to stakeholders, lay out the announcement section by section. Instead of organizing it haphazardly according to your own internal monologue, apply a logical structure that caters to the reader's needs.

For instance:

Title: Exciting New Features and Updates for Our Platform

Section 1: Introduction – Exciting updates for our community

Section 2: Enhancements for users – Staking program and simplified user interface

Section 3: Supporting a growing ecosystem – Additional wallet integrations

Section 4: Strengthening our team – Welcoming John, our new head of community

Section 5: Engaging with the community – Exclusive webinars and future plans

Section 6: Conclusion – Our commitment to continuous improvement

Image of different scenarios where MCE could be used

Optimizing Your Article's Structure

To create content that is MECE, organize your thoughts and ideas logically and systematically. Estimate the appropriate length for each section to ensure your article is in-depth yet concise and reader-friendly.

Creating content that is both mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive requires careful planning and a thoughtful approach.

Here's how to optimize your article's structure with the MECE framework:

  1. Outline your article: Create a detailed outline to guide your writing, identifying key topics and subtopics.
  2. Use headings and subheadings: Break your article into sections, making it easy for readers to follow.
  3. Utilize transitions: Maintain a logical flow by using transitional phrases to connect ideas.
  4. Stay focused and concise: Avoid overlap and provide a clear, mutually exclusive structure without irrelevant information.
  5. Incorporate examples: Use real-world examples and case studies for a more in-depth, collectively exhaustive article.
  6. Address potential objections: Anticipate and address concerns or challenges related to your topic.
  7. Review and revise: Assess your article's adherence to the MECE framework, and revise as necessary.

Embracing the MECE Framework for Improved Communication

Applying the MECE framework to your writing leads to more organized, thorough, and persuasive content. By considering the reader's perspective and structuring information logically, you can create content that effectively communicates your message and resonates with your audience. Adopt the MECE framework to ensure your writing is engaging, informative, and delivers on its promises.

Trevor Grant
July 6, 2023