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Mental models to use when sharing stories or information

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I’ve been thinking of ways to be more crisp in my communication. My mind often races into the future, connecting the dots in ways that may be hard to follow. When i try to explain how the dots connect I often struggle to do it succinctly.

Below are a number of models that you can use if you’re looking to structure and deliver your communiction in a more systematic manner. Note that all these frameworks are useful to consider across various modalities of communication, be it verbal, written, presentations, etc.

1. What, So What, Now What

This is a good model to sell something. I’ve used it to sell ideas, products, and processes.

How to use: Start with explain the idea. Explain why it matters and how it makes a difference in The World. End with action, the Now What.

2. STAR: Situation, Task, Actions, Results

This framework is good for explaining a before and after situation and how you made a difference. This framework is particularly useful for interview situations.

How to use it: Explain the situation and give relevant context. Explain the task you had, i.e. what you were asked to do. Explain the actions you took. Explain the results.

3. Challenge, Solution, Outcome

Similar to STAR this framework is useful to share a before and after. I use this when creating and sharing cases and stories in sales situations. The difference to STAR is that this is less focused on the individual person and behavior and more suited to illustrate how a product, process or solution played a role in driving change.

How to use it: Set the stage and describe the challenge. Try to quantify the pain! Describe the solution. This part should include both the solution and the processes and people involved. Describe the new reality after the solution has been implemented and the positive outcomes. Use the same KPI’s you used when describing the pain.

4. The Cookie framework: Positive, Negative, Impact created by the negative (the problem it causes), Desired end-state, Positive.

This framework is very useful when providing feedback. It layers the negative between 2 positives, therefore I call the “The Cookie” framework.

How to use it: When providing feedback of any kind, you start of by mentioning something positive, such as: “You are great at collaborating with your colleagues”. Having set the tone in a good way you can now dive into the negative issue, let’s say: “The issue I am seeing is that many of your projects never come through to realization”. You then explain the importance of this: “For our process to prove successful we need customers to know that they will get outcome, otherwise they will not give us their time”. “What we need is for you to focus on ensuring that projects come through and deliver tangible results”, is the desired end state. You finish off with a positive, for example: “You have great energy, the team likes you, and I have no doubt that you will be successful also with this challenge going forward”.

Conclusion

Being structured in thinking and communication is a must in most business situations, as in many personal situations. I’ve personally used all three frameworks with success and continue to turn to them when needing to communicate.

I hope you will find them useful.