“To pyramid or not to pyramid…That is the Question”
These proud constructions of the ancient Egyptians which leave us awe and wonder. In their natural surroundings in the valley of the kings, that is. In PowerPoint presentations however, they only let us wonder WHY someone has thought AGAIN that a PYRAMID is the appropriate display for each and every explanation.
The intention of diagrams is to simplify our understanding of a concept. We use diagrams and charts to explain faster and easier what we had in mind. All diagrams should support the brain to understand quicker. But if the diagram is not a logical construct of the thought, it is just decoration and has no function.
The pyramid shape diagram is specifically designed to take broad concepts and narrow them, representing any sort of hierarchy or an upbuilding construction.
To use the pyramid, your argument needs a foundation, or a base and all following points are building up from this foundation and now the kicker: Would not exist without the argument it is based on. So the second layer should not be able to function alone it needs to be substantiated by the argument beneath it and so on. Another key aspect is that the argument doesn’t get less important, it just has a smaller share as it keeps building up.
Some use pyramids to resemble importance. For instance: The CEOs is on the very top of the pyramid, the managers on the next, then staff, then temporary workers on the bottom level. What is wrong with this picture? A CEO would not exist without temps, staff or managers? First of all; we never start a Pyramid from the top. That wouldn’t have worked for the Egyptians, doesn’t work for you! Then you can’t say that one layer doesn’t work without the other, there are many company structures who have no management positions under a CEO, there are multiple CEOs without Managers. And honestly… are you really willing to say that staff and temp workers are least important people in an organization? To appropriately represent a company structure, use an Organigram or Org-Chart.
What about older to younger?
Great-great-grandparents at the top of the pyramid and great-great-grandchildren at the bottom?
What do you think?? Think that would work? – Well… Nooo…
Because what came first? The older people.
So where would they need to be? On the bottom.
And could they exist without Great-great-grandkids? They sure could.
Could the Grandkids exist without the Grandparents? No.
Clearest use of the Pyramid, I would like to show you with the Maslow pyramid of needs. A very famous and very logical one. None of these needs would occur if the former one wasn’t met. No one who is starving is thinking about self-actualization. The basic physical needs must be met first and then the second layer of need arises. Do you see now why this is best shown in a pyramid? That’s right, because the basis is the broader more important thing that you can build up on and as you move to the top the “needs” are not that basic anymore and unfortunately can’t be met by everyone.
Why did I not simply talk about the food pyramid? Cause I for one think that it doesn’t need pasta to have fish and that oils are not existent because dairy. I also don’t think that I can only have my milk if I ate my bread… But that could just be me… 😉
The beautiful Pyramid
You should use it as the thing that it is. The base is the foundation of an argument which holds the most and heaviest part of the argument. The second layer is already a smaller part in the argument but couldn’t exist (it pretty much be “baseless” without the first part) and so on. Nothing in the pyramid “results” of the former argument but it is substantiated by it.
To pyramid or not to pyramid? That is the question.
If you need to show a coherent interlocking process or argument where one results in the other, please use a Circle Process!
If you use it to actually “filter” information. Let’s say you start with a crowd of all Americans, then you say female, than you say Latin, than you say blue eyes, please use a Funnel!
If you need to show parts of one whole in equal or unequal parts or components, please use a Pie Chart!
If you need to show a process, one results the other, please use Process Arrows!
If you need to display arguments, which are leading to a result and are based on each other, please use Stairs and Step Charts!
If you have one result or argument is supported by 3,4,5 arguments but they don’t build up on each other and are not even resulting from one another, please use a Temple Chart!
Let’s review the many incorrect uses once more:
- Using the pyramid diagram to show positions in a hierarchy
- Using the pyramid diagram to show relations
- Using the pyramid diagram to show equal or unequal parts of one construct
- Using the pyramid diagram to show parts that are not even connected to one another
- Using the pyramid diagram starting from top to bottom
- Using the pyramid diagram to show a process
- Using the pyramid diagram with a weak leading argument
- Using the pyramid diagram to show unconnected supporting arguments that can result in the same
I sincerely hope, you will never look at the pyramids the same. 😉
And if we can help you choose the right chart, feel free to contact our pyramid experts…we look forward to hearing from you.