Paul Copplestone

How to build a latticework of knowledge

Charlie Munger is one of the finest thinkers in the world. For those who haven’t heard of Charlie Munger, he is the business partner of Warren Buffet, the second third richest man in the world.

About a year ago I heard about Munger’s “Latticework of mental models”. Basically, this is a collection of frameworks that Charlie uses to make rational decisions. I really like this approach - it reminds me of a Confucian practice, where you do the rational thinking “up-front” so that when you encounter an irrational problem you automatically make the right decisions.

After reading about this I adopted the concept to started building my own latticework of knowledge. Here is snapshot of what it looks like after one year:

Latticework of knowledge

Keen eyes will be able to spot that this is a Trello board. I’ve found that Trello is the easiest and most fluid way to organise my latticework. This is actually only a quarter of the board, but it’s enough to get the idea. Every card in this list contains a single piece of knowledge that I think is useful (or a collection of similar ideas). Every column represents a broader “theme” of knowledge.

How it works

Set Up

Set up a single Trello board. All of your knowledge will go into this one board. Within this board set up a single column on the left called “Dump”. This is the staging gate through which everything will pass.

Adding knowledge

Whenever you have an idea or thought, add it to the “Dump” list as a single card. If you read and interesting article online that contributed to your knowledge, also add it to the Dump list. I highly recommend getting the Trello app for this purpose - it makes it easy to “share” and article to your Latticework board

Refining knowledge

After you have built up a large enough “Dump” list, start organising the information by Themes. Create a new column for each theme and drag the cards into the relevant Theme.

The most beneficial part of this practice is revisiting and remembering the information after a time away from it. This “spaced repitition” and the mental effort that goes into recategorising helps for both memorisation and comprehension of the knowledge.

I find that I end up cultivating my board every month or so. Sometimes this involves grouping multiple cards into one, sometimes it involves merging similar themes together.

Themes

Here are just a few of the Themes that I have set up in my Latticework:

  • Philosophy: I have one card for each philosopher that I have studied and a card for broad branches of philosophy
  • Fallacies: One card for each of the logical fallacies that I come across. I add a comment to each card when I witness these fallacies in my day-to-day life
  • Reading: A list of books that I plan to read or have read. I add notes to each card while I read the book.
  • Writing examples: I save a card for each writing example that I find interesting (I’m learning to write better)
  • Business Ideas: every time I hear of a great business idea I add it to this list
  • Learning: I have a list that is dedicated to articles about how to learn
  • There are numerous tech related lists, each with many cards. These include: Programming Languages, Databases, Security, Machine Learning / AI, Startup Tools, SEO
  • Quotes: a list of interesting quotes

Take it slow

The system isn’t 100% perfect (I doubt any knowledge system can be). The goal isn’t to remember everything mechanically but after a year you will have a broader comprehension of the themes that you choose to focus on.