The Art of Explanation

Key Take-Aways

A list of things which were noteworthy to me, because they weren't already things which I perceived to be obvious. i.e. this is not not a summary of the book.

  • Great explainers picture themselves in the listener's shoes.
  • People who care about ideas are more motivated to learn them.
  • Think about "process" but share "product".
  • Explanation provides scaffolding that supports adaptive behaviour.
  • Inside the bubble of understanding, you need to use domain specific language to communicate effectively.
  • Outside the bubble of understanding you need people to FEEL smart.
  • What goes into packaging an explanation:
    • Agreement: we can all agree that X.
    • Context: a foundation for the explanation and why it matters to you.
    • Story: Show a person who experienced a pain, made a change, and now doesn't.
    • Connections: Analogies and metaphors which connect the story to the new principles you are introducing.
    • Descriptions: Direct communications which focus on "how", not "why".
    • Conclusions: A summary of what was learned.
  • Calculate the length of your script by getting the number of words in a transcript, and the total length of the video. e.g. 4 minutes = 500-600 words for the book's author
  • Building confidence in the audience is the key to moving them forward with the ideas. Moving from "why" to "how".

Additional Recommended Reading

  • Paradox of Choice (Barry Schwartz, 2003)
  • Imagine: How Creativity Works (Jonah Lehrer)
  • Need to Create? Get a Constraint (Jonah Lehrer, article in Wired Magazine)