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The Art of Explanation - Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand

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Your guide to becoming an explanation specialist. You’ve done the hard work. Your product or service works beautifully - but something is missing. People just don’t see the big idea - and it’s keeping you from being successful. Your idea has an explanation problem. The Art of Explanation is for business people, educators and influencers who want to improve their explanation Your guide to becoming an explanation specialist. You’ve done the hard work. Your product or service works beautifully - but something is missing. People just don’t see the big idea - and it’s keeping you from being successful. Your idea has an explanation problem. The Art of Explanation is for business people, educators and influencers who want to improve their explanation skills and start solving explanation problems. Author Lee LeFever is the founder of Common Craft, a company known around the world for making complex ideas easy to understand through short animated videos. He is your guide to helping audiences fall in love with your ideas, products or services through better explanations in any medium. You will learn to: • Plan: Learn explanation basics, what causes them to fail and how to diagnose explanation problems. • Package: Using simple elements, create an explanation strategy that builds confidence and motivates your audience. • Present: Produce remarkable explanations with visuals and media. The Art of Explanation is your invitation to become an explanation specialist and see why explanation is now a fundamental skill for professionals.


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Your guide to becoming an explanation specialist. You’ve done the hard work. Your product or service works beautifully - but something is missing. People just don’t see the big idea - and it’s keeping you from being successful. Your idea has an explanation problem. The Art of Explanation is for business people, educators and influencers who want to improve their explanation Your guide to becoming an explanation specialist. You’ve done the hard work. Your product or service works beautifully - but something is missing. People just don’t see the big idea - and it’s keeping you from being successful. Your idea has an explanation problem. The Art of Explanation is for business people, educators and influencers who want to improve their explanation skills and start solving explanation problems. Author Lee LeFever is the founder of Common Craft, a company known around the world for making complex ideas easy to understand through short animated videos. He is your guide to helping audiences fall in love with your ideas, products or services through better explanations in any medium. You will learn to: • Plan: Learn explanation basics, what causes them to fail and how to diagnose explanation problems. • Package: Using simple elements, create an explanation strategy that builds confidence and motivates your audience. • Present: Produce remarkable explanations with visuals and media. The Art of Explanation is your invitation to become an explanation specialist and see why explanation is now a fundamental skill for professionals.

30 review for The Art of Explanation - Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    A must-read for communicators, or anyone who has to explain information, concepts or presents. My notes: Explanation: An explanation describes facts in a way that makes them understandable. The intent of an explanation is to increase understanding. What do great explainers have in common: empathy. Great explaners have the ability to picture themselves in another person's shoes and communicate from that perspective. Without a way to explain something effectively, we limit its ability to spread. P A must-read for communicators, or anyone who has to explain information, concepts or presents. My notes: Explanation: An explanation describes facts in a way that makes them understandable. The intent of an explanation is to increase understanding. What do great explainers have in common: empathy. Great explaners have the ability to picture themselves in another person's shoes and communicate from that perspective. Without a way to explain something effectively, we limit its ability to spread. Packaging ideas focus on a few elements: Agreement -- Big picture statements that most people will recognize. "We can all agree gas prices are rising." Context -- Gives the audience a foundation for the explanation and lets them know why it should matter to them. "More of your hard earned income is going to pay for transportation." Story -- Applies the big idea to a narrative that shows how the change can impact someone. "Meet Sally; she's tired of paying so much for gas and needs alternatives." Connections - Accompany stories and provides analogies/metaphors. "Sally could see that taking the bus was like multitasking because she could work and communicate at the same time." Descriptions - Direct communication focused on why? "Sally found that she could save more than $20 a week by taking the bus three times weekly." Conclusion - wraps up the package with a summary of what was learned. "The next time gas prices get you down, remember..." Content is king, but context is the kingdom. Think of your audience this way: There are ten people in a room. Two with little interest, six with interest, and two experts. Your challenge is to reach all of them. Facts give stories substance. Stories give facts meaning. Elements of a Common Craft script: Agreement. Context. Story. Connection. Description. Realization of solution. Call to action.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nurlan Imangaliyev

    A team of people who specialize in explaining things via short videos didn't have to stretch this book for so many (for such a book) pages. Had to skip through some parts. Enjoyed the last few chapters more than the rest of the book. A team of people who specialize in explaining things via short videos didn't have to stretch this book for so many (for such a book) pages. Had to skip through some parts. Enjoyed the last few chapters more than the rest of the book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Daniyar Kamal

    This book gave me some insights about explaining, and how should we explain. The most interesting and useful part maybe packaging your explanation and common errors that people make.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Juan

    Must-read for communicators but it will not show nothing new if you are already doing talks and presentations often.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    This wasn't a worthless read, and I may even reference a few things in the future. But this book was too general to be the guide that I was looking for. The author, as he himself analogizes, kind of left me standing by the side of the pool instead of helping me to jump in. My particular complaint is that the author consistently, in word and deed, underestimates the danger of ignoring and annoying more knowledgeable audience members on any topic. This book annoyed me, because I already thought eno This wasn't a worthless read, and I may even reference a few things in the future. But this book was too general to be the guide that I was looking for. The author, as he himself analogizes, kind of left me standing by the side of the pool instead of helping me to jump in. My particular complaint is that the author consistently, in word and deed, underestimates the danger of ignoring and annoying more knowledgeable audience members on any topic. This book annoyed me, because I already thought enough of explanation to specifically search for and buy a book on how to explain concepts. But the book itself spends most of its time trotting out the basics and explaining its own need for existence. I'm not saying it didn't have good points and thought-provoking pieces to it, but I spent money on a book about explaining and got a book that I probably could have written myself. Explaining is a big part of my job, to be sure, so I may know more than a lot of others who don't often have to explain complicated things, but that's exactly why I bought a book on explaining in the first place. The author believes that there's not much danger in writing an explanation to reach the whole range of understanding levels by sacrificing specificity and accuracy where it helps understanding. That can be a good point, but the author is likely to believe that because he owns a company that makes money by simplifying things so that newbies can understand them. In my work, I'm often asked to explain software limitations to angry doctors and hospital executives. I don't have three weeks to refine a simplified message for my audience, and the possible result of annoying the more advanced audience members is that nothing ever gets done because we never talk about the true nature of the issue. Which, yet again, is not to say that this book was worthless. There are good points that can be applied to my own situation. But as a professional who works with explanations daily, I found it to be more general than I expected and less specifically helpful. UPDATE: After thinking on it a little bit more, what I hoped to see in the book was more strategies for "how to make people understand something complex once." A lot of my own job is getting approval for things from non-experts. The non-experts have to be informed on what they're deciding on exactly once, and this has to happen often several times a day. So what I wanted was more conversational techniques, information about what kinds of phrases and strategies cause confusion, how to recover from making an unclear statement, etc. This book wasn't that specific.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ryan O'Connor

    One of the things that interested me about this book was the concept that explaining is a skill. Like any skill, your ability to help people understand the world around them can be improved. This book does several things well in its three main parts, planning, packaging, and presenting explanations. Coming from the data analysis / business intelligence field, it's easy to become enamored with an analysis, but until other people understand what you understand, you haven't finished your analysis. One of the things that interested me about this book was the concept that explaining is a skill. Like any skill, your ability to help people understand the world around them can be improved. This book does several things well in its three main parts, planning, packaging, and presenting explanations. Coming from the data analysis / business intelligence field, it's easy to become enamored with an analysis, but until other people understand what you understand, you haven't finished your analysis. Long story short, great book for improving your ability to increase understanding.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    I like the kind of book that takes a narrow topic, makes it somewhat unique, and just tells you how to do something. The Common Craft folks, purveyors of videos that explain things, define their niche and show exactly how it's done. It ain't rocket science, but their product has a well-thought out method behind it. In my book, good business books either change your way of thinking or make you want to act, and this one does both, in a relatively short volume. Well done. I like the kind of book that takes a narrow topic, makes it somewhat unique, and just tells you how to do something. The Common Craft folks, purveyors of videos that explain things, define their niche and show exactly how it's done. It ain't rocket science, but their product has a well-thought out method behind it. In my book, good business books either change your way of thinking or make you want to act, and this one does both, in a relatively short volume. Well done.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Abdulaziz Alzain

    This book is a must read! If you want to be the CEO (Chief Explanation Officer) at your organization this book will be your guide to become one. What I liked about this book is it teaches you how to become an explanation expert and tell your story in less than 4 minutes. Also it teaches you how to make it less complicated for the people who knows nothing about your product or service or don't know how to use it. Read it and thank me later! This book is a must read! If you want to be the CEO (Chief Explanation Officer) at your organization this book will be your guide to become one. What I liked about this book is it teaches you how to become an explanation expert and tell your story in less than 4 minutes. Also it teaches you how to make it less complicated for the people who knows nothing about your product or service or don't know how to use it. Read it and thank me later!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Justin Price

    As the author points out, we tend to take explanations for granted, but once you read a few chapters, you look at things a little differently (especially PowerPoint slides). Even if you don't learn any new techniques or ideas by reading this, it still makes you more mindful of how you explain. As the author points out, we tend to take explanations for granted, but once you read a few chapters, you look at things a little differently (especially PowerPoint slides). Even if you don't learn any new techniques or ideas by reading this, it still makes you more mindful of how you explain.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Manel Pique

    It helped me to understand why my explanations tended to fail and how to improve them in order to become a better professional. It's also good to know that everything in the book is very well explained :) It helped me to understand why my explanations tended to fail and how to improve them in order to become a better professional. It's also good to know that everything in the book is very well explained :)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alaeddin Hallak

    If you have an idea, product or service you want to entice people with or simply explain it in an effective way, this is the book for you. Great book with no none-sense approach to crafting highly effective explanations that help people just get it!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    It is simple to understand and gives me a different perspective of the importance of Explanation.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Siran

    This book gave me so much confidence in my abilities to explain something to people. It works in all areas of life! Thanks to the author.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Igor Malyarov

    Huge waste of time. This “book” should be ten times shorter. Or better 20 times. It could be a nice piece in a blog if somebody with language skills rewrite it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Zumrud_Huseynova

    We need to see the forest before the trees. The challenge is to take ideas that are in plain sight and transform them into something more useful. I recently read an interview with author David McCullough that frames this idea in terms of “seeing” what is in front of everyone. The interviewer asks about a motto that McCullough has hanging framed over his desk. His answer (The Paris Review, 2012): It says, “Look at your fish.” It's the test that nineteenth-century Harvard naturalist Louis Agassiz ga We need to see the forest before the trees. The challenge is to take ideas that are in plain sight and transform them into something more useful. I recently read an interview with author David McCullough that frames this idea in terms of “seeing” what is in front of everyone. The interviewer asks about a motto that McCullough has hanging framed over his desk. His answer (The Paris Review, 2012): It says, “Look at your fish.” It's the test that nineteenth-century Harvard naturalist Louis Agassiz gave every new student. He would take an odorous old fish out of a jar, set it in a tin pan in front of the student and say, Look at your fish. Then Agassiz would leave. When he came back, he would ask the student what he'd seen. Not very much, they would most often say, and Agassiz would say it again: Look at your fish. This could go on for days. The student would be encouraged to draw the fish but could use no tools for the examination, just hands and eyes. Samuel Scudder, who later became a famous entomologist and expert on grasshoppers, left us the best account of the “ordeal with the fish.” After several days, he still could not see whatever it was Agassiz wanted him to see. But, he said, I see how little I saw before. Then Scudder had a brainstorm and he announced it to Agassiz the next morning: paired organs, the same on both sides. Of course! Of course! Agassiz said, very pleased. So Scudder naturally asked what he should do next, and Agassiz said, Look at your fish. Insight comes, more often than not, from looking at what's been on the table all along, in front of everybody, rather than from discovering something new. Seeing is as much the job of an historian as it is of a poet or a painter, it seems to me. That's Dickens's great admonition to all writers, “Make me see.” Packaging ideas is a simple process that requires the person presenting ideas to account for the audience's needs. And because every audience and idea is different, there are innumerable ways to package ideas. However, they all focus on a few important elements: Agreement—Agreement builds confidence from the very first sentence. It is accomplished through big-picture statements that most people will recognize. These are ideas about which you can say something like, “We can all agree that gas prices are rising.” Context—Context moves the points we have agreed upon into a specific place. It gives the audience a foundation for the explanation and lets them know why it should matter to them. For instance, you could say, “More of your hard earned income is going to pay for transportation.” Story—Story applies the big ideas to a narrative that shows a person who experiences a change in perspective and the emotions that accompany that change. “Meet Sally; she's tired of paying so much for gas and needs alternatives. Here's what she found.” Connections—Connections often accompany a story and are analogies and metaphors that connect new ideas to something people already understand. “Sally could see that taking the bus was like multitasking because she could work and commute at the same time.” Descriptions—Descriptions are direct communications that are more focused on how versus why. “Sally found that she could save more than $20 a week by taking the bus three times weekly.” Conclusion—Conclusion wraps up the package with a summary of what was learned and provides a next step with a focus on the audience. “The next time gas prices get you down, remember…” ...content is king, but context is the kingdom. That, of course, is the goal—to create an explanation people remember because it made them feel something. Complicated concepts made simple via connections. ...he had to eliminate the noise until only the simplest idea remained and could be heard. Constraints bring focus and attention to things that may have been overlooked otherwise. Keep these points in mind when thinking about how you'll present explanations. Here they are together: •State your intentions •Solve a problem •Keep it short •Reduce noise •Use visuals •Embrace imperfection •Slow down •Be timeless •Be accessible •Have fun!

  16. 4 out of 5

    G utf

    Lessons learnt and potential spoilers: -you can’t really understand the trees until you’ve seen the forest. You have to have a context to place the idea in or you won’t be able to remember it. That’s one of the reasons why explanations are not facts. Facts exist without context. To be good at explaining, you have to provide some context -If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. Once people understood why, they will want to understand how. Bring people from why to how. -A Lessons learnt and potential spoilers: -you can’t really understand the trees until you’ve seen the forest. You have to have a context to place the idea in or you won’t be able to remember it. That’s one of the reasons why explanations are not facts. Facts exist without context. To be good at explaining, you have to provide some context -If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. Once people understood why, they will want to understand how. Bring people from why to how. -Always start with a person the listener can relate to and use specific emotional experiences e.g. how one of the characters tried to explain his role as a virtualisation to a layman

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sam Motes

    Basic message of ‘The Art of Explanation’ is to do your homework to know your audience and all of your audience, know the key message(s) you need to convey, build the What In It For Me (WIFM) for your audience, and build stories when appropriate to drive home the message rather than just list facts. Nothing earth shattering here if you have read other how to books on giving presentations but some good examples to drive home the point.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Svart

    As for me this book was good. I think that you should read this book if you want to know more about communication and how to explain some information for some people. But you should know two points of this book. First is that half of book is CommonCraft's practice how to explain some thing in short videos, as for me it's plus but some people like more abstract examples. The second point is that this book is pretty big according to it's essences. As for me this book was good. I think that you should read this book if you want to know more about communication and how to explain some information for some people. But you should know two points of this book. First is that half of book is CommonCraft's practice how to explain some thing in short videos, as for me it's plus but some people like more abstract examples. The second point is that this book is pretty big according to it's essences.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    it's an interesting read - it has outline the method the author used in his company and the book is written based on the method described in the book. I think the book can help someone to make better explanation in a work setting. However, using the method again and again to explain the concept of the book makes it repetitive, especially for readers who want quick action steps it's an interesting read - it has outline the method the author used in his company and the book is written based on the method described in the book. I think the book can help someone to make better explanation in a work setting. However, using the method again and again to explain the concept of the book makes it repetitive, especially for readers who want quick action steps

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Although the book is somewhat helpful in certain areas, overall it feels like a big advertisement for their company. I don't blame them, but it was not what I was looking for. I wish it would have focused more on general Explanation tactics than how they spend their time making videos. Although the book is somewhat helpful in certain areas, overall it feels like a big advertisement for their company. I don't blame them, but it was not what I was looking for. I wish it would have focused more on general Explanation tactics than how they spend their time making videos.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    Changed how I present. Always drawing. People love to learn via pictures.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ravi Sridharan

    This book should not have been more than 30 pages.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tosin Toshine

    Great book if you are looking to improve the way you explain ideas. It takes a concept like Explanation and builds a framework around it for easy use.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Heath Lympaney

    Useful as a reference, but not as impactful as I hoped it would be. I was looking for more than I found. I think if I was new to this space, and if you are, then it would be helpful.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amy Lopez

    It was pretty good, but I think it could have been much shorter.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Yernar

    Just wow! A must read book for everyone!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Enrique

    Nice book, maybe not a solid research and with good examples but nothing superb.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Artem Fedorov

    Pretty basic things are explained in too much detail and volume. This book could be much shorter.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ibrahim Niftiyev

    Still, I learned a lot of things. Even if it was my second reading.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Oleg Novitskiy

    Amazing book!

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