Simple Ain’t stupid
You and I know that the best communicators make the complex clear, without dumbing it down.
We appreciate it when someone takes a complicated idea and explains it in direct, simple language.
But in business, we constantly see talented, well educated and highly paid people doing the exact opposite: they take relatively simple ideas and make them sound like a bad lecture in theoretical physics.
Here’s an example:
A few years ago, I was helping people at a manufacturing firm prepare for a big industry event.
They were launching a new product line, and one of them described the project like this:
We are introducing a platform transformation initiative to replicate the visual, kinesthetic and emotional engagement that our end-users experience with our SDA range in our MDA product categories to create a consistent and comprehensive brand experience.
Yeah. I know.
What they meant (and what I eventually got them to say) was this:
We’re taking the things people love about our mixers – the look, the feel, the big chunky dials – and putting them into our ovens, dishwashers and refrigerators.
Ironically enough, the best way to stay out of the complexity trap, is to follow the example of a nobel-prize winning theoretical physicist: Richard Feynman.
Curious about, well, everything, Feynman devised a technique to help him learn, remember and share information. It’s simple – but not easy.
You can use the Feynman Technique, illustrated in the short video above from Scott Young, to help you communicate with clarity and confidence:
- Choose your Subject: start with a blank piece of paper, and write the name of your subject at the top of the page.
- Teach Someone Else: explain the concept / situation / idea as if you’re teaching it to another person, assuming intelligence but no prior knowledge. Use language that would make it clear to a bright 6 year old, and you’re on the right track.
- If you get stuck, go back to your source material: review what you’re not sure of until you can express it clearly, simply and directly.
- Put it in Your Own Words: translate the ideas as simply as you can – without quoting the source material directly. Paraphrase clearly – if you’re getting too wordy or complicated, go back to step 3.
Have a look at Scott’s video above for a more thorough treatment of this idea.
Then put it to use next time you prepare a presentation to communicate with clarity, creativity and confidence.