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How to Explain Complex Ideas (Like Tech) to Those Who Don't Understand

Find Ways to Make It Matter to Them

When you're trying to explain a complicated topic to someone, it's best to show what's in it for them. For technology, you can usually play off of people's desire for security, privacy, or simplicity.

You want to find the hook that catches them and go from there. Keep fishing until you find what matters and the rest of the explanation is easy.

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How to Explain Complex Ideas (Like Tech) to Those Who Don't Understand

How to Explain Complex Ideas (Like Tech) to Those Who Don't Understand

https://lifehacker.com/how-to-explain-complex-ideas-like-tech-to-those-who-d-1512002346

lifehacker.com

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Key Ideas

Ask Them If They Want to Learn

Generally speaking, if they're interested, they'll learn better, focus more, and actually take something away from the conversation. 

Some people want you to do the work for them and can't be bothered with learning. Before you start, ask them if they want to learn.

Find Ways to Make It Matter to Them

When you're trying to explain a complicated topic to someone, it's best to show what's in it for them. For technology, you can usually play off of people's desire for security, privacy, or simplicity.

You want to find the hook that catches them and go from there. Keep fishing until you find what matters and the rest of the explanation is easy.

Use Details They Already Know

Find related information people already know and expand on that. For example, understanding what a blog is can be described as "it's a magazine, but online."  That's incredibly simplistic, but it gets the point across. 

Know What Details to Leave Out

When you understand a concept, it's easy to think of every detail as important, but when you're trying to explain that complicated concept to someone else, you should leave certain details out. 

Your main objective is to get a point across and help someone understand a difficult concept. Strange terminology, names, or specific processes rarely matter.

Let Them Learn by Doing

If you've ever tried to teach someone anything you know it's tough to just sit back while they fumble through it. However, if you want them to actually understand the concepts and learn, you have to let them do it themselves.

Resist the urge to take over. Sit back and let them figure it out on their own.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Data

It comprises the facts without necessarily showing clarity to a situation.

  • What do the numbers mean and why should you care? Go past the data to capture the i...
Logic

Carefully check that the logic of your case is clearly explained. Observation or even intuition can create an initial structure for explaining a complex problem such as an issue.

Pictures

Pictures, visuals and images offer your audience an invaluable way of remembering the relationships between different variables. The right visual offers an easy way to see, internalize and later recall even complicated information.

7 more ideas

What you say, and how you say it

When trying to explain complex information to an audience, the first task is to get the content of what you're saying right. 

How we communicate is also cr...

How much technical detail to include

Try not to use technical language. If you do, make sure it is absolutely necessary in order to help the audience understand or appreciate your point – and ensure that you explain the word or term immediately afterwards.

Keep your words as simple and clear as possible, and use real-life examples and illustrations where possible. But don’t patronize your audience.

How to use body language

If you look alert but relaxed, your audience will mirror this and feel the same way. Stand up straight, but relax any tension or stiffness in your body. 

It’s a good idea to gesture with your hands in such a way that helps to make clear what you are explaining – but only do this if it feels natural, and try not to wave your arms around unnecessarily.

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Get to Know Your Audience

Presenting information is never about the presenter--it's always about the audience.

Get to know who they are, in order to use their common knowledge and experience: What's most imp...

The "One Thing" To Remember

To have a better chance of making complex information memorable, ask yourself these 2 questions:

  • If my audience will only remember one thing about my explanation, what is that "one thing?"
  • And, why should my audience care about this "one thing?"
Give Context and Use Examples

The way you frame your information matters--the language, terms, and examples you choose to use will have a huge impact on what your audience remembers and understands.

Paint a verbal picture. You will make the problem tangible, and the solution appealing.

one more idea

The argument from incredulity

Is a logical fallacy where someone concludes that since they can’t believe that a certain concept is true, then it must be false and vice versa.

Its 2 basic forms:

I c...

Basic structure of an argument from incredulity

Premise 1: I can’t explain or imagine how proposition X can be true.

Premise 2: if a certain proposition is true, then I must be able to explain or imagine how that can be.

Conclusions: proposition X is false.

It’s ok to be incredulous

... and to bring this up as part of an argument. The issue with doing so occurs when this incredulity isn’t justified or supported by concrete information, and when this lack of belief is used in order to assume that a preferred personal explanation must be the right one, despite the lack of proof.

At the same time, it’s also important to remember that it’s possible that the person using the argument from incredulity is right, despite the fact that their reasoning is flawed.

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The Feynman Technique

Richard Feynman understood the difference between:

  • knowing something and
  • knowing the name of something

He created a formula for learning that ensured h...

4 Steps to the Feynman Technique.
  1. Teach it to a child. Write down what you know about the subject in plain language. This forces you to understand the concept at a deeper level and simplify relationships and connections between ideas.
  2. Review the gaps in your knowledge that you uncovered in step 1. Identifying the boundaries of your understanding limits possible mistakes and increase chances of success.
  3. Organize and Simplify your new set of hand-crafted notes. A good indication that your understanding in that area still needs some work is If the explanation isn’t simple or sounds confusing.
  4. (optional): Transmit.The ultimate test of your knowledge is your capacity to convey it to another.
The Feynman Technique

... is the perfect strategy for learning something new, deepening your understanding of a concept, enhancing your recall of certain ideas, or reviewing for tests.

The process t...

Richard Feynman

... the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, was recognized as someone who could clearly explain complex topics in a way that everybody—even those without degrees in the sciences—could understand

While studying at Princeton, Feynman began recording and connecting the information he knew with the things that he either didn't know or didn't understand.
This resulted in a complete notebook of topics and subjects that he had disassembled, translated, reassembled, and written down in simple terms.

The Benefits of the Feynman Technique
  • It helps you gain a complete understanding of what you're learning.
  • Use the Feynman Technique if you are struggling with tough subject matter.
  • It helps to improve your teaching skills.
  • It increases your capacity to use critical thinking skills.

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Mental Models: Out of Box Thinking

Mental models are the various thinking frameworks that are used to understand life, make decisions, and solve problems.

Just raw intelligence is not enough to solve problems. A different or a...

Mental Models: Examples

A mental model is an explanation of how something works. They are beliefs, worldviews or frameworks of thinking. You carry a certain kind of thinking in you to arrive at a solution to a problem.

Some examples:

  • Demand and Supply: to understand the economy
  • Game Theory: to understand trust and relationships
  • Entropy: to understand disorder and decay
Yuval Noah Harari
Yuval Noah Harari

“Scientists generally agree that no theory is 100 percent correct. Thus, the real test of knowledge is not truth, but utility.”

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Google once, then start sketching

When you need to understand something unfamiliar to you, do some searches to have a quick overview of what other people have said about the topic. 

But to avoid going down on...

Get inside the right people's heads

Knowledge often comes not only from asking the right questions but meeting with the right people. So don't just seek smart people. Seek the right smart people.

There are key insights experts can’t reveal. The most valuable insights often come from people who are closest to a product, policy, or service but outside your sphere.

Teach to know

If you can't explain it with simple words, you don't really understand it. So write out everything you know about a subject as if you were teaching it to someone else.

Go beyond the professional jargon and assess if you really understand that complicated terminology.

Stories create “sticky” memories

...by attaching emotions to things that happen. That means those who can create and share good stories have a powerful advantage over others.

Facts and figures and all the rational thi...

Start with a message
First, settle on your ultimate message; then you can figure out the best way to illustrate it.

Every storytelling exercise should begin by asking: Who is my audience and what is the message I want to share with them? 

Each decision about your story should flow from those questions. 

Use personal experiences
The best storytellers look to their own memories and life experiences for ways to illustrate their message. 

Think of a moment in which your own failures led to success in your career or a lesson that a parent or mentor imparted.

There may be a tendency not to want to share personal details at work, but anecdotes that illustrate struggle, failure, and barriers overcome are what make leaders appear authentic and accessible.

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The Science of Memory
  1. Encoding - the stage when the brain consciously acknowledges information based on our senses. When we attach meaning or factual knowledge to any of this sensory input, that'...
Lifestyle Changes That Can Improve Memory
  • Get a good night's sleep or take a power nap after learning something new, to help retain and retrieve memories better. Sleep deprivation and acquisition of too much information will not help you save those memories.
  • Get moving, to improve the flow of oxygen-rich blood in your brain and to trigger neuron growth and new connections in the brain - critical for memory.
  • Improve your diet. Fats from food can build up the brain, resulting to poor blood flow.
Mnemonics

Any system or device designed to aid memory:

  • patterns of letters or words (common mnemonics)
  • ideas (memory palace)
  • associations (chunking)

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