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

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  606 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
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
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 23rd 2012 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (first published October 3rd 2012)
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Community Reviews

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Mar 08, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it
I really love this book. I find the illustrations helpful, especially the visual aid of the A-Z scale of understanding and the objective of helping others progress along that scale.
Jul 29, 2013 Greg rated it it was ok
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
Ryan O'Connor
Jun 12, 2013 Ryan O'Connor rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Mar 07, 2013 Jay rated it really liked it
Shelves: media, business
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.
Abdulaziz Alzain
Jul 28, 2013 Abdulaziz Alzain rated it really liked it
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!
Justin Price
Aug 30, 2013 Justin Price rated it really liked it
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.
Manel Pique
May 11, 2015 Manel Pique rated it really liked it
Shelves: it-books
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 :)

Alaeddin Hallak
Dec 24, 2015 Alaeddin Hallak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: communication
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!
Aug 04, 2014 Siran added it
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.
Dec 18, 2012 Stephen rated it really liked it
It is simple to understand and gives me a different perspective of the importance of Explanation.
Tigran Mamikonian
Это одна из классических книг в области визуальных заметок, скетчинга и фасилитации (вот моя полка книг на эти темы В мой список попала книга вслед за изучением книги Визуальные Заметки и Объяснение на салфетке Рома Роэма. Авторы этой книги не менее знамениты - Ли Лефевер и его жена Сати, которые одновременно являются основателями компании Common Craft - это пионер в области видео-объяснений.

Суть книги заключается в том, что авторы проводят читателя по
Dmitry Loktev
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Weibo  Xiong
Nov 07, 2016 Weibo Xiong rated it really liked it
The "A to Z" explanation scale is useful, so is the approach of "agreement - context - story - connections - description". Powerful tools making explanations to people.
Ilnur Miftakhov
Nov 02, 2016 Ilnur Miftakhov rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Шикарно. Однозначно – читать и применять всем. Должна стать настольной книгой.
Marzhana K
Oct 12, 2016 Marzhana K rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book, maybe there were some facts, which are general, however, for me it opened my eyes to old things that I've forgot.

I didn't read the whole book, but I think it is enough for me for right now. Maybe will come back soon and read the whole book.

Here are some my personal notes from this book for myself:
• To use plain language when explaining without any professional terms, etc.,
• Imagine that the person you are telling to is a child
• And by asking what is smt, he means why and f
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
The Art of Explanation: Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand by Lee LeFever was chosen by Soundview Executive Book Summaries as one of the Top 30 Business Books of 2013.


It doesn’t matter how wonderful a product you’ve created, if you can’t simply explain it to someone, there is little chance it will ever be purchased. Into this dilemma steps author and “Chief Explainer” Lee LeFever with his book The Art of Explanation: Making Your Ideas, Products an
John Osman
Jun 27, 2013 John Osman rated it liked it
LeFever's company, CommonCraft, started with the task of explaining technical developments or products to non-technical people. If anyone has ever had an engineer or IT person try to explain something to them you know how frustrating it is to be on the receiving end of their communication! LeFever uses "crafty" imagery and short videos to explain the essence of many new digital products (Twitter, FaceBook, etc...)

I found this book helpful to explain explaining to Christian religious educators, w
Jun 07, 2013 Jeff rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-book-list
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.

Siyoung Oh
Sep 07, 2014 Siyoung Oh rated it it was amazing
"Explanation" sounds so natural for most people. You explain how to go to a bus station to a lost stranger. You explain why your boss just made a mistake. You explain why local coffee places are better than starbucks. You explain so many times on a single day that it just feels natural. If you thought this way, you are not alone. That was exactly how I considered what explanation is.

If you go a little deeper, you can see that explanation is a process to transform vague images of your brain to yo
Feb 01, 2015 loafingcactus rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015
Explanation is NOT facts, it is giving context and meaning for facts. This is so important, and yet it is easy to miss and it is something that I think most people are never told. This is a book that should be read in every college-prep high school or in first year composition in college (a mainly useless class in it's present form which could be turned into something truly useful).

The book is short, useful and direct about the ONE point it is trying to make, which is what explanation is and how
Definition: "An explanation describes facts in a way that makes them understandable. The intent of an explanation is to increase understanding. If I explain coffee roasting, I am clarifying the facts and making the ideas more understandable. For example, an explanation may highlight the role of heat in giving coffee a distinctive color and flavor when roasted." (P.10) [highlight ~ curate]

Not a description, definition, instruction, elaboration, report, or illustration per se. "Explanations make f
Jul 18, 2014 Scott rated it really liked it
The reference and instruction staff at my library is reading this as a team right now, or I might not have ever heard of this book. It isn't necessarily the sort of book that immediately grabs me (I do enough nonfiction reading for my master's coursework right now). In spite of that, I enjoyed it. It was a quick read, and I found it to be a helpful one since my job involves a great deal of explaining the way things work in our library to others. A lot of the points the author makes feel like ...more
Aaron Bolin
Apr 17, 2013 Aaron Bolin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: presentation
The Art of Explanation is a very approachable "how to" guide for creating explanations. I thought it was wonderfully clear and well-organized. LeFever has a knack for simplifying concepts without dumbing them down too much.

In terms of criticism, parts of the book come off as a transparent commercial for the Common Craft video production company. In all fairness though, I watched several Common Craft videos recommended in the text -- the videos provided excellent real-life application examples of
Kare Anderson
Oct 16, 2012 Kare Anderson rated it it was amazing
In our increasingly complex yet connected world, many people are talking about the importance of individuals and organizations going social, getting closer with key stakeholders, co-creating with customers and other kinds of collaboration. We hear more talk of transparency and trust. Yet none of this can lead to success, even with the smartest talent and apt analytics, if people don’t understand what you are offering. First, you need to know exactly how to describe your product, service or idea ...more
Lance Eaton
Sep 27, 2016 Lance Eaton rated it really liked it
Many are familiar with LeFever even if they may not think they are. He is the leader of CommonCraft which produces those great videos about technology "in plain English." This book provides a breakdown of exactly how they manage to create such accessible and easy-to-understand explanations of complicated and interesting topics. It's highly useful in that he provides a good set of tools to help the reader reconsider how one would properly explain things. He shows that we often think we are great ...more
Larry Friedman
Oct 10, 2013 Larry Friedman rated it it was ok
I bought this book hoping to help me be better at business training presentations. I do a lot of talks on complicated matters of legal compliance. I want to switch from being able to lay out lots of detail for professionals to giving the big picture to executives in a way that is clear, engaging, and inspires action. I think the core of that is in this book. But, I think it will be very hard to apply the principles explained in this book to complex topics for smart people. With all due respect, ...more
Jay Ehret
Apr 04, 2014 Jay Ehret rated it really liked it
Shelves: marketing
This is a simple book designed to introduce you to the Art of Explanation with a simple framework. It is devoid of intricacies on purpose. If you are looking for a deep dive into the forrest this book is not for you. I found it immensely helpful in providing a framework for explanation and helping me provide explanations to potential clients not cursed with my knowledge.

The book is a little long, however, and could have been about 1/3 shorter. It's as if the publisher told Lee the book was too
Apr 13, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it
There was a lot to like about this book. Yet another affirmation that we think and learn new information in story. Nearly every human being could stand to learn something about communicating their ideas more clearly and effectively. The early chapters were especially interesting to me and I was able to implement the ideas in some of my work and presentations right away.

Some of the later chapters though felt a little tedious to me. And although overall the book had a lot of great take away, I st
Steve Goodyear
Nov 12, 2013 Steve Goodyear rated it it was ok
This has some pretty good ideas on explanations, but it kept losing me in some of the storytelling, which the book claims as a great way to explain. The problem for me was the characters seemed too made up, so things like "Meet Bob..." didn't give me much to care about Bob and gave the impression that the whole story was fake and made up, and thus not really engaging nor interesting, leaving me wishing the story got more to the point rather than drawing out the explanation in some made up tale ...more
Oct 09, 2013 Mulhollandj rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this one. I enjoyed the way things were laid out by concept and the use of stories to explain them. I particularly enjoyed the explanation of the knowledge curse. I work in a technical field and sometimes when I explain a problem or a solution I start much further down the understanding continuum than my audience is.

I also enjoyed the discussion of using stories to explain ideas and the explanation of the benefits of different mediums.

I hope to be able to apply these concepts t
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“Make me see”—perhaps the best thing we can hope to accomplish from an explanation.” 0 likes
“The act of explaining helps us understand an idea more completely,” 0 likes
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