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

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  551 Ratings  ·  66 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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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
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 :)

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
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 thi ...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!
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
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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
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
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.

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
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
Ko Matsuo
Aug 15, 2014 Ko Matsuo rated it really liked it
Interesting book that talks about the "curse of knowledge" which interferes with our ability to see how others interpret a problem, solution, or market. Author points to building context when we explain. Context should provide a basic framework for agreement. From there, story telling and connection making create the foundation for explanations, which are sometimes more helpful than direct answers. Author is a little long winded.
Dave Applegate
Feb 25, 2016 Dave Applegate rated it really liked it
This book re-framed my thinking about how I choose to communicate with employees, customers and other stakeholders. I tend to tackle technical and complicated probelms and LeFever did an excellent job explaining why I should explain these problems differently and how I should do it. Because of his book, my ideas connect more with people, people feel smarter after talking with me and are driven more to action.
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
Kevin Eikenberry
“Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do!” It’s one of the most famous lines from one of the most famous television shows in history (in case you don’t know, Ricky says it, and often, to Lucy on the classic, I Love Lucy.) The … - See more at:
Alexandr Belotserkovskiy
Aug 24, 2014 Alexandr Belotserkovskiy rated it really liked it
I second Greg with
"My particular complaint is that the author consistently, in word and deed, underestimates the danger of ignoring and annoying more knowledgeable audience "

If you have any experience of public speaking you will not be surprised by anything inside that book. Still it is not worthless reading, it has simple language and good clear ideas and thoughts.
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
Lance Eaton
Sep 28, 2015 Lance Eaton rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
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
Mar 20, 2015 Yougo rated it really liked it
This book really ought to be called the Art of "Common Craft" explanation. While the information is good, everything (and I mean everything) comes back to how we used this effectively in our company (Common Craft). If you can get past the giant commercial within the book, there are a number of really great principles that can be used to bolster your ability to explain just about anything to anyone else. It's a little frustrating due to the bias, but definitely a worthwhile read.
Antoinette Perez
This is a really well-intentioned book that gives great insight into how to explain better, but is fairly repetitive and relies on story too heavily at times to illustrate concepts. I bet half the book could have been edited out without compromising quality, and the streamlined core could have been more meaningful.
Jessica (j*&p*)
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 w ...more
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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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