How to Explain an Idea Quickly ⚡

Apr 22, 2022 5:37 pm

Happy Friday!

Hope you're doing well today. I wanted to write about a fairly specific communication technique I developed over the years.

I don't have a clever name for it, but it is effective at quickly explaining an idea and getting past a lot of objections.

The major idea here is that you very quickly communicate about an idea at three different levels of detail in a specific order. By taking this approach you can create a lot of shared context that allows people to better target questions and alternative ideas. Few things are more exhausting than meetings where the whole time is spent in context building when that wasn't the intent.

This technique helps with that.

The specific levels and their order go like this:

  1. The 10,000 foot view or "Why"
  2. The core concept, feature, chunk
  3. The detailed task, tactic, idea or tool

Most of us want to jump right to the last one and skip the first two. That tendency creates a lot of churn in conversation as all the context is invisible and individual. Everyone judges the task or idea on their own purpose and concept, so its hard to reach a consensus.

Level 1 here is anything that creates a common purpose. It could be a value statement, a strategic goal, or anything that is a really high level that pretty much everyone understands. In other words, this purpose statement tends to work with multiple audiences.

An example could be, "We need to make $5 million in additional revenue this year."

Level 2 is any significant step along the path to level 1. So if you're planning a product we might call this a feature, or epic. If you're discussing tool or technique adoption you might discuss a core principle behind it. Think of this as connecting a dot from a lofty level 1 to a "You are here" on a map.

An example here could be, "We are onboarding new advertising partners."

Level 1 is any granular detail. So this is where you might dive into an individual task or user story, a technique to use, or a tool to adopt. By the time we get to this level we know why it's important and where it fits, so groups can more quickly find reasonable alternatives and build upon it.

An example here might be, "We have to add a button to generate a PDF report from the last 24 hours."

Now as an experiment go back and read each of my italicized examples by themselves. Can you see a connection that makes that really granular thing suddenly have a home in your mind? Do you see how it might change the types of questions you'd want to ask?

This might seem like a lot of work, but this really takes less than 2 minutes and often less than one. You put all these statements together and blurt them out like this:

"Because we need to make an additional $5 million in revenue this year, we are focusing on onboarding new advertising partners. So, we need to figure out how to add a button that generates a PDF report for the last 24 hours."

I use this technique almost every day and teach product people to use this with everyone they work with. It works phenomenally well to quickly get people on the same page about what's going on, and secretly it helps newer product people focus more on business objectives and less on being a feature factory.

If you give this technique a shot let me know how it works. Also, if you have an idea for a clever name for it, I'd love to hear it!