The goal of explanation is to help others understand a new idea. It seems so simple, but looking closely, you’ll see high-impact explanations often require analysis and skill. The Explanation Scale is one simple tool to help target your explanations for the right audiences.

Think about it like this...

Imagine you’re the leader of a team who’s working on a new, innovative product that’s difficult to understand. Your success depends on finding ways to make it easy to understand for multiple audiences. That means accounting for other teams, marketing, the executives and of course, customers. That’s a huge communication challenge.

Why? One reason is because understanding is invisible. We don’t usually have easy ways to analyze what people already understand, or not. We might not consider that marketing and tech support have different needs or capabilities.

The Explanation Scale provides a basis for understanding audience needs and what kinds of explanations will work to serve those needs. It’s a simple scale from A-to-Z:

The big idea is to use the scale to estimate the current level of understanding for a specific subject and audience. For example, the engineers on your team are likely to be at “W” on the scale, while the executives may be at “K”.

Using the scale in this way highlights the differences between audiences and provides a basis for making communication decisions. It creates a new vocabulary for discussions and brainstorming. You might ask your team to consider things like:

  • Where are our customers on the scale? What can we assume they would understand?
  • Let’s look at the marketing drafts. Where on the scale is this language aimed?
  • We think the CEO is at P on the scale. What does that mean for the upcoming meeting?
  • That last presentation was at “T” on the scale and most of them were lost. What would that information look like at “J” instead?

The Invisible Becomes Visible

At heart, the explanation scale makes the invisible world of communication and understanding visible. It provides a basis for assumptions and strategies and creates a way for teams to talk about the best ways to communicate with different audiences.

Are you ready to learn the secrets of explanation excellence? Check out the Explanation Master Course.