How can someone understand complex things quickly

The art of simply explaining complex issues

The following scenes will look familiar to you

As a solution architect, you sit in a meeting with the customer and try again and again to explain why a service-oriented software architecture is more maintenance-friendly and easier to scale than a monolite architecture.

As a customer, on the other hand, you may have had several sessions with your software supplier behind you. For example, you tried to explain which key figures and factors must be included in the calculation in which ratio so that the user gets a correct result from a simulated pre-calculation of a financial market diagnosis. And now you hope that your supplier got it right.

Our two scenarios have the following in common

Complex topics must be explained to another group of people who are not specialists in a simple and understandable way. However, this must be done in such a way that the other person understands it not only at this moment, but also in a few weeks and months. That is the highest art of communication.

We all think in pictures and templates. This is natural and helps us to cope with the complex world overloaded with information and stimuli and to orientate ourselves quickly. Such images can be called up quickly from our short-term memory, since they do not have the same level of detail as the information that is stored in long-term memory.

A small digression: If you would like to find out more about fast vs. slow thinking, or short-term and long-term memory, please feel free to contact me. But now I would like to continue talking about images in our heads.

In order to make complex topics tangible and understandable for everyone, you should use precisely this brain mechanism and create images in the mind of the person you are talking to. With a rough picture of the facts in their head, every person is able to take in further information and to memorize it. This principle is nothing more than the use of a natural mechanism in our brain.

New information can be absorbed more quickly and retained in the long term if the new information can be linked to existing information. Therefore, it is important that you first create a rough picture in the mind and then connect further information with it afterwards.

And when I say picture, I actually mean it

I was recently with a colleague at a customer's to teach the process flow of a software we have written. In order to illustrate this to the customer, we divided the workshop into two parts. First we explained the process sequence in such a way that everyone in the room had a precise idea of ​​the process. Not just with words, but with a picture in your head. Only in the second part of the workshop did we go into the process modules in detail and explain the subtleties. In this way, the participants in the workshop were able to create the necessary connection in their heads when they went into the depths of the architecture and implementation concept.

So next time you want to explain and show something to a colleague, customer or supplier, try to work with pictures. It is not defined what these should look like. For example, it can also be direct drawings. In any case, however, a virtual image should be created in connection with a concrete example in the mind of the person you are talking to.

It is of no use if you just draw a few graphical building blocks with arrows connected to show a connection. This is not a picture, it only shows building blocks connected with arrows - nothing more! The actual picture has only emerged for the person you are talking to when he sees the complex issue visually in his mind's eye and can explain it in his own words. So you always have to work with a specific customer or business-specific example so that your customer can express himself in his business context and his corporate language.

Here are a few more tips

If you find it difficult to put complex facts into words, then you too should work with images. And when you need to explain something, just describe the picture you have in mind. You will see that conveying information is much faster, easier and more understandable. Just try it out. Practice creates masters.

Do you have any questions on this topic or do you have further ideas and suggestions? Then you can contact me at [email protected]

You can find my last blog post here.