Hit the Mark: Make Complex Ideas Understandable

6 ways to communicate challenging concepts to an audience.

James Everingham

When you think of transparency, you usually default to the communication aspect: telling everyone what’s happening or admitting when you’ve made a mistake. But when folks say that things aren’t transparent, what they’re probably getting at is that decision-making isn’t transparent. It’s the feeling that decisions sometimes roll on down from the lofty perch of the leadership team, seemingly out of nowhere. Instead, pull back … [ Read more ]

Terra Carmichael

I’m a big believer in teaching leaders to fish. That’s why we’ve rolled out a weekly(ish) email for leaders … that summarizes all the things they need to be thinking about in terms of managing and messaging to their team. We break it down into a few sections: things to know, things to do, things to share. It sounds simple, but let’s be real, leaders … [ Read more ]

The 4-Letter Word That Makes My Blood Boil

“JUST” is one of the worst four-letter words I know. Whenever I catch myself using it, I stop and apologize. And when I hear it, I hold up my hand and stop the person speaking. If you use the words “just” or “simply,” you might have forgotten how hard the technical details can be.

Matt Abrahams

When it comes to communicating, we tend to fall victim to two tendencies: We suffer from the “curse of knowledge,” and we explain things in ways that work best for us, not our audience.

What the Pros Know About Public Speaking

Can anxiety be good for you? How do I start and end my talk? Graduate School of Business Lecturer Matt Abrahams shares what he knows about crafting meaningful presentations that make lasting impressions.

Tyler Odean

Cognitive biases create our reality. The best we can do is accommodate and lean into them — we can’t escape them.

Tyler Odean

To make whatever you’re offering appeal to a human being, be aware that any information you put out there will be consumed through a comparative lens. If you don’t explicitly tell your audience which comparisons to make, they’ll make them on their own. And these automatic comparisons probably won’t be as flattering as the ones you’d choose for them.

Tyler Odean

It’s infinitely more difficult to persuade someone that they’re wrong than to persuade them that there’s new information that should change their minds. Any time you’re trying to convince someone to change their thinking, always frame it as an opportunity to be right going forward — not an admission of past error.

Tyler Odean

People will remember a totally random sample of the information you give them. It won’t be the best sample. It won’t be the summary you wish you could hand them. It’s a random set of data. Because they’ll remember random parts, you want to construct a message that — when sampled at any point — reinforces your argument and remains persuasive. Keep it to the … [ Read more ]

How This Head of Engineering Boosted Transparency at Instagram

Not long after James Everingham joined Instagram as the head of engineering, results came back from the employee satisfaction survey that’s conducted every six months. The marks were pretty good, but one problem spot caught Everingham’s eye: the low transparency score.

Transparency is a persistent, thorny problem because we’re not all on the same page about what it even means. To Everingham, transparency was about building … [ Read more ]

Jay Desai

There are at least two types of people when it comes to communication response time: real-time vs. gradual processors. If a real-time processor is negotiating with a gradual processor, it can be frustrating unless expectations are set up front.

Phillip Barlag

“I don’t know” is not an end, but a beginning. It is not a failure, but an opportunity. “I don’t know” is a launch pad for deeper investigation.

Elon Musk

As companies grow, one of the biggest challenges is how to maintain cohesion. At the beginning, as companies get bigger, they get more effective through specialization of labor. But when they reach around 1,000 employees and above, you start to see reductions in productivity per person as communication breaks down. If you have a junior person in one department who needs to speak to another … [ Read more ]

Stephanie Scotti

Here’s a little-known tip about asking someone a question. Always say their name first before asking the question. As in, “Lisa, could you describe your process as it is now?” This tactic avoids catching someone off-guard if the person wasn’t paying attention and didn’t hear the question. Everyone snaps to attention when they hear their name.

Gary Klein

What concerns me is the tendency to marginalize people who disagree with you at meetings. There’s too much intolerance for challenge. As a leader, you can say the right things — for instance, everybody should share their opinions. But people are too smart to do that, because it’s risky. So when people raise an idea that doesn’t make sense to you as a leader, rather than ask … [ Read more ]

Ed Catmull

You don’t want to be at a company where there is more candor in the hallways than in the rooms where fundamental ideas or policy are being hashed out. Seek out people who are willing to level with you, and […] hold them close.

Thomas J. Saporito

Leaders must hone their ability to sort through the various motivations. Most chief executives learn to ask themselves these three questions:
1. Who’s telling me what they think I want to hear?
2. Who’s not telling me what I need to hear because they are being deferential?
3. Who’s telling me what they want me to hear because it serves their own agenda?

David Marquet

The shift from “we” to “they” is typically the boundary between where we cooperate (we cooperate with we) and where we compete (we compete with they.)

David Marquet

Humans are incredibly good at making quick interpretations of visual scenes. We then decide what to do. This provides an evolutionary advantage. It works extremely well at an individual level and has kept the species alive.

When we interact as a group, however, this skill limits our effectiveness. We argue about what to do without being curious about the different interpretations we may have of … [ Read more ]