There’s a famous quote, attributed to Albert Einstein, that reads “if you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself”. Far be it for us to challenge Einstein, but in this instance the genius feels somewhat uncharitable.
People are generally really good at explaining their expertise to others who already have basic knowledge, but most people fail to explain the simplest truths first.
A mechanic and a driving instructor need different explanations of what an accelerator (gas pedal) is. But most importantly, and often forgotten, is that the people they speak to often also need a different explanation.
Ask a mechanic about how the pedal on the right works in your car and they are most likely to give you a really good explanation of what happens inside the engine when you press the pedal. But will they think to tell you that pressing the accelerator (gas) pedal makes the car go faster?
Ask a driving instructor the same question and they are most likely to tell you that pressing the pedal on the right makes the car go faster, they might even mention forwards or reverse. But will they tell you what happens inside the engine to make that happen?
Is the mechanic wrong in their explanation? What about the driving instructor? The mechanic needs to know what happens in the engine when the pedal is pressed, so that’s what they’ll explain. The driving instructor needs to know what happens to the vehicle when the pedal is pressed, so that’s what they will explain. Both are right in their explanations, according to their expertise.
Most people are neither mechanics, nor driving instructors – so most people probably would benefit from a simple explanation… “the pedal on the right is called an accelerator (or gas pedal), when you press it the engine turns quicker, if the vehicle is in gear it will accelerate.” That explanation starts by assuming no knowledge, but also allows for further expansion.
helleau® works with clients to help them create simple explanations.