Think for just a minute about the specialists who make a difference in your company or organization. Let's say you're a product manager.
- An IT specialist may keep your computers and networks up-to-date and working smoothly.
- A marketing specialist may help you see opportunities to reach new customers or help to identify features customer want.
- A programming specialist may help you discover ways software can make the product more powerful.
Together, these specialists and others become a team that helps you and your organization be successful. But that success also depends on another factor that impacts every part of the process: communication. The best IT, marketing and programming specialists must communicate effectively to have an impact - and that’s why we need a new kind of specialist.
I think it’s time to recognize that explanation is a fundamental skill for professionals, something that everyone can learn and improve. Imagine a team of IT pros who learn to explain computer problems and solutions in a more understandable way. Imagine a finance pro who can make complex financial forecasts easy to grasp for junior employees.
To make this happen, we need a new kind of specialist, someone who can work across teams and specialties with one focus: helping people rethink how they explain ideas. By focusing on explanation as a skill, this person can illustrate how explanations can make people care about ideas and motivate them to take the next step.
I’m talking about the role of Explanation Specialist - and I think it could be your future job. This is a specialty that has the potential to impact every part of the organization. From finance to HR to the executive suite, everyone can benefit from being more understandable.
It starts with an interest in communication and a realization that better explanations are possible. From there it’s a matter of understanding the basics of explanation - why they work, why they fail, and how to solve explanation problems. These skills can be applied across teams, products and situations.
An Explanation Specialist may act as a kind of reviewer or consultant; someone who can make recommendations about how to approach a complex idea in terms of explanation. This person may be a part of the Marketing team. Like a designer shapes color, typeface and visuals, the explainer works to shape communications into a more understandable form. An explanation specialist may work with executives on speeches and presentations. The potential is endless.
Of course, these things may be happening today. You may already be an explanation specialist or know one. Some people have become excellent explainers through experience and practice. It’s a skill we all use everyday, and most importantly, one that we can improve. We can learn to be better at explanation and if we do, the impact could be tremendous.
We need specialists who are ready to help the world become a more understandable place to live and work. Perhaps that will be you.
Lee LeFever is the founder of Common Craft and author of The Art of Explanation - Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand. Available for pre-order now and arriving in bookstores and eReaders in mid-October.