O'Reilly logo

The Art of Explanation: Making your Ideas, Products, and Services Easier to Understand by Lee LeFever

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Chapter 11

Constraints

UnFigure

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of creating an explanation, I think it is important to consider one of the most powerful tools we have to turn ideas into easy-to-understand explanations: constraints.

Living in a world of amazing abundance seems like it should make our lives easier, but does it always? We have multiple places to enjoy dinner, more apps than we can possibly download, and detergents of all sizes and colors to keep our clothes clean. But this abundance comes with a cost. So many choices can cause us to feel overwhelmed and lose confidence that we can make the right one. Crafting explanations can seem overwhelming in a similar way. We are faced with so many choices that we can easily feel frustrated. As we'll see in the following, constraints are what will help us feel confident and capable of making the right choices.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote about this phenomenon is his book Paradox of Choice, in which he cites multiple studies that show that too much choice often leads to unhappiness, and can even cause a person not to make a decision at all (Barry Schwartz, 2003). One particular study, called “When Choice is Demotivating,” showed that increasing the number of choices had a negative impact. From the book:

One study was set in a gourmet food store in an upscale community where, on weekends, the owners commonly set up sample tables ...

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required