Example 1: Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein worked with three different collaborators to be able to describe his theories in clear terms with everyday examples.
He understood that a theory only five geniuses could understand is far less valuable than one that can be understood by millions.
- Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
- Imagination is more important than knowledge.
- Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
- Imagine you’re driving a car in space at the speed of light – and you turn your headlights on.
Distilling memorable messages from complex ideas helped him become one of the best known people of the 20th Century.
Example 2: Australian Liberal Politicians
My favorite example is a message about a new tax delivered by two different politicians, five years apart:
Journalist: “If I buy a birthday cake with the GST, do I pay more or less for it?”
Leader of the Australian Liberal Party (1991): “Well it will depend whether cakes today in that shop are subject to sales tax or they’re not, firstly, and they may have a sales tax on them. Let’s assume that they don’t have a sales tax on them and that birthday cake is going to be sales tax free, then of course, you wouldn’t pay, it would be exempt, there would be no GST on it under our system. To give you an accurate answer I need to know exactly what type of cake to give a detailed answer.”
Result: The Liberal Party lost the election.
Now, let’s try it again…
Journalist: “If I buy a birthday cake with GST, do I pay more or less for it?”
New leader of the Liberal Party (1996): “It will go up by between 2 and 4 per cent but you’ll have more money in your pocket to buy it.”
Result: The Liberal Party won the election and all Australians now benefit from this wonderful tax. Not only does the second version answer the question, it includes a new, persuasive idea; the extra cost of the tax will be more than covered by other tax cuts.
The first version used 90 words and failed to provide a useful answer. The second version used 22 words and not only answered the question clearly, but defused any concern about it.
When it comes to communication, people want quality not quantity. Don’t deliver your information by the barrel; serve it by the glass.