A key to understanding how well you know a subject is how easily you’re able to explain it to others. As I shared last year in “Explain it to me like I’m five“, being able to distill a complex subject down is a great skill to develop.
In the case of that post from last year, Oscar was very quickly able to come up with an analogy to share with Michael to help explain the situation, and for me, that’s a big designation of whether I really understand something. With most aspects of what I do, analogies can go a long way toward simplifying an explanation of something that’s really more complicated.
For example, understanding the difference between a website “domain name” and website “hosting” can be tricky if it’s not something you deal with regularly. A quick analogy might be to explain the domain name like your mailing address (so people can find you) and your hosting like your land (where all of your stuff is).
Another one is the example I shared last year that used an analogy to attempt to explain the difference between the data you get from Google Analytics versus the data you get from Google Search Console.
If done well, analogies can be amazing.
Taking it further, you should be able to explain the process for doing what you do. If you have to resort to “it’s just too complicated to write down the steps”, that’s not a good sign. As engineer W. Edwards Deming once said:
“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Dam Roam had a similar thought with:
“Whoever best describes the problem is the one most likely to solve it.”
Writing out the process of your work can be beneficial in a few ways:
- It helps you to better understand what you’re actually doing. Taking the time to write out a process is often very beneficial for the one doing it.
- Long-term, it makes it easier for others to help with your work. At the time of this writing, our project manager at GreenMellen is out on maternity leave, but the processes that we have in place for her work allow us to continue on relatively seamlessly (though we’re very excited to have her back soon!).
Having a solid understanding of what you do, including analogies and processes, will help make your work easier for others to understand, and the output of it more valuable for others to consume.