I’ve been saying for years that successful explanation or transfer of knowledge is just as much about good teaching as willingness to learn. Luckily for me, Tim Bray has expressed it much more elegantly in his Two Laws of Explanation. I love that this places the onus on the person explaining, but also gives the listener a responsibility to make clear that they don’t understand and need further explanation.

I wish that this would permeate to the corporate world. In education it is often fair enough that lecturers and tutors go on about “students not wanting to learn”. Equally, I think that the best teachers can make people learn in spite of themselves. But in the corporate world, when someone has taken time out to attend a training course, or to have a meeting to have something explained to them, you can’t claim that they’re just “not trying”. What is much more likely is that you are not reaching them — your training is structured wrong, assumes things it shouldn’t, targets the wrong points. If trainers would take on board that if someone doesn’t understand, they aren’t explaining it well enough (and that those being taught knew that it was not a bad reflection on them that they didn’t understand), then I reckon we’d get so much done so much faster.

I really hope that this becomes a new catchphrase and receives the attention it deserves.