How to explain a concept clearly and concisely

This article is part of a series focused on how to introduce, explain, and condense complex thinking into a single-page view so that other people can easily understand you.

The Concept Canvas

Welcome to the second instalment in our Canvas range — The Concept Canvas.

Much like the previous Brief Canvas, its purpose is to split up your deep thinking into a set of clear buckets so that you can explain your new concepts and ideas efficiently and with maximum effect. This is important because our brains interpret everything differently, which then leads to misinterpretation, especially with new thinking that is not anchored to things we already understand.

We adopted the popular Business Model Canvas and adapted it for our own needs. We found that our clients really liked the format, so we wanted to share it with you.

The Two Reasons Why We Created The Concept Canvas

1. The need for a tool that can not only harvest lots of ideas, but act as a consistent way of comparing them.

2. A framework to help creative thinkers tighten up their idea by asking some tough questions that provoke reflection.

(Download the Concept Canvas as a Keynote — see link at the bottom of this page)

STAGE 1 — COMPLEX CONCEPTS

The Idea

Explaining a complex thing in a small number of words demonstrates your knowledge, just like a good elevator pitch. That’s why we restrict this part of the Canvas to only 140 characters. I know a tweet is now 280, but we’re old school here ;)

The problem (in a tweet): Communicate to the person reading your idea that your interpretation of the problem or opportunity is sound.

The insight (in a tweet): This is the universal truth that elegantly connects your idea to the issue at hand. A unique insight into an issue is key to an original concept solution.

The solution (in a tweet): If you have quality insight as a springboard, this bit will come naturally. And keep the language simple — granny should be able to understand too!

Three Stages To Success

The Concept Canvas breaks your creative thinking down into three individual stages to help you explain your abstract concepts;

1. An explanation of your idea — how they work, the resources required, etc.

2. A viability and honesty sense check in the form of a gateway question (e.g. Would I be genuinely interested in it if it wasn’t my idea?)

3. A justification of your logic behind your complex concept, and a demonstration of what the ROI would look like.

Here are our tips for the type of details you should include in the Canvas about your complicated concepts:

Explain Stuff

Working through all the channels a concept might exist in upfront can be a helpful learning experience. By doing so, you can generate a deeper understanding of how the process works and do some research, so you (or a production person) understand the resources that will be needed to execute it. “Build it and they will come” is a familiar phrase, but it rarely happens, so distribution needs to be included in the creative concept from the off.

When explaining the experience, remember that this is a high-level user journey. Try to keep it to only the main steps, otherwise it will get a lot more complicated later on when you add details. A step by step explanation isn’t really necessary at this point.

Practical Resources

By now, you should have a reasonable idea of where the concept will live and how individuals will interact with it. This should mean you can realize all the people then needed to start making it. The big picture, if you will.

Depending on your experience, you may want to get advice here e.g. Do I have the right skill set for the job? How long will each step take? What is a typical day rate? You won’t need to identify the exact budget — an estimate will do. But at least you’ll have explored what the reality looks like.

If you are serious about getting this concept off the ground, you need to show you’re serious about understanding what resources that will take.

STAGE 2: GATEWAY QUESTIONS

“Sense Check” Your Abstract Concepts

Time to ask some tough questions about your ideas and thinking, and be honest with your answers.

Aside from the obvious stress-tests — for example, whether your idea is technically or financially feasible — the really big one is being able to say, hand-on-heart, what you would care about this if it wasn’t your idea. Is it an ugly baby?

STAGE 3: MAKE IT MAKE SENSE

‘Why it works’

By explaining to the reader why this is a well thought through concept, you save them the effort of hunting for your focus points in your material and missing important details.

Go back to the persona in the brief and map the benefits of your ideas back to their needs. This shows you’ve identified their needs, that they have importance, and how you can meet them.

The business will like it because this is the part that’s often forgotten then awkwardly post-rationalised. Save yourself the pain and show the people paying how your concept ties to their objectives.

You will cover this in more detail in the ‘Return’ box too.

‘How you talk about it’

It’s always good to have a working name or concept title. If it’s a fun and pithy one, all the better, as it helps stakeholders get invested and gets them talking.

The press release is a tried and tested approach. Future projecting what success would look like in the form of a press release gives the reader the real world context of what you’re aiming for.

‘Return’

This is where the rubber hits the road, where you define where your concept creates value and how that value can be measured.

You want the reader to arrive at this part completely clear on what you’re suggesting, and then walking away sold on its potential and ready to commit.

Download all the canvases in editable Keynote format

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