Are all good explanations simple explanations?

A friend of mine recently said “real intelligent people know how to abstract and remove complexity so that explanations can be simple.”

I do think that clear, concise communication is a telltale sign of a well ordered mind, without which intelligence is useless. The smartest people I know can explain a complex subject in a simple way.

But the real goal of communication is to create “shared meaning.” When I explain something to you, I have to add something to what you already know in a way that creates a new, common abstraction. Something we share between us that we can build further upon.

So naturally the more complexity I try and cram into my words the more likely we’ll miss some link in the chain, after which we won’t be building in common any more. Usually some concept won’t apply and our conversation will crash (pardon the geeky metaphor here.) Or maybe we’ll both come out of the conversation believing we understood, but our communication has failed to create shared meaning.

Yes, I believe that really intelligent people intuitively avoid complex explanations because such explanations are volatile and often unsuccessful. A simple explanation is like a good code change: targeted, small, and easy to follow.