Context is key illustration


Context is key

Large Language Models are a low-context culture. Don’t leave anything to interpretation.

In the 1950s anthropologist Edward T. Hall1 popularised the idea of low and high-context cultures. The US is the archetypal low-context culture where the speaker will make every effort to give all the context required by the listener. All anglophone cultures tend towards low-context communication.

In a low-context culture if a listener doesn’t understand it’s the fault of the speaker. In a low-context culture it is essential to be highly explicit in order to get the expected response.

LLMs are incapable of ‘reading between the lines’. If you want something from them you need to be explicit. This appears to be partially based on the training data they’ve used - since the internet is so dominated by anglophone culture - but also on how the interactions are set-up.


I’m a recently promoted manager. I manage six people and mix my time between line management and my previous responsibilities as a lead designer. I have been trying to use techniques from Radical Candour by Kim Scott and The Fearless Organization by Amy Edmonson. I don’t feel confident in my ability to lead the team and feel there’s a disconnect between me and the team. How can I get candid feedback from the team about what is or isn’t working? What other ideas would you suggest I explore as a new manager?


Tell me how to get feedback from my team


  1. Many were re-introduced to this concept by Erin Myer’s The Culture Map