February 24th, 2012
At the S FACTOR, we spoke, they listened. What’s up with that?
A RATHER FASCINATING OBSERVATION
We had such a perfect experience last Sunday with the S Factor panel event at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Salt Lake city. I’m still trying to make sense of it — why did it work so well? My colleague Dorie Barton, one of the panelists, pointed out a key element the next day. The scientist-videomakers actually LISTENED.
As soon as she said this I realized, “She’s right, they did,” which shouldn’t be that amazing, but it was. I spend a lot of time citing Peter Karieva’s nice review of my book in Science in which he said the one significant shortcoming of the book was it didn’t spend enough time addressing the single biggest problem of scientists — their inability to LISTEN.
Which is true. I didn’t address it enough in the book, and lots of scientists do suffer from this, but not our S Factor participants. Why?
It’s kinda spun my head around and it truly is amazing. There was not a single one of them who haggled with us. No attitude, no defensiveness, no scoffing. They were A-MAZING. None of them had huge egos. ALL of them just admitted they were trying to get a start on making good videos.
THE VALUE OF SCIENCE SPEAK
I get the terrible feeling what we’re experiencing we’ll some day look back at and call, “the good old days,” — like 5 years from now when EVERY scientist with a video thinks theirs is instantly awesome, and stands at the podium telling us, “Well, you just don’t seem to get what we’re doing.” I suppose it’s inevitable. But for now, it was SUCH a cool experience.
It was probably more fun for the three of us than for the videomakers. It’s called “communication.” It’s just really gratifying to feel heard. I had this feeling last year in Norway in the three day intensive videomaking workshop where the students did the same thing — they LISTENED very closely to all I had to say. So much better than American students on average (I’ve had students in workshop who simply refuse to hear any suggestions on how to make their videos — I offer up advice and they say, “Yeah, well that’s the way YOU would make it, not me.”).
Interesting, interesting, interesting. Why would these videomakers be so much more receptive to input than when I try to talk to scientists about communication in general? Perhaps because they have a specific piece of work we’re talking about which they are wanting to improve. And why would they be better than film school students at managing to not have a gigantic ego? Maybe because they’ve been raised in the clinical processes of the science world where you’re taught to set aside your ego and just deal with the information. This is the upside of speaking in the cold, clinical language of science.