Interview: Jean-Luc Doumont, Co-founder of Principiæ

Categorie(s) : Innovation & Society, Interviews, Life @ MINATEC, News

Published : 3 December 2012

Jean-Luc Doumont, Co-founder of Principiæ*
“Scientists and engineers should strive for simplicity when presenting their research”

You train scientists and engineers around the world to communicate more effectively. Do they really need that much help?

Yes! People with scientific backgrounds often have trouble explaining things simply. They tend to be stuck in school exam mode, where they feel the need to describe concepts in complex terms to prove to their professors—who know more than they do—that they know their stuff. But if your focus is on proving yourself, then it’s not on informing your audience.

So, how do you help them?

I show them how to clearly explain the problem and the solution. In other words, what they are working on and—above all—why. And how to communicate better orally, in writing, and through visuals. Stating things simply doesn’t mean dumbing things down. Former trainees of mine have won best article and best presentation awards at conferences.

How receptive are researchers to your approach? Does it depend on the country?

Typically, after I give a talk, most of the attendees are on board. But very few go as far as to actually use my approach. For example, scientists and engineers in Asia don’t like to stand out from their peers, and those in France think they already know how to communicate effectively. The Americans are the most pragmatic and the most open to change.

You are in Grenoble to facilitate a conference held by the Nanophotonics for Energy Efficiency consortium. What exactly is your role?

I trained some of the speakers and I moderated the conference discussions so that they were both informative and productive. I also offered to write a summary of the conference highlights; often the key takeaways of these types of conferences are forgotten because they are neither written down nor acted on.

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* Brussels-based Principiæ gives lectures, workshops, and training programs on effective communication for companies, research centers, NGOs, and government organizations.

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