The need for communication skills is one of the reasons why I work hard to try and encourage students to stick with Arts subjects as they progress through education. Sure, STEM is essential and valuable but having high level knowledge is so much more powerful if you can communicate it clearly, easily and in an engaging way.
Several years ago I was fortunate to attend an IB conference in China where I witnessed an opening keynote speech by a gentleman by the name of Hans Roslin. I had not seen him before but I knew the name and his work. As a young undergraduate studying Sociology and Education I had read his articles on statistical analysis and also population growth. He was a genius. He naturally understood statistics and had a knack of communicating this to the general population. He was an inspiration to me as I learned how to present in public; how to take complex ideas and boil them down so everyone could understand it. I wondered why Academics did not do this in all cases, why Doctoral theses were often so opaque and inaccessible.
The answer is, I believe, often ego. To create the impression of value and worth one needs to make something hard, inaccessible or exclusive. Which is a shame. As there are so many terrific ideas in the work of Academics.
No matter. I know that many universities are addressing this and with the rise of Ted Talks, blogs, Youtube channels, and the explosion of Academics appearing in the media, we may finally start to see the access to amazing ideas that will change the world and bring us closer together. Few people now will sit for hours to absorb ideas, to dig into the discourse, to understand what is being said, and we should not have to.
I urge students who pile up with Math tutors, Chemistry tutors, Physics tutors and a host of academic supporters to not neglect the art of storytelling, communication and creativity as this ability is crucial to communicate what you know.
I invite you to watch the late, great Hans Roslin take his in-depth and long-term understanding of statistical reporting, computer-generated graphics, extrapolation and future projection and then deliver a lesson in just 10 minutes. His communication skills are paramount and very subtle, no-one who watches this is left behind, confused by the terminology. It is, for me, a near-perfect lesson.