On January 28th, iTHEMS member Don Warren co-hosted a workshop on Communication for Interdisciplinary Collaboration. The goals of this workshop were (1) to learn how to communicate with people who do not study the same topic you do, and (2) to practice explaining your work so that a non-expert can decide if they want to join your project. The workshop was open to all RIKEN staff in all fields and positions, and turnout was very good: scientists from multiple centers attended, as did several non-research staff.

Everyone who attended learned two key points to make cross-discipline communication easier and more productive. First, listen actively when someone is talking about their work to you; don’t fixate on the first interesting thing and stop listening to the rest of their explanation. Second, K.I.S.S.—keep it short and simple! (It is easy to talk about what to do, but it was much harder to practice it during the workshop.)

The workshop facilitator was Christiane Brew, a performer and trainer who uses techniques from improvisation to encourage open discussion, deep listening, and clear “pitching”. This was the second of two workshops organized in FY2019 by Don and Amanda Alvarez of CBS. Support for the workshop came from the RIKEN Collaboration Seed fund.

If this workshop is repeated next year, please consider joining and practicing your communication skills so you will be ready to start on your next interdisciplinary collaboration.