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Sunday, January 21, 2018

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Be Thankful for the Wickedly Smart
Colin Rowan

November, 2009

I went to an event last night that made me give thanks that the world is full of people that are much, much smarter than I am.

The law firm Fulbright & Jaworski invited me to its Clean Energy Technology Forum, where three of the country’s brightest minds (all of them from UT, by the way…Go Horns) shared their thoughts about breakthroughs in the energy technology world.

Dr. Raymond Orbach leads UT’s Energy Institute and is a former U.S. Under Secretary of Science. Dr. Sanjay Banerjee is the Cockrell Family Regents Chair in Engineering and is a national leader in solar technology. And Dr. John Goodenough (pictured) is the Cockrell Centennial Chair in Engineering and is the guy that invented the solution to Sony’s “exploding laptop battery” problem a couple of years ago. So if your laptop didn’t catch fire yesterday, thank Dr. Goodenough.

I spend a lot of time helping wickedly smart people connect with “the rest of us.” With the scientific and policy groups I work with, it’s among their greatest challenges.

When it comes to presentation techniques, I often use these geniuses as “don’t” examples. And yesterday was clearly NOT a case study on the best PowerPoint techniques. To be honest, I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about half the time.

1. the promise of clean renewable energy is real and within our grasp,
2. the country’s best minds are hell bent on beating other countries to the punch, and
3. perhaps most important to you and me, our communication jobs are secure.

So in this week of gratitude, we in the communication field should be thankful that we’re not running the world. First of all, jobs would be much harder to come by. And second, we’d certainly be able to explain how beautiful the moon is or how important it is that we study it. But we would never have gotten there. I wouldn’t even have a laptop.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Colin Rowan owns Rowan Communication, Inc., an Austin consulting company that helps non-profit organizations hone their messages, tell better stories and build stronger communication plans. He is conducting a one-day training session in Austin that will cover this and other core communication topics on December 10. He can be reached at 


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