Using Thought Leadership to Inspire and Inform Others About Science
An interview with Jayshree Seth about advocating for science and inspiring others to get involved.
Today’s guest on our podcast is Jayshree Seth, Chief Science Advocate at 3M. Jayshree works to raise awareness and appreciation of science and how it aids us in our everyday life. Her first book, The Heart of Science: Engineering Footprints, Fingerprints, & Imprints furthers conversation around science advocacy, thought leadership, and inclusive progress.
In one of our most fascinating conversations to date, Jayshree shares the process she uses in the lab, and talks about the similarities between that process and the ones great thought leaders use. Through analytical thinking and empathy, she determines what people think about science, where the gaps and barriers are, and ultimately, how to overcome them.
One challenge of working in a scientific field is overcoming the stereotype that scientists are elitists; unrelatable and hard to understand. Changing people’s perspectives on science is a huge task, and one that Jayshree is tackling on multiple fronts. Today, she talks about how her podcast series, Science Champions, speaks to educators and young students about science – in terms everyone can understand. She was also featured with other scientists in the documentary Not the Science Type, shattering stereotypes and inspiring young women and minorities to get involved in STEM.
Jayshree fights “science apathy” by focusing on science’s relevance to everyday life. By giving her work a human context, she is able to inspire, inform, and influence those around her to action. Today’s chat is a great one, and we hope all of you are inspired to listen in!
Three Key Takeaways:
- Thought Leadership needs to identify people’s problems, find the gaps, and develop methods to solve those issues.
- If you are going to advocate with thought leadership, you need to be passionate as well as informed.
- Mentoring is an important part of thought leadership. Our experience and hindsight can help others avoid or overcome essential challenges
Join the Organizational Thought Leadership Newsletter to learn more about expanding thought leadership within your organization! This monthly newsletter is full of practical information, advice, and ideas to help you reach your organization’s thought leadership goals.
And if you need help scaling organizational thought leadership, contact Thought Leadership Leverage!
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Bill Sherman The pursuit of new ideas is a deeply human endeavor. Today, we’re focusing on the intersection of science advocacy and thought leadership. With me is Jayshree Seth. She’s the chief science advocate at 3M. She’s been awarded 72 patents, and she’s one of four women scientists featured in a new documentary, Not the Science Type, which was debuted during the Tribeca Film Festival in 2021. I’m Bill Sherman, and this is Leveraging Thought Leadership.
Bill Sherman Ready? Let’s begin. Welcome to the show, Jayshree.
Jayshree Seth Thank you for having me.
Bill Sherman So I’m excited to have you here to talk about the intersection of science and scientific inquiry, as well as taking ideas to scale through thought leadership, because I think you’re uniquely positioned on that. And I want to start with a question. When I hear the title chief science advocate for 3M. My first question is, Well, how did you get there and what is a chief science advocate?
Jayshree Seth That’s an excellent question. In fact, it’s a question that I asked as well when I was offered this role. So we are a science based company. And, you know, science is central to our innovation. It’s what ties our businesses together. It’s the foundational strength behind our brand where science applied to life. And so we wanted to understand what the public perception of science was, and there weren’t many studies out there, especially studies that were global. And so we actually commissioned one and we went to 14 countries thousand respondents per country. And when the results came back, the team that looked at it, we realized that this was something that needed a much bigger conversation than just keeping it within 3m as to what they found and stuff and some startling statistics. For example, 40 percent four out of 10 around the globe said that if science didn’t exist, their lives would be no different.
Bill Sherman Which is absolutely jaw dropping, right?
Jayshree Seth However, they were taking the survey on their laptops and mobile phones so you can pick your jaw off the floor because you realize that science is invisible. It’s underappreciated, it’s taken for granted, and that is the problem.
Bill Sherman And part of it is making the invisible visible, which I think part of the work that you do on making science visible, so let’s stay on that moment for you talked about that, you asked yourself, how did you get here? One of the things that when I talked to thought leadership practitioners, heads of thought, leadership and other organizations, it almost comes as a surprise. And I think you’ve got a fantastic story when you were sitting at the airport in Amsterdam, but I want to show you has to share the story of how you came into this role.
Jayshree Seth Yeah. So once these results came in, the group that was conducting this had discussions and they said, You know, we need somebody who can. Not only do we want to share these results and foster this global conversation, but we need somebody who can speak to this and sort of humanize these results and present them in a way that people understand and what we’re doing and things like that. And unbeknownst to me, of course, I get this call. I’m sitting in Amsterdam airport tonight and I’m like, Why is my boss calling me, you know? And so I pick up the phone and he goes, Well, there’s a discussion with the CTO and you’re going to be offered this additional role that that you have to do. And it’s. And I said, what is this about? He said, chief science advocate. And I’m like, There is no chief science advocate at 3M. So whose spot is it? What is this, you know, and these are no, you know, they’ll explain more to you, but we need somebody to advocate for signs and so many thoughts, Bill, ran through my head at that point. Why me? And do you even know that I’m one of those kids who never thought they were the science type? And this and that. So lots of thoughts racing through my head. But when I found out what the results of the survey were, of course, first I questioned as a scientist. Well, who do you survey? How did you ask, who were you asking? Why were you asking, How did you define science? Blah blah blah? But soon you realize that the perception is reality, right? People have a certain perception of science, and it is in the in the background, and there’s all these barriers and biases and boundaries. And I’ve also noticed at that point, I was also noticing it with my children, my daughter and my son and how there are so many barriers that were holding my daughter back. And so all of this, my own things, you know, my journey and then everything sort of came together and I said yes to this role, and I’m glad I did because I didn’t realize that I could do exactly what I do as I developed my products and my platforms with this because it’s just the same thought process to building that innovation out on this platform of advocacy. So I’ve been very fortunate not just to have this role, but actually to be able to make impact and talk about the advocacy platform we have now.
Bill Sherman So there’s so many things I want to unpack from that one answer, but I think I’ll start with the intersection of science and the work that you do in the lab versus science advocacy. And one of the things your active scientist and you’ve collaborated and have 72 patents. Mm hmm. That is a huge endeavor and a huge career defining piece on your own right. And now you’ve layered onto this the science advocacy of changing how the world perceives science and relevance to life. As you said, something that I I want to explore. You said the process you used in the lab is the same as what you do when you’re doing science advocacy. What does that mean? Explain that for me a little bit.
Jayshree Seth Yeah, I think so. What I do in the lab is to develop products that are that solve customer problems or they solve market problems or fill in the needs that have existed. And so, what does it take? Essentially, it takes you understanding what the pulse of the market is. It takes you understanding what the trends are. It takes you understanding what the competitive landscape is. What are the products that are already out there? What is the customer doing? What are the jobs to be done? Where is the technology that we can offer? What are the building blocks that we need to still build in order to make this a reality? So it’s kind of like a very multifaceted approach. And that’s exactly what I took to this because you start with the clean sheet of paper and you say, OK, what are we doing? We’re trying to advocate for science. Well, what do people think about science today? What are some of the gaps? What are some of the barriers? What are some of the boundaries? So looking at that, I exactly said, OK, there’s three things we’re going to do a b and C. We’ll keep it simple. A, we need to raise the awareness and appreciation of science so that people acknowledge its importance and don’t have this apathy, which is very clear. They do. B is about barriers and biases and boundaries, and we have to break those down. People are saying, I’m not a genius. That’s why I didn’t go into science or I’m a left brain, right brain or I’m a girl. Science is not for me because all the images I see are of nerds and geeks and evil and loner and maverick scientists, which doesn’t inspire and see is about the context of science. It’s about championing in a context that is. Critical to people humanizing it and talking it about in a way that it makes you human lives better, so you better not be, you know, unaware of this. So that’s exactly kind of what you do with the customer, right? What are the needs, what’s holding them back? What is the context in which this will become an important product? So I think the idea is the same building these tiles, what I call building the mosaic, and I talk about bringing all these tiles together, and it’s not a puzzle that everything fits. Exactly. So here’s a little bit of art to applying this right, and you pull all these tiles together. You take a step back and you say, Aha, that’s what I’m seeing. That’s what we ought to do. That’s what we got to build. And then you go from there. So it’s exactly that approach I use. And I think that is why I got called upon for this role because people wanted someone who could take a clean sheet of paper, have a point of view about it, actually speak to it and do that authentically. Having a point of view that was giving insights to people, which is also the process of developing products for a customer, filing for patterns coming up with new ideas. So I think those sort of came together. And I think there’s another aspect to it also is all the different experiences that I’ve had in different areas, different markets, different roles, roles leading, you know, that are leadership roles, but you’re not developing a product, for example, a role in the Asian employee resource network and leading that or leading some outside projects and things like that. And I’m assuming that there are all the reasons why they picked me because I feel like when you are doing something new, you’ve got to feel like you are able to authentically come up with a plan, which is similar to what you have done in these other roles. But drawing upon your experiences in all these different areas to make it uniquely valuable.
Bill Sherman That thread of continuity is something that when I talk to a lot of thought leadership practitioners, they almost knowingly smile when they look back. Because if you think about yourself as a young girl growing up in northern India, you probably didn’t have a clear vision to this role at 3M now, right? But looking back, you say, Oh, these things connect. You talk a lot about the process of reinventing yourself and that journey right now. A little bit about that, both in your context, you know, from when you grew up to where you are now, because I think a lot of people struggle with the confidence gap that you talk about, that science is not for me or I’m not the one who has genius ideas. That’s for someone else.
Jayshree Seth Mm-Hmm.
Bill Sherman Talk about your journey, and humanize it.
Jayshree Seth Yeah, no, I was. I grew up in a university town. My dad was a professor. Everybody around was a STEM professional and we were just strongly encouraged to be in STEM. And I said, OK, that’s what we got to do. That’s what we got to do. You don’t push back. I mean, the time in day I was growing up and where I was growing up, you just did what your parents told you. I was not particularly inspired because I didn’t see the connection of STEM with what I thought I wanted to do, which was to make the world a better place, help people improve lives. And now I realize that a lot of young girls have very pro-social goals like that. And that context is critical, and unfortunately, nobody explained the context of science and stem roles to me. So I did. I just thought there was a gap, and that’s not what I want to do, but I became an engineer anyway. I did not get into the college where my dad was. I mean, that town that we moved the family to and I was supposed to go there when I thought, OK, now I don’t have to be an engineer, but it turned out they were serious. So I went all the way across the country, become an engineer there. And then it was like, Oh, OK, everybody who’s at the top of the class are applying to go to the US, and I said, OK, I’ll apply. And then I ended up here and then suddenly I’m in a lab doing stuff and it hit me, Is this what I wanted to do? Where’s that communal context that I wanted? What about making the world a better place? And again, I lacked that context when I wasn’t smart enough to build it myself. And so I said, I’m going to switch and do something where I see it. And so that’s where this whole process came together. For me, developing the context of what you’re doing, why you are doing that ability to defend what you you’re doing, communicate how you’re doing it. And I just lit a fire under me when I realized the power science had to solve problems, improve lives and this building of context. So leaving home, going into a completely different area, leaving India, coming to the US, working in two completely different areas for my master in PhD, then coming to 3M and working on diapers and my PhD was in demand. So it just became one of those things. And I’ve been thinking a lot about it since one of our projects just came out, and I’m sure we’re going to talk. About it, the little documentary we did, not the science type. I realize that a lot of this also was an immigrant mindset in my head, which is I’m going to go somewhere. I’m definitely different. So forget put all the differences in one bucket and just work hard and go at it and show what you can do. And that’s kind of became this whole idea of reinventing, right? Doesn’t matter if it’s a new area, I’m going to do it. Yes, I will struggle whether I’ll be successful or not or whatever. But I got this opportunity to develop a narrative in my head that said, You’ve done this before, you’ve done something like this before. Oh, I have. OK, then then then calm down and just say yes and go at it and do what you do because you did it when you were 10, you did it when you were 17, you did it when you were 21. And I never realized, and you’re absolutely right when you say that people don’t realize that while they’re going through their journey. But in looking back, it’s like, Aha. That’s how I came to this position is because I had all these other experiences that I can draw upon and quiet that that voice that comes into your head and it just invades your mind space telling you can’t do something. But now you can build that narrative, which is a virtuous cycle and says, you can. And so that’s how I’ve been able to sort of tell myself that I can. And it’s given me this ultimate freedom of thinking on how to do these roles.
Bill Sherman In terms of quieting that narrative, whether you call it imposter syndrome or a confidence gap. I want to turn that conversation to your current work as the chief science advocate. And you mentioned the documentary film that you just put out at 3M, and I believe it debuted at Tribeca. Is that right? During Tribeca? Yeah, yeah. So let’s talk about the work that you’ve been doing because you identified the problem with the State of Science survey, but how do you close that gap? How do you create a different perception of science reducing that four in 10 number that they’re like, Oh, we can make it go away? And then all of a sudden, you know, we don’t need science.
Jayshree Seth Yep, no. Very good question. So when the results came out, it was clear we needed to do things right. So first was just sharing the results and fostering a conversation around what those results mean and why, why people are saying what they’re saying. So we did a podcast series that was the first thing. So I hosted a podcast science champions, and I would talk to educators and young scientists and accommodations and then makers and everybody, and we would talk about the results and just pick those results apart so that people understand that there is the importance of science and all of that. The next year, when we did the survey, we also found a lot of kind of comments saying that scientists are leaders. They’re not talking in a language that is relatable. They are not accessible, etc. So we developed a scientist, a storyteller guide, which talks about how should scientists communicate for the average public to understand because peer to peer communication is different. Although I argue —.
Bill Sherman That’s all technical. It’s very formulaic in many ways.
Jayshree Seth But I do still think that there is a there is a role even in science and in corporate environments and within peers that you communicate with the human context. And the more we do that, the better off we’re going to be. And that’s another piece that I’ve brought into everything I do. It’s like, No, no, no, no, we’re not going to talk about this first. Let’s put the context of what we’re doing, why we’re doing, how it helps the customer. Then let’s get into the formal details, as you said. So I think there’s value to bringing that because that inspires just a lot more people and reminds you of your sense of purpose. So in the scientist, a storyteller guide, we put all these things in there, like develop a human context, talk about it, personalize it, give it, give it a good storyline, et cetera. Then we also did what we call beyond the beaker. One of the other things was, Oh, scientists, you know, they’re not like us and stuff like that, us versus them. So in this, we portrayed scientist as average normal people, people like you and I who have the same concerns, you know, who take care of their kids. They’re also active in the community, you know, so breaking down those barriers. So that was beyond the beaker recently. Of course, things changed a lot after the pandemic hit, and suddenly science went through this stage where people were like, Oh my god, now I know why it’s important. And suddenly our survey numbers, you know, trust is up. Skepticism is down, and it’s a great opportunity for us to do some things. So in 2020, we did what we’re
Bill Sherman More people learned about the scientific method, and the process through the FDA, than they knew in 2019, right?
Jayshree Seth Yes, you’re right. The interest went up. The curiosity went up. The scientists were center stage and science. The gift of science is what got us where we are the vaccine, the vaccine. So I think the science appreciation went through the roof at that time. But we also decided OK, 55 million in US alone are now being home schooled. So are we keeping the science interest? What can we do while other? Parts of 3M are attacking the pandemic from all angles with PPE and doubling production and all of that. 3M was literally a household name because of that as well, and so we did the signs at home, which is a simple experiments that a group of diverse scientists, the three and we do at home. For example, I blew up a balloon with vinegar and baking soda and all of that just so that kids can keep engaged and things like that. And then when we got the results of the 3M State of Science Index this year, it again said interest in STEM is at a very high level. However, everybody is very concerned about STEM equity. They understand that you need women and underrepresented minorities, and innovation requires diversity, and we don’t have enough of that and we will be at a loss if we don’t attract more women and girls to stem, etc. So based on that, we started seeing the need to do something else. The documentary that I could series you mentioned, not the science type. It’s basically the stories of four women scientists, and I’m honored to be one of them, and each one of them has a very different story. So there’s the first nuclear engineer who’s black. There is somebody who is in microbiology but wanted to do a role with global health and shaped their own career. There’s Gitanjali Rao, who’s Typekit of the year, who is just a phenomenal scientist and doesn’t have a single degree. And then there’s me who definitely didn’t think of themselves as a science type, but I am today a chief science advocate because I brought all my humanities interest into science. So this docu series aims to essentially shatter stereotypes because those stereotypes about science and about scientists definitely deter young girls and underrepresented minorities. So that’s the project that we’re super excited about.
Bill Sherman And the film is remarkable, and we’ll put in the description a link to it so people can see that. But I want to really emphasize here. You’ve used language like community, heart, pro-social, and those are terms that not necessarily people would initially think are scientific language, scientific jargon. And you even have argued that instead of STEM, it should be more stem. All right. So let’s talk about the humanities and the humanities in the process of science.
Jayshree Seth It is so critical, in my view. It starts there and it ends there. So that’s my spiel. I can give you my shtick, the shtick is STEM, right? So I think even if I look at it just in the way of how I have been successful at doing what I’m doing, it’s because I develop a human context around what I do. That human context inspires me. It allows me to influence and inform others around me. Suddenly, I have got a group of people who are inspired to address this problem because of the context that I have provided. We all attack this problem. We solve the problem, and then we feel the sense of satisfaction for having helping customers solve a problem at their end. So rather than calling it some very synthetic process, we actually put our heart and soul into it because of that human context. I believe that because I do, and I have seen time and again that I’ve been able to bring groups together by doing exactly just that, and I think you must be thinking, OK, that’s what a thought leader does. But that’s kind of what it is how do you inform, influence and inspire people around you to do something? And if you give things a human context, we are wired. That way we get inspired. We want to help, we want to solve problems. So I think it’s very important there. And even when it relates to science, let’s say, of the vaccine or the things that played out, you saw how important the human context was to people realize what it means to them personally. It just doesn’t resonate. And suddenly the appreciation for science and the desire for more people to have stem careers, et cetera, has gone up because science got very personal during the pandemic. You actually saw what it can do for you. So I think the idea of leaving the human context behind is something that will not serve us well. So I am really one of those who just evangelize the idea of having the human context, be it in the work you are doing or even if you’re a leader or if you are somebody who is trying to move the needle on anything, think about the human context and the more we talk about it and the more we normalize it. I think we all will be better off.
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Bill Sherman You used a series of three terms that I want to return to about science, informing influence and inspiring, and I think those three also align very nicely with thought leadership and the role of thought leadership. If we’re talking about taking ideas to scale, first author, people need to know what we’re talking about from an informed perspective influence. We have to make them open to the idea and inspire. We need to create that community that says, OK, let’s make that idea into reality. And that call to action, which is really what I describe as one of the hearts of thought leadership aides seeing around the corner into the future. It’s what possible future eliminating all the noise. See something you like and then bring it back to people today saying We can do this, and here’s how we start. And that’s when you described science, and I think about the work that we do as leadership practitioners. Those are perfectly aligned. It is a deeply human endeavor. Whereas if you’re just looking into the future or saying what’s technically possible, but you forget about people, you’ve forgotten your purpose.
Jayshree Seth Absolutely, absolutely. And that’s why this whole science advocacy piece and the data that it is giving us as we have continued the research, you know, now we’re in the fifth year and we have expanded this year. We did 17 countries and it just gives you an insight into the human view of science, right? And it helps us in our science. It helps us in our innovation and helps us in seeing what the Pulse is. And that’s why it’s important to share, because this isn’t some problem that we’re going to solve on our own. There’s so many science based companies and science based initiatives that intersect with everything in here, with the policy, with the politics, with the perception, with the science, with society. So it’s all bringing that together. So I the way I see it is if we can help, you know, sort of reveal what are the things the public is thinking about. It helps all of us to make our messages more targeted and be very aware of all the product development we do and the innovation we do in the technologies that we look at. So if you look at the 3M State of science index results, you clearly see people say, I appreciate the role of science now and I think more people should be pursuing STEM. I am very worried about the fact that we don’t have enough women and underrepresented minorities in STEM. I’m very worried about sustainability and I agree that science is going to be important to sustainability. And lastly, people say I want scientists to not just communicate but collaborate private, public, academia, individuals, everybody. So I think the public is telling us what their expectations are. And once everybody knows that we can have a richer conversation about it and we can say, OK, what can we do about this topic? So in 2021, with not the science type, our docuseries, we picked that topic of, oh, the public really is concerned about the fact that we are still not at parity or nowhere close in terms of women and underrepresented minorities. So we picked that topic and we went at it now with that docu series out there, it promotes a lot more people to be thinking about that and saying, Oh my God, if she can do it again, oh, look at that lady. She’s the chief science advocate. And she just told me she wasn’t even interested in science, and she says she was so interested in humanities. That’s me. But look, she brought her humanities into science, and she was still successful in signs. Aha. That’s interesting. I thought if I’m interested in humanities, I just go there. And the reason why I made that a real cornerstone of my story is not just because it’s true, but because I know that that is what drives many, many young girls is about I want to help people. There is a phenomenal study that was done where they asked, OK, do you want to become an engineer and build bridges? And this and that, and it goes, No, no, no, no, no, no. Whatever. But when they say who wants to help people have clean water and NGOs were like, I do. Who wants to help their grandparents from cyber? You know, I do. I mean, so it was just the context of helping people that promotes that signs sign’s encouragement. And because it’s such a male centric field, it’s not talked about in the context it’s talked about in content. And that is enough for a lot of boys to get excited about and just like.
Bill Sherman You can play in the lab and do things.
Jayshree Seth Yes.
Bill Sherman Gee whiz. Golly gee. Right,.
Jayshree Seth Exactly. But where is the context to that? So so the way I like to say it is, we’ve got to change these constructs that we talk about science, you know, the constructs across the spectrum. We need to dismantle the archetypes, we need to shatter the stereotypes and we have to stop the typecasting and tokenism. And then suddenly you’ve got this perfect situation where you’ve got all these women and girls excited, engaged and encouraged. And finding success and satisfaction in their science careers, and that’s what I want to do.
Bill Sherman So with that, and I know it’s something that’s important to you. Mentoring the next generation is not good enough just to have good ideas yourself. But to prepare the next generation to take the ideas even further or have ideas that you and I have never even thought of yet. So I know mentoring is important to me to that for a moment.
Jayshree Seth It’s so critical because what happens is that it happened to me. Also, as you’re going through your career, you don’t realize that you’re evolving the world around you is evolving. Things are changing. Somebody who has this sort of hindsight that can become your foresight is so critical. And so that’s what I focus on is is yes. But things will change. And what is the best possible way you can address this problem at this point? And sometimes most people are just looking for validation that that’s the right thing to do because they have all the answers. People have all the answers. It’s the validation. Yes, that’s a great way to address this and things like that. So mentoring is critical. The other piece that is also critical is being very open, honest and upfront about the authenticity that you’ve been able to carry through. So I’m never one who will say I’m an expert in this or this, because I don’t feel like that because that’s not who I was, and I am very open about it. I knew that it would be an easier path if you just stayed an expert in one area. But that’s not who I was, and that’s not what I promised myself I would do. I wanted to solve problems regardless of where they were. So.
Bill Sherman Of those 72 patterns, how many are in the area of your PhD?
Jayshree Seth Zero.
Bill Sherman That’s what I was thinking. Yeah, yeah.
Jayshree Seth You know, so it’s just about telling people that because here’s the thing, a lot of people hear a lot of these cookie-cutter approaches to how to live your life and how to go in your career and how to go up and the things you have to do and things you have to fake and all of that. And I’m just like the more messages that we can put out about being authentic, doing what you want. Build excitement around it. Pull people in with that excitement. Know as much as you can about a problem. Inform, influence, inspire. You will do well and you will feel satisfied. It’s the way I like to say it is and it’s in my book. It’s like it’s not some race up the ladder. It’s like leading from your own rung of the ladder. You can’t wait for somebody to ordain you as a leader at the top, and then you’re going to say, I’m going to lead. Leadership is about leading from your own rung, and you can do it in so many different ways. And I just talk about that and people’s eyes open up and they’re so excited about what they’re doing because they realize they can build excitement. And it’s about the stories we tell ourselves, right? It’s about the stories we tell ourselves. So let’s build a compelling narrative and tell ourselves that story.
Bill Sherman I think you talk about something in that compelling narrative that not only do you have to compel others, but it has to be compelling to you and you sometimes breaking down an initial idea and saying, Does that make sense? Is that worth following? Talk about that process of checking it against yourself and being your own skeptic.
Jayshree Seth Yes, I think what you’re just saying is one of those key things that I cannot emphasize enough how many times I hear someone standing on the stage and saying, I feel strongly about this and I can just tell they don’t because they’re just repeating something that they haven’t internalized themselves. They may believe in it, but they haven’t internalized. So I think the first thing, if you’re going to push something and if you’re going to advocate for thought, which is what I do most of the times in my role as advocate for thought, I’m like, we’re not advocating for action. I’m just advocating for thought at this point is you have to convince yourself that it is something that merits attention and you have to be the toughest critic and judge so that you can attack it from every angle. And once you have done that and you are on stage, you will see how people see that passion because before they think of it, you have thought of that and you’re like, Yes, very good point. And this is how we should address this. So I highly recommend that have a lot of ideas. Argue with yourselves and I do it out loud. My family even knows that, you know, they’ll hear me talking. It’s like, OK, she’s arguing with herself because I argue it’s like, No, this book. What about this? But what about this? And that has what has organically led me through this mosaic building process? Oh, I better find out about that. And so I’ll read, read, read about that. And then I have slightly twisted my narrative that I’m going to tell on the outside. So first, I try it on myself and I go, Yeah, that makes a lot more sense. But how about this and what are the key opinion leaders? Saying about this, yeah, I better find 10 of them. OK. That’s what they’re saying a lot, but what about the sustainability aspect of this? I wonder what’s going on there? So all this homework is just to convince myself. And as a result of that, my story starts getting nuanced and polished and more and more compelling. And by the time I presented, I now, of course, I have the credibility I really have. From the minute I show up, I’ve got him almost. And it’s because of this process of just going through the mosaic building and then finding out the gaps and proactively saying, here’s an area we don’t know enough about, and people don’t realize that the audience appreciates knowing that you know where the gaps are. It is a compelling part of the narrative to say, here’s where the gaps are, and that’s where we’re going to first focus on and convince ourselves that it’s a good idea to do this or not. So I cannot emphasize enough what you said. That this is a very critical part of any kind of leadership is to argue with yourself. And once you have argued with yourself and you have won, that’s what’s confidence that shows on your face and it shines through your eyes and you can’t hide it because you won that battle with yourself. That’s how you get that.
Bill Sherman Well. And I think you touched on something. You talk about the passion in your eyes, right? I think that is such a huge tell when you’re trying to communicate an idea because your audience will never care about an idea more than you do. And if you haven’t sold yourself on the idea, if you haven’t walked around and looked at it from every angle, people are going to go, Well, have you done your homework yet? Are you asking me to do your homework? Right?
Jayshree Seth Exactly, exactly.
Bill Sherman So let’s talk. As we begin to wind up, I want to ask one question about your role. How much in terms of chief science advocate and you’ve talked about things like helping scientists tell stories, how much of your work is internally focused to 3M for spreading ideas and sort of creating this sense of scientist as a communicator? And how much of your work is externally focused
Jayshree Seth At this point? A lot of it is external focus. We have a pretty strong technical community of 3M that interacts very, very frequently, and most people have very good championing skills and things like that internally. Of course, all of us are trying to improve all the time to have a much better context of what we’re talking about, and I think there’s enough best practice sharing that goes on. But externally, I think there is the chasm right. There is this sort of separation and people don’t have the appreciation and understanding because internally we have lots of science minded people and because we’re such a science based business, I don’t think it’s such a hard sell. But externally, I think it is. It’s quite important. So my writing, my speaking, most of my engagements, I think a lot of that is focused at that external messaging because at the end of the day, we are science applied to life. That’s our brand promise. So I think putting that life into that word, science is important. And I think externally speaking about science and what we’re doing for science advocacy and how we’re making the world a better place and leaving a positive impact and improving lives by using science. I think we have to do a lot more of that externally. But internally we have lots of avenues that we, as scientists and thought leaders and advocates and practitioners of various technologies and products get together. It’s basically the secret sauce of 3M is the way we communicate internally with our 3M tech forum. So most of my chief science advocate work is external. And it’s one of those innovative products that 3M has put out and realizing that there is such a big market for it, people want to hear about these things. So the way I like to say it is, you know, the KPI is in my mind is the knowledge or know-how or the research that you can authentically own. That’s the key to me. Am I constantly building this knowledge and know-how and this research so that we can authentically own P is my point of view. Do I have a point of view after I read all of this assimilate? All these results get the insights globally and what is my vantage point for that point of view? And how can I make it insightful? Then I is for taking initiative. Am I taking initiative to do those three things that you talked about inform, influence, inspire and have impact? How can we have that impact? And to me is to for sharing and socializing and simply putting myself out there and doing this? I think so. It’s a strange I love the play on words and acrostic style. So for me. The KPI is exactly that, the knowledge, the point of view, the initiative to inform and then share and socialize. So that’s what I’m doing mostly.
Bill Sherman So you mentioned KPIs, and we should probably pause there for a moment with the last question. Measuring success because changing a global perception of science is a big, ambitious goal, right? And it’s not going to happen overnight. Encouraging more women and minorities to enter, to become scientists and then to pursue long term careers in science again doesn’t happen overnight. I want you to know component. How are you measuring your success for your work as an advocate?
Jayshree Seth Yep, very good question. So I will tell you first my personal answer if I can even inspire one person to go into science and feel empowered and follow their path and all their authenticity, I think it’s a success really. Even one person to me personally, even yeah, I mean, that’s exactly right. I mean, to me, a job well done, if we can get that. But I understand this is the corporate environment and this is a tough business environment and it’s a tough crowd when it comes to science. You know, it’s no jubilation, jubilation because we had a pandemic and suddenly people recognize signs of endemic will be gone. How do we sustain that interest in science? So we have actually asked questions about that in the 2021 State of Science Index, how many of you actually think that it’ll sustain? And that’s why we’re tying that with sustainability, because sustainability does environmental issues. All of that and all Sustainable Development Goals are tied closely to science. So we are honestly in the long game here, and it’ll be things that are going to change some slowly, some rapidly. And some, you know, it’ll take a lot of effort, but it is change that needs to happen across the spectrum. We are another strong voice advocating for it, which I think is huge. And I think what also has happened is the opinion leaders perception of 3M as a company that uses science champion science to make a positive impact has certainly gone up, which is very important from a corporate perspective.
Bill Sherman And from a brand perspective, the brand image.
Jayshree Seth So that is the way I would say that they’re measuring it, and it’s all looking great from that perspective. But for me personally, I just feel like a strong corporate voice taking action inspire other corporations to do the same. And now suddenly we have started a movement because we get calls like, Well, who is this person? How did you pick her? What? What are you doing? How are you doing it? You know, we even get questions like, who’s writing our articles? It’s like, Dang, I write my articles. So, you know, those kinds of things because people are intrigued by, how are you creating this role and wait a minute. So you just took one PhD and now they’re not doing science. It’s like, No, I’m doing that too, because that’s how I like it. It keeps me grounded to do that and keeps me honest and I and I do this as well. So honestly, one person to a movement, to anybody who is referring to our work, which has started happening right and saying, but that data said this. So let’s do this. And it’s these minor changes that are beginning to happen. So hopefully, as we talk to more people, the context of what we talk about changes in terms of attracting more people to science. And it’s not just women, it’s also underrepresented minorities. There’s research out there that shows that they have more pro-social goals. And so if we’re not talking about the social goals and just talking about agent, the goals, there are underrepresented minorities. We’re going to say I’m never going to be that I’m not this, so I’m never going to be that. So I’m not going to go for this. But if they start talking about the communal goals, not just the agenda, the goals of, you know, rising up and becoming somebody as opposed to tying into their sense of purpose, which the younger generation wants, we will make a impact long game. But you’re right, some of these things will take time. But even in our measuring, of course, with the pandemic, we have certainly seen that people saw the role of science and are appreciating more. So it gives us even more motivation to strike right now with all of these advocacy efforts. And that’s why it’s certainly ramped up. And we have a lot of sustainability challenges as a society, as humanity to solve. So we need all the creative thinking we can possibly get. So it’s like a perfect way. People are inspired about science. We need sustainability solutions. People are jumping in to help. How do we bring this together? So it’s a win win.
Bill Sherman I think that’s a fantastic place to close. The world needs more and better ideas to take on the challenges of to. Jayshree, thank you very much for joining us.
Jayshree Seth Thank you for having me, Bill.
Bill Sherman If you’re interested in organizational thought leadership, then I invite you to subscribe to the OrgTL Newsletter. Each month we talk about the people who create, curate and deploy thought leadership on behalf of their organizations. Go to the website orgtl.com and choose Join our newsletter. I’ll leave a link to the website as well as my LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Thanks for listening, and I look forward to hearing what you thought of the show.