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Wednesday 3 August 2016

Clearing the filters and joining the dots: encouraging experts to work collaboratively

Groups of experts can often find it a challenge to think across sectors and work collaboratively.

This is because, very understandably, their training and experiences condition them to see other sectors related to and impacting upon their work through the biased filters of their own expertise and specialisms.         

Here is a great example of how to encourage a group of experts to adjust their filters and begin seeing and 'joining the dots' between the differing sectors that impact upon their work:    

The example is from part of the IMPARTS Project (which seeks to integrate mental and physical healthcare in research, training and clinical services in several major London hospitals).
The example highlights three key things:
  1. The power that one strong and emotive issue has to increase awareness and catalyse collaboration and action.
  2. The importance of introducing and analysing strong and emotive issues in a ways that are credible for the intended audience.
  3. Reinforcing key messages with personal experiences, case studies and role-plays. 
The strong and emotive issue selected for attention was the effect of mental illness upon physical health and life expectancy. 

The audience, consisting of experienced and expert health professionals, was presented with research which suggested that (on average) people suffering from mental illness would suffer more physical illness and die ten years earlier than others in the population.

Very importantly, this expert audience was encouraged to look beneath the shocking headline statistics and analyse and assess the research supporting them. A widely accepted and credible assessment tool from was used to do this. 

The process of methodically and objectively analysing the research, identifying its strengths and weaknesses and then assessing the validity of its findings greatly enhanced the confidence the health professionals had in it.

Once this confidence in the research had been created, its key messages and recommendations could be reinforced through the sharing of personal experiences (which, having been convinced of their relevance and importance, people were now willing to share) and the use of participative case studies and role-plays (which, again having been convinced of their relevance and importance, people were now willing to do).

So, to encourage expert audiences to think across sectors and behave collaboratively do the following:
  • Focus upon a strong and emotive issue.
  • Make it credible and believable in their eyes.
  • Reinforce key messages with personal stories and memorable case studies and role-plays.
This will help clear the filters and join the dots!

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