Boundary spanning in collaborative networks. Asleep yet?

Sometimes you need a massive push to take you beyond a title into reading a paper.

(Well, when I say sometimes, I mean ‘most times’. Often, the push can be the patient that has driven you to start looking. Sometimes the push is the grand round or journal club you need to present. Rarely, it’s because you just want to expand you mind a little more than “high CO2, increase frequency” … )

Bridges, brokers and boundary spanners in collaborative networks: a systematic review” actually contains a mass of really deeply interesting ideas.

  • Health care is made of tribes that don’t talk
  • Collaborative networks seek to join people to improve efficiency and share knowledge
  • Making a network work requires something to reach between and join the silos

The best networks seem to work when there are many of these connections, and the connections are mutually beneficial. The people that allow connections to be made, or who are the connection, are known by a variety of titles, including bridges, brokers, and boundary spanners.

In common with much research, the authors examine a painstaking amount of data to conclude some things which strike you as blinding obvious. (But remember – we docs are astoundingly good at constructing explanations for presented data.)

  • Richly bridged networks are more robust
  • Brokers are well regarded by others in the network
  • Boundary spanning can share practical solutions, access facts and encourage collaboration
  • Brokers enjoy their position

But they also warn that this position

  • Can be stressful and disruptive for the individual
  • Provide a point-of-failure if the network has a single bridge
  • May be disruptive if the source of mis-communication

They conclude that the past thirty years have provided data to support the development and recognition of brokers to improve the effectiveness of networks. I’d ask you – in your networks – who are your brokers and how do you support them to do their job effectively?

– Archi

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