Networking: Twitter doesn’t build communities, stories do…

This blog posting is based on my talk to the #HSJRisingStars. It’s good to have the opportunity to expand on my thoughts as it’s clear from feedback that this didn’t quite touch the nerve I was expecting. Raising concerns about twitter, within twitter, is an interesting experience…

In the run up to NHS Change Day 2014 a number of constructive criticisms had been voiced on the type of pledges made. How can it be that health care professionals are pledging to “deliver safe care”, “create caring cultures”? Aren’t these pledges just paying lip service to the broader purpose? Are people just jumping on a bandwagon?

I wrote a blog in response to these concerns. It centred around my acknowledgement that on a busy shift I had forgotten to introduce myself to the parents/child I had just seen. I had essentially failed Kate Granger

I am not a prolific blog writer, I’m probably not even a good one, but Kate tweeted the blog post and in the space of 3 hours it had received 1300 views. This was dissemination on a pretty impressive scale and in fact far more powerful than any previous networking opportunity I had been engaged in. It made me really think about reach and how I had communicated in and out of networks.

Change Day has taught us a lot about the NHS. There seems to be a unmet need to publicly discuss and celebrate core values; reports by Francis and Berwick have removed the taboo of some of these issues. It has taught me personally a great deal about my role in change and the roles of other networks. The story of Change Day began with a discussion about junior doctors and at the very first Change Day meeting I told a story inspired by Helen Bevan, describing how it is the new generation who are most likely to bring about radical change. Interestingly, though, one of the groups least involved in Change Day (in terms of raw numbers) were junior doctors (probably second only to GPs).

How did that happen? Did my networks fail to understand to the message? Was I wrong in my belief that Change Day can – and will – be a powerful instrument for cultural change? I think the reasons are subtle but well worth exploring.

Change Day was in essence about individual people. The real narrative was the reasons behind the individual pledges; the event itself was more like a big scrap book recording and highlighting more than half a million stories. My biggest transformation of thought in the last couple of years has been about the power of narrative. It’s personal narrative which drives us. The networks you are part of, represent, lead or create, contain people who share parts of that narrative. But I wonder how often your (or your network’s) narrative is shared by others. Just because I know ‘x’ doesn’t necessarily mean that an e-mail to their “network” will spread to a wider “network” and will be effective at spreading the message.

I’m sure I am as guilty as anyone at pushing the ‘send all’ button. Similarly asking friends  “can you send to your networks?” is something I have realised may not really add value. In fact the use of networks in this way may, in fact, create silos due to the lack of proper dialogue between them. “Nobody talks anymore” is oft quoted but there is some danger that it really is a little too easy not talk. By all means use technology – Hangout, FaceTime and Skype have enabled conversations to take place that weren’t possible previously. They are conversations with animation of expression and vocal nuance. But the real essence of good narrative goes beyond the physical conversation to the nature of what is being spoken. My story of failing at #hellomynameis is much more powerful than telling people how important Change Day is. Similarly describing my personal pledge is a much better vehicle to create interest than a newsletter about the day itself.

None of us wish to create silos as I’m sure we share the same the values. The translation of those values into a vision is probably different between our networks though. So in this time of social media and electronic interfaces, maybe we all need to be a bit more personal. We need to reconnect with each other with personal stories and communications that unite networks – not just transfer information between them.

“In this age of omniconnectedness, words like ‘network,’ ‘community’ and even ‘friends’ no longer mean what they used to. Networks don’t exist on LinkedIn. A community is not something that happens on a blog or on Twitter. And a friend is more than someone whose online status you check.” – Simon Sinek

This (admittedly controversial) quote was really brought home to me when I attended #SMACCGold, a social media and critical care conference. I thoroughly recommend watching the talks when realeased as they are all very much personal stories. Undoubtedly it was twitter, google and blogs that brought people in the #FOAMed community together but the real benefit for me was meeting the people there and engaging directly with them. As I said after the #HSJRisingStars event:

 

(Thanks to Natalie May for pre-publication proof-reading and editing)

3 thoughts on “Networking: Twitter doesn’t build communities, stories do…”

  1. Thanks for highlighting this post Damian, I had missed it. I think it would be interesting looking at why junior doctors were within the least engaged groups and yes, I do agree that the reasons are subtle, and multiple. I am just thinking aloud here but I wonder if the process of identity formation, probably still in a phase of negotiation, acknowledgement of emotions and learning how to deal with them, has maybe contributed to making them somehow “not ready” for such initiative. It could be many factors involved here and it would be great discovering more!

Leave a Reply