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Weak Ties, Professional Development and Implications for Companies and Trade Associations

Posted Nov 30 2009 10:01pm
In it's last tour of the Population Health Management Journal, the Disease Management Care Blog neglected to mention the editorial by Paul Terry of StayWell Health Management.

Titled ''The Strength of Weak Ties' Revisited: Achieving True Integration of Disease Management and Lifestyle Management,' Dr. Terry reaches into a backwater of social theory and argues that the cozy, 'tight' and insular ties that characterize like-minded professional relationships paradoxically impair collaboration and stymie social change. What is needed, he argues, are more of the 'weak ties' of loose acquaintances that allow otherwise separate expert networks to access each other's insights and knowledge. He suggests close ties within the disease management and lifestyle management communities are getting in the way of fashioning true comprehensive solutions across the population continuum. His proposed solutions include 1) fostering true multidisciplinary teaming, 2) putting the needs of the population first and 3) transparently sharing all research findings.

The DMCB likes the concept and wonders if this could be taken even further by readers both personally and organizationally.

At the personal level, we're all on the lookout for professional career paths that are likely to lead to fame and fortune. Individuals who can create the weak ties across multiple professional camps will have a leg up in the competition for those future coveted healthcare VP jobs. By networking outside your field of study, you'll be able to gain access to otherwise unavailable insights and use them to you and your organization's advantage. While you risk becoming a jack of all trades and a master of none, if would seem that there is a need for individuals that can crosswalk between disease and lifestyle management, public health, medicine, actuarial sciences, nursing and pharmacy.

Organizationally, it seems to the DMCB that fostering weak ties between the various work units, departments and divisions could contribute to a competitive advantage. This concept should be useful to corporate leaders, who may be otherwise tempted to promote close ties in their workforce.

In addition, there are forums where companies themselves can network, such as trade associations and purchasing groups. Assuming no company can be a member of every organization out there, this social theory would suggest that it makes sense to choose one that offers a high level of diversity. One example that comes to mind is the DMAA, which convenes a broad swath of traditional disease management and lifestyle management organizations, along with a host of other stakeholders. Which brings up another point: business associations that are not insular and instead strive to have a broad membership with weak times are probably the ones that are doing their members the greatest service.
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