We are living in the most connected age in the history of mankind, yet we are existing in echo chambers. Technology has opened up multiple possibilities for communication channels, yet we have replicated the same sector silos in a virtual world.

Silo working is one of the biggest challenges organisations face - we all know its not conducive to a successful operating environment as teams are often trying to solve issues that:

a) other teams are also trying to solve, thus duplicating work or

b) put in place solutions that do not take into account of the whole problem

We recognise this internally within our organisations, so why do entire sectors keep talking to themselves?  It's something I've noticed more since starting my role within the Lab. 

Health, Housing, Social Care, Education and the rest go about their business largely in isolation. They congregate at conferences (separately), they lobby politicians (separately), they communicate their ‘message’ (separately).

Given the tools we have at our disposal in today's technological age, it should be easy to open up lines of communication with other sectors and join forces.  The invention of hashtags means any one person can search for a potential social tribe that interests them and contribute with no judgement or prior connection, but this seldom happens.  Instead, what has been created is groups of people that are all in search of the same answers to the same questions.  

So are hashtags a hindrance more than a help?  How can we facilitate more meaningful conversations and break down those barriers?  In the Lab, we thought it would be a fascinating subject, and so this set the scene for this month's #blabchat......

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Simply put, there are huge advantages to working across sectors.  As Carol says, working out loud and talking to others may help solve a problem you are working on or give you inspiration in how to move a solution forward.  The two examples Jodi and Steven gave are absolute proof of this - who knew that F1 Pit Crews and Maternity Nurses actually had something to learn from each other!  Sometimes getting a fresh perspective from someone that isn't from your world leads to innovation.  

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The overwhelming feeling here was around fostering working relationships with others who shared a similar purpose.  I'll admit, this is where I feel hashtags can actually fuel some of these barriers, as it becomes a bit like a 'club' where only those who demonstrate similar thoughts, values and opinions are well received and actively engaged with.  The whole point of communication is that sometimes people will disagree and participate in reasoned discussion, but this can sometimes lead to those 'eureka!' moments when you are exposed to a conflicting viewpoint or idea.  Professional, customer, outsider, it shouldn't matter, your input could be the very thing that kicks off a beautiful collaborative friendship!

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The comments speak for themselves, although on reflection, none of these are particularly difficult to overcome. The need to work more openly was a common theme.  Maybe we just need to do as John suggests, take the rose tinted specs off, get out there and start those conversations! 

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There was universal acknowledgement that cross sector working would mean we could mitigate the effects of many of the wicked problems we face. Huge amounts of global talent are seeking to address climate change, income and health inequality, lack of affordable housing, unemployment, ageing, digital exclusion and loneliness. All uncoordinated and fragmented.

As Steph says, its all about coming together to ask the right questions to solve the right problems. However, we all shared a concern on whether sectors were ready for this kind of collaborative working or whether we have the right attitude towards the technology that might make it happen. 

We just need that one person or organisation to go for it and start that revolution - once you get the momentum going, it would be hard to stop.

Thank you for everyone who took part - we'll be back on Thursday 5th July 2018 at 8pm for more conversation!