By Beth Boynton
The butterfly effect is a property of Complex Adaptive Systems and refers to a small thing happening in one place, like a butterfly flapping it’s wings, contributing to a large thing happening someplace far away, like a hurricane on the opposite side of the world.
There are all sorts of communication-related skills that contribute to positive or adverse events in healthcare that can be explained at least in part by this property.
How We Interact Matters
Human Factors, Leadership, and Communication involve human interactions. They are also long-standing root causes of sentinel events.
As these examples illustrate, respectful and effective communication contribute to desirable or adverse outcomes.
The concept can be elusive, yet understanding the connection between soft skills and outcomes is an important aspect of leadership in complex human systems such as healthcare. In short, leaders who build trust and promote positive communication and respectful behavior will be empowering staff to be their best selves.
Individuals then bring their best selves into therapeutic and inter-professional relationships including teamwork and leadership. All of which who in turn will influence the culture in the most positive ways.
Everyday healthcare professionals are presented with opportunities speak up, listen, lead, follow, delegate, set limits, honor others’ boundaries, give and receive constructive feedback. All of which, for better or worse are influencing outcomes such as patient safety, patient experience, and workforce health.
As a leader, influencing the butterfly effect in a direction of positive outcomes requires providing effective communication training, clear expectations and modeling of behavior, and ensuring a supportive culture where these skills can be practiced.
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