Public Doctors. Public Thinking


I’ve been thinking about doctors who think out loud.  Public thinkers.

What I’m referring to is doctors creating content and having conversations in areas where everyone can see.  Writing blogs, creating videos, creating e-books, or curating links on Twitter.  It’s a term that involves not just social dialog but the individual creation of retrievable content allowed by new technology and the democratization of media.  Public thinking is our presence outside of the exam room beyond the traditional confines of what we consider a doctor doing.  It involves the dissemination of ideas outside of the confines of traditional filtered media.

I like the term public thinking because it reflects the general opening of our ideas and conversations that mark the networked age.  I’m a public doctor.

What are the advantages of sharing our ideas?

  • Transparency.  We are better understood when people see how we think.
  • Connection.  When we share our ideas, people find us.
  • Spread of ideas.  When good ideas are shared, they are discovered and built upon.

The reason the concept is worth discussing is that most doctors aren’t public with the way they think and work.  We’re trained to contain what we ponder and believe.  Medicine fosters a permission-based culture.  This silo mindset is incompatible with a knowledge economy where ideas are the new commodity.  Steven Johnson tells us that the most innovative ideas throughout history have resulted from networks of creative people collaborating and challenging one another to explore the adjacent possible.  It’s how we begin to solve problems.

Public thinking needs thought and dialog.  It needs role models and a structured approach for medical students and digital immigrants alike.  The medical leader of tomorrow will think out loud and trade in the currency of ideas.

We have to understand that the evolution of our profession in a networked world involves attention to our public thinking.  The way we handle ourselves in the digital space is very different than anything we’ve been trained to do.

I’m building this idea for project currently underway.  What are the advantages for public thinking?  Does ‘open thinking’ capture the concept better?