Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Storytelling and narrative medicine

Last weekend I was staying in Smythesdale with friends Anne and Jeff Langdon. Anne is an artist and teacher and head of Ballarat High School's Art Department. Anne and I were discussing the state of world affairs, our kids, and teaching, when she asked me if I had anything useful on creativity, as she and her Art Faculty colleagues are preparing a paper on the importance of art and creativity in the curriculum.

As it happened I had just been reading chapter 3 in Daniel Pink's book A Whole New Mind and mentioned that Yale Medical students were studying art and Columbia University Medical School are being trained in narrative medicine. The relevant extract can be found on page 52:
Today the curriculum at American medical schools is undergoing its greatest change in a generation. Students at Columbia University Medical School and elsewhere are being trained in "narrative medicine," because research has revealed that despite the power of computer diagnostics, an important part of a diagnosis is contained in a patient's story. At the Yale School of Medicine, students are honing their powers of observation at the Yale Center for British Art, because students who study paintings excel at noticing subtle details about a patient's condition... UCLA Medical School has established a Hospital Overnight Program, in which second-year students are admitted to the hospital overnight with fictitious ailments. The purpose of this playacting? "To develop medical students' empathy for patients," says the school.

Further on in the chapter Pink quotes Bob Lutz the head of General Motors:
Bob Lutz is not exactly a touchy-feely, artsy-fartsy kind of guy. He's a craggy, white haired white man in his seventies....when Lutz took over his post at GM, and the New York Times asked him how his approach would differ from that of his predecessors, here's how he responded: "It's more right brain.... I see us being in the art business. Art, entertainment and mobile sculpture, which, coincidentally, also happens to provide transportation." ... General Motors says it's in the art business.

The other thing I'd like to pick up on here is the "narrative medicine" training that medical students at Columbia Medical School are undergoing. Last week in The Age Business section there was an article on storytelling by Gabrielle Dolan which referred research by Human Synergistics International that highlighted:
... organisational storytelling as an effective tool in the success of these critical factors. Organisational storytelling is storytelling with a business purpose. Business leaders such as Jack Welch have always understood the power of story. When asked what his greatest attribute was, Welch replied: "That I am Irish and I know how to tell stories." ...

Stories allow people to personalise the organisation's mission and translate it into human terms.

... story becomes a critical tool. While logic and data can engage people's minds, stories engage their hearts. ...Essentially, change management is replacing existing stories in people's heads with new stories about the future. Narrative and story imagery are powerful ways to paint this vision of the future.

That's something I'll pass on to Anne. If any of you have other connections to creativity I'd be delighted to read about them and pass them onto Anne.


steve said...

Hi Sam,
this entry sounds like the manifestation of an incubation! The story as a way of capturing peoples hearts....the SCOTTS WILL LOVE IT!
I might email this post to Sue Jones....we were talking about 'change management' today.

Sam Grumont said...

Anne said..
Thanks Sam for your prompt response to my request .You have the ability to dig up very interesting material. The area of establishing how one can measure creativity is one that I am keen to follow up.