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What Are You Measuring?

Posted by Bill Crose on September 13, 2019 at 11:33am 0 Comments

A lifetime ago, my training department colleagues and I were satisfied with training data. We cranked out the requested ILT programs plus the "flavor of the year" content, we kept a busy training schedule, and made sure the coffee was always the right temperature. When accused of not delivering effective training because the learners didn't perform as they were trained, we took refuge in our management support role and not ultimately responsible or accountable for LEARNING or productivity.…

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Julie – in her loving and understated way decided that her Dad (me) would enjoy/benefit in some manner by reading a book titled “Narrative Matters – The Power of Personal Essay in Health Policy.” She loaned me her copy of the book. I wished to read it and return it quickly – out of respect and a desire to not be someone who is loaned a book and never returns it. The book was placed on my nightstand – since I tend to read (or do crossword puzzles) many nights before falling to sleep.

Several years later (and about 500 crossword puzzles later – the NY Times Sunday edition type puzzles) I glanced at the book for the umpteen millionth time – started to skim it and thought that it may not be a book that would interest me. It was not the typical business book or cutting edge technology book or sports book that I usually read. It did not look like a book that I thought reflected what I typically was motivated to learn about. So the next day I called Julie and said that I would return the book to her. I had had it for way too long – had not read it yet – and wished to return it to her – since it was quite unfair for me to have kept it so long. Her response was simple, sweet and so typical of Julie – “That’s OK Dad, I’ve read it already – take your time to read it.” I was surprised – and yet also relieved – the guilt that had been building within me for not reading the book – evaporated. The book remained on my nightstand for another few hundred crossword puzzles.

Ironically during most of my life (certainly during the crosswords puzzle era of my life) I had considered myself to be a person who read for understanding. I may only read 10 or so books a year and generally six to eight of them become referenced during one of my monologues. Several times I had been asked “How do you determine which books to read.” I respond –  “I don’t need to determine which to read - because 90% of what I read has been a gift. Someone who knows me very well – gifts or loans or suggests a book to me. The fact that I then normally read these books and talk about them for years reflects the wisdom of others – the authors and the gifter.

So – last night – June 2, 2017 – I once again glanced at “Narrative Matters.” I picked it up read the blurbs on the back cover – flipped the pages, skimmed the index – randomly read a few paragraphs and was not able to convince myself to begin reading the book. The “tribalization of America” has been one of my current monologues and I tried to convince myself that this book was going to be a veiled attempt at objectivity when in reality it was going to be another diatribe. But – there was still some lingering guilt – it had not totally evaporated. I chose  to try to read it and would continue to do so only if I could convince myself that “Narrative Matters” was taking an objective stand on “narrative” and the “matters.”

I read the blurbs and the cover – glanced at the copyright page (noted 2006) and read the contents pages (3+) – and then I read the forward and then then I read the preface and as I was reading about the authors I decided that rather than read about each sequentially I would read about them before and after I read the essay that they had authored. I was not yet convinced but I was hopeful because there were of statements such as:

  • “Our enthusiasm for the narrative form was tempered by knowing that story-telling is not science but perception.”
  • “Dan Fox famously said that the plural of anecdote is policy, suggesting the force of the narrative.”
  • “Harvey Fineberg noted, admonitorily, that the repetition of anecdote is not evidence.”

I read chapter 1 – completely and then decided to go to sleep.

In the morning I awoke enthused I – I was committed to reading the entire book – and was going to set up an online discussion group to accompany it. I sent an email to Julie and told her what I was going to do and why.

And then I started to cry. Julie had gifted me with a book suggestion. If the book was a diatribe it would be a subtle way of telling me that I was diatribic. And yet our conversations (with imbedded Dad monologues) had included my questions about where could I find objectivity? – How could I challenge my objectivity? – Could we have the courage to learn from others whose experiences were different from ours? The tears reflected an expression of the understanding of truth – revealed by “The Wisdom of Julie.”

 

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