Would you like to accelerate your organization’s success? It’s as simple as making appreciation an integral part of your daily practices and culture.
More than a dozen years ago a friend introduced me to a relatively new concept called appreciative inquiry. It has changed my life dramatically, as well as the lives of individuals and organizations who have adopted this framework. And it is a critical component of organizational success.
Very simply, appreciative inquiry (AI) is a framework for viewing the world. Instead of seeing the proverbial glass as half empty, AI practitioners perceive it as half full. Rather than focusing on fixing or solving “the problem” in a given situation, we begin by identifying what we did well or right, and we build on those successes. The fact is that human beings gravitate toward people and things that give us life and energize us, and we move away from people and things that suck the energy out of us. Using a storytelling process with carefully chosen questions, AI enables us to identify our strengths and past successes, which collectively provide a strong foundation for the future. We look at what we have done WELL, and we use those elements as building blocks to co-create our desired future. AI has been used successfully all over the world by individuals, small and large organizations, societies, international organizations, and the military. Personally I have used an appreciative approach to help clients develop strategy, identify goals, re-direct the behavior of dysfunctional teams, resolve conflicts, and create positive work environments.
Without having experienced or observed an appreciative process or culture, it’s impossible to fully grasp its tremendous power to unleash an infectious creativity and energy among those who experience it. Let me give you a quick example. In 2009, I was asked to help a non-profit organization develop a business strategy. The recession was just becoming evident, and the Executive Director and Board members were worried that they would not be able to obtain the resources necessary to sustain their work during the difficult days that were sure to come. When they arrived for the strategy session, the question they wanted to focus on was, “How can we keep the lights on and the doors open?” That was the WRONG question. Instead, we re-framed the question to be, “How can we build a world free from domestic abuse, and empower families to create that world for themselves?” During the session, I had the participants interview each other using questions that specifically addressed their past successes and their dreams for the organization. By identifying the common themes and using them as the basis for creating a common “big picture” for the organization, we developed a strategy that literally was breakthrough – and a far cry from merely keeping the lights on! During our follow-up session in 2011 to fine-tune that strategy, the Board was able to report remarkable progress in realizing the organization’s dream.
The point is that when leaders create an appreciate environment in which they and their employees can be creative and expansive, the sky literally is the limit. Why? Because we find the things that we seek. If we look for positive, life-affirming elements in the organization, we will find them. By the same token, asking negative questions will lead us to unproductive, energy draining answers. The fact is that the questions we ask determine the direction in which people look for answers. We get to choose which questions to ask, and as a result, the direction in which our organizations will go.
It’s not necessary to undertake a major change initiative to realize the transformative power of appreciative inquiry. To the contrary: you can create an appreciate workplace in short order simply by asking purposeful, positive questions every day – and teaching others to do the same. If you’d like some examples, my article Transformative Questions for the Workplace lists twenty general appreciative questions. Given that the failure to create an appreciative environment shortchanges all organizational stakeholders, isn’t it worth investing a few minutes of your time to discover how you can accelerate your organization’s success by adopting an appreciative view of the world?
If you would like to learn more about this transformative framework, I invite you to request a free copy of my Special Report on Appreciative Inquiry. Then let us know how you can use this remarkable technique to accelerate your organization’s success!
© 2011 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved