Today I revisited my Appreciative Inquiry (AI) notes from the course I did a few years ago. Every time I re-read them I am reminded about how much I love the principles of AI and their way of describing things. One thing I really liked is that it is also know as ‘generative inquiry’ which may make more sense to people. Here are a few more of my favourite bits.
It is important to understand the principle that as soon as you open your mouth and give your change voice it changes things and has an impact.
This is so important for change. The first thing you say about your change shapes how people view it going forward. It is hard to rewind and change their view once one has been established. Get your thoughts together, your language right and then open your mouth.
We must move from focusing on needing to know the answers to asking the right questions. We must also understand that these questions are fateful.
The other day I had a conversation about change and data. I felt uncomfortable but I didn’t know why until I sat with it an mulled it over. This AI point captures what my gut was telling me but my head wasn’t getting! While data is important we have to make sure we are asking the right questions rather than just focusing on the data/numbers/answers we are looking for.
While it feels complex, the aim is to create environments that are both/and rather than either/or.
This is a hard but important point. It takes a radical shift in thinking for most people. In the discussions you are having or the options you are considering is it possible to have both/and rather than ending up with an either/or? Can you consider both, all, be inclusive? What happens as a result? Give it a go!
In organisations there is a difference between culture (mainly permanent) and climate (passing).
The culture of an organisation is complex and made up of a number of elements. While organisations can change their culture it is mainly permanent (think NHS). However, within cultures you also have climates. I.e. at team level. Where a new manager or new team member or new project can change the climate of a team. It is important to understand both and work with both levels when considering change projects.
AI can be likened to jazz, it is self-organising but in its perceived chaos is order and beauty.
Chaos isn’t always bad and what is chaos to one person is not chaos to another. I never liked jazz until my best friend took me to see her brother drum at a jazz club in London. It was amazing. Chatting to him after and learning about his love of drumming and jazz helped me see its order and beauty. AI and change can feel chaotic but if you explain it or get people to understand it they can learn to be comfortable with it or even love it!
“What would happen if we saw organisations as gifts and miracles not problems to be solved” – David Cooperider
For some people the terms ‘gifts and miracles’ is too fluffy and you can’t fix stuff without looking at the problems (I kept typing issues instead of miracles so I get it, it’s ingrained!). However, when you explain it is about balance, about both/and rather than either/or people feel happier.
As we talk and behave we are created.
For me this is about ownership and accountability. As humans we are responsible for our behaviours and how we react to stuff. We have no control over others but we have control over how we respond. We need to be mindful of the fact that everything we say and do shows who we are and what we believe in and as a result it creates us.
Need to assume when disagreement happens both are right.
This is back to the both/and principle but this point is about leading from this position. We need to try, in every situation to lead from a position about being inquisitive in how both can be right and trying to find the answer to this.
Maybe we need to talk about flaming platforms rather than burning ones. Flaming platforms focus on the amazing, glowing future that needs to be created rather than a fear based sense of urgency that creates a closed threat response.
This point is so important to me especially in relation to my work with the NHS. The NHS is a hot bed for creating a sense or urgency based on fear and it is paralysing for people. People become like rabbits in headlights, they raise their barriers for protection to the threat, they retreat to places of safety, they disengage. AI’s principles of pulling people forward based on positive visions instead of getting them to run forward based on fear is one that really resonates with me.
Positive Core – A map of all the achievements of an organisation and all the moments of innovation and breakthrough.
When I am invited into organisations that have already started their change process they usually have a ton of post its or documents listing the issues and risks they are trying to eradicate. How much more energising would it be if the project started by creating a positive core and using this to learn how to move forward rather than starting with the issues? Again, both can exist. Use the positive core to find the solutions, skills, behaviours from previous successes to the current risks and issues.
Striking a groove/ dynamic synchronisation – Attunement to others (appreciatively) and negotiating a shared sense of the beat.
I just love these words. In every change action we should be asking if that is moving us forward in a shared way. Are our actions combining, joining, creating cohesion? If they are not maybe they are the wrong actions. Look at what other ones have worked better.
I am glad I have had time to expand these and add more meaning. I hope you find it useful too.
[Note: This blog has been amended to add more detail to the initial AI related headings and added to WordPress rather than LinkedIn.]