What’s great about Appreciative Inquiry (A.I) is that it not only focuses on all the good/positives, it’s framework also supports leaders be more positive, supportive, fuel creativity, encouragement and kindness.
Many models and approaches emphasise “problems” or what you are doing “wrong” that needs “improvement”. It’s quite a negative starting point isn’t it?
I know some people will say you have to focus on what is not working well – the constraints; whilst A.I. does the opposite of this. We are always learning from what went wrong, bad experiences and problems; we rarely learn from what went well, good experiences and achievements. For example, if you received a compliment from a customer, you are more likely to feel a sense of achievement, say well done and file away the compliment – hardly no learning actually happens from it. If you get a complaint there is lots of learning and probing that takes place (quite rightly) but why can’t we have an equal approach for good and bad?
So I wonder why are most improvements not sustained to the level they need to? Is it because we are fixated on fixing problems and neglecting the small pockets of excellence that need to be nurtured and grow? Even with the best systems in the world, if you don’t have the right culture and motivated staff, systems will not work to their full potential. Instead we sometimes blame the people behind the systems.
I love creativity. A.I embraces this through rich story telling, dreaming big and encouraging ideas in the pure sense. Let me explain “ideas in the pure sense.” Have you ever had an idea which has been acknowledged as a great idea followed by a “but”? Or an idea which is taken away from you and used elsewhere? Or even an idea which in the end is modified and tweaked so much, it no longer is what your original idea was? “Ideas in the pure sense” are ideas that you are motivated to share AND bring to reality. You are encouraged to make them flourish, make your vision come to life and see it grow. So many times I hear great ideas from people but no motivation, sense of freedom or belief in their own ability to make them happen.
A.I also embodies kindness at its very core. By looking for the good, listening to good and believing in good; the environment becomes….good! Kindness is shown through its need to make sure questions frame positivity and lead to positive mindsets. It doesn’t dwell on negatives, it’s there to make you feel better, believe better and do better. It doesn’t try to do what many of us do which is diagnose problems. A good example of this is general meetings, if you look at most agendas, most are full of problems we are trying to fix, issues we have, concerns and priorities. We rarely see an agenda with an item that asks for what has worked well or what has been achieved in general – I don’t mean just sharing best practice/achievements at the end of a project – I mean day to day goodness and personal experience.
I admit I’ve not used A.I. as much as I could and having rediscovered it recently, I can’t wait to start using it again.
I would like to reference the work of G.R Bushe and coachingleaders.com