Organizational Generativity: The Appreciative Inquiry Summit and a Scholarship of Transformation: Volume 4 in the book series Advances in Appreciative Inquiry. - by David Cooperrider, Danielle P. Zandee, Lindsey Godwin , Michel Avital, and Brodie Boland. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets.
Appreciative Inquiry, or “AI” is taking the strengths revolution to a new level, far beyond today’s common talent-management or individual leadership focus. Introducing the next generation AI Sustainable Design Summit—something that a recent CEO report singles out as “the best large group method in the world today.”
We are entering the collaborative age. In eras past, the focus was on preparing for organisations to be change frontrunners capable of capturing strategic advantage through disruptive innovation and by creating their own organisational cultures capable of embracing relentless change. Today, however, executives are saying that organisational change is not enough. The overriding question is no longer about change per se, but is about change at the scale of the whole. ‘How do we move a 67,000 person telephone company together?’ ‘How do we move a whole Northeast Ohio economic region in momentum building alignment and shared consensus?’ ‘How do we move a whole dairy industry toward sustainable dairy, not in fragile isolated pockets that disadvantage some and advantage others, but across an industry-wide strengthening effort together?’ Or, ‘how do we, as a world system, unite the strengths of markets with the millennium development promises of eradicating extreme, grinding poverty via collective action?’
Meanwhile, the list of grand challenges calling out for ‘change at the scale of the whole’ grows in complexity and urgency: the call to systemic climate action; massive energy and infrastructure transition; establishing economic conditions for peace; creating sustainable water, regenerative agriculture, sustainable forestry and fisheries and walkable cities; or designing effective polices for moving from an economic era of contained depression to one of sustainability + flourishing.
Nowhere is this call for change at the scale of the whole more decisive for designing and capturing business and society value than in the sustainability domain. We are entering the next phase of the sustainability age in which systemic action is the primary leverage point for successful change (Chouinard et al. 2011).
New convening capacities and leadership tools for aligning strengths, interests and priorities at all levels of a supply system, or across public–private sectors including government, academia and NGOs, and even across entire industries, regions and countries—this is the new strategic capacity for game-changing innovation. An additional consideration, equally important, is speed. Big change is often so slow that no matter how good the visionary impulse, the programme or the strategic imperative, it is often dead on arrival because the momentum stalls, politics drag on, priorities drift apart or, more mundanely, it takes months between small group meetings. Consider the maddening attempts to coordinate calendars across slow bureaucracies and more agile entrepreneurial technology upstarts, or to simply synchronise the collective diaries of hyper-booked executives.
Jeffery Sachs, the economist, puts the case persuasively. The single ‘most important variable affecting our fate is global cooperation’ and, as he writes, ‘it’s a fundamental point of blinding simplicity’ (Sachs 2008).
In the realm of sustainable business, it is indeed increasingly clear that we’re no longer lacking in isolated sustainability solutions. Everyone is going green or socially responsible. Our greater challenge lies in system-wide designing—for creating mutual advantages, for scaling up for what could be trillion dollar solutions, and for discovering the ways of overcoming the challenges of collaborative creativity across multi-stakeholder supply chains, entire industries and larger whole systems.