I want to provide an outline of a philosophy and methodology. No doubt there will be aspects that feel familiar to you and other areas which might be new.
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) was developed by David Cooperrider in the 1980s. Cooperrider was already influenced by earlier writings by Schweitzer on the idea of "reverence for life". The Austrian Albert Schweitzer who stressed the interdependence and unity of all life. Schweitzer was a forerunner of the environmental and animal welfare movements, a world renowned figure as an author in philosophy, ethics, music, and theology who dedicated much of his life to providing health care to the people of what is now Gabon. As part of his PhD Cooperrider interviewed leading clinicians at the Cleveland Clinic about their greatest successes and failures. Drawn to the stories of success he focused this aspect. His work and the resultant report had a substantial impact, and the clinic’s board asked that the same approach be used thought the whole 8000-person organisation.
Appreciative Inquiry is an affirmative approach to discovering and creating a more positive future for an individual, group, organisation or community. I was struck many years ago by a statement Corkville Briggs’ when she stated that each one of us is genetically unique to the tune of 10 to the power of 2.5 billion. For me this often means that as children we must learn from individuals interact with group norms for survival. I have a model which chimes well with A.I.
Unique Genes X Unique Experience = Unique You © This simple model often allows people to understand a little more of themselves, perhaps a sense of their place in a family story or simply more grounded. It is a primary model when I am working with presentation skills This leads me to the first of the A.I. principles:
The Constructionist Principle: Social Constructionism argues that the language and metaphors we use don’t just describe the world, they actually create the world. It can be instructive to explore with a client what their stories are in relation to systems they meet or have met. the language we use shapes our social reality. Meaning is made in conversation, and what emerges as knowledge is a broad social agreement created among people through communication. The Constructionist Principle recognises that there are many different ways of viewing social reality and many truths, and that we can replace “absolutist claims or the final word with the never-ending collaborative quest to understand and construct better options for living” (David L Cooperrider, Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution In Change). What does this mean in practice? Life is full of ‘social constructs” - phenomena which exist because people agree to act as if these constructs are real. ‘Social status’ would be one example; paper money is another. When people decide to change their beliefs around a particular social construct, reality changes.
Organisations are made up of social constructs: conventions, rules, and assumptions that often go unchallenged and unreflected on. Decisions are made, expectations of the future are formed, and information is interpreted within the frame of those unchallenged assumptions. Implications: If social reality is shaped by how we talk about it, think about typical ‘pub’ conversations where the conversations usually involve ‘venting’ about what is wrong but without the intent of fixing. A client may have an expectation of similar ‘collusion’ in their relationship with the coach. We aim for a new relationship where the focus moves to what gives life. There is value in talk about what is working, what the client is proud of, and what the coaching client wants.
Question for client: What changes could you make to what you talk about, or the way you talk about it, to get the best from your team, your colleagues, or your boss?
Exercise It is always interesting when one’s opening gambit with a client begins with. You might like to practice this approach by asking a ‘partner’
1. what do you feel you are currently doing well?’
Follow up questions might be:
2.Can you give me an example?
3.How do you experience yourself right now as you answer my question?
This is highlights a vital area in my work, and I draw a on Focussing, and my experience of working with John Witt. I want the person to be able to obtain a clear sense of how their body feels as it it is so helpful in visioning. We understand something of ourselves perhaps when listening to a piece of music or experiencing a great taste, but too often we live in our minds and not in our bodies. What is happening within our bodies, when we experience positive thoughts? What shape do we feel when we experience positive thoughts?
1. In a longitudinal study with the same children, over 90% of children were shown to be divergent (very similar to creativity) thinkers when aged 5 but by age 15 this had dropped to less than 10% Why do you think this might be?
2. What is the most creative about your work at present?
3. What have been your best work experiences this year?
4. What is the best thing you have done so far this year?
5. What do you value about yourself?
6. What do others value about you?
7.What are you currently happy about in your life?
8.What are you committed to in your life?
The Simultaneity Principle: Classical, linear, approaches to organisational and indeed individual change assume that first you diagnose, then you change. Indeed, the diagnosis stage can lengthy and potentially. expensive. Just as ‘change initiatives’ can get stuck in the diagnosis phase , so it can be for individual clients who prefer the analysis but do little to make substantive change. We see inquiry and change as happening together—simply by asking questions. The questions of a coach are in themselves an intervention.
In A.I. we have discovery as part of the process but as you will see this not a linear model, and I believe that the simultaneity principle together with positive questions ensures a process that is never static.
The Anticipatory Principle Image Inspires Action. We naturally project ahead and the stronger the images that we create the greater the changes that will come in the future. How do you use visioning in your work, can you share an example with us this evening? The Appreciative Inquiry Process Open-Ended Questions with a Positive Base The AI “4-D” Positive Change Model ￼The model is not linear as sometimes described. The model was always intended to be flexible. Linearity might be ideal but the reality over time in coaching is that the client moves in and out of phases for example over a series of coaching meetings and it is my job to work with where the client is whilst enabling them to reflect on experience and to maintain their focus. Eg. If you had a magic wand and use it to bring about a new future in the coaching profession, what three things would you wish for? A. B. C.
Discovery: Here I tend to start with the same question I would ask of you - what are your strengths? Not skills but strengths, for example courage. Can you compose a top 10?
The replies begin to open up the possibilities around the building blocks for a compelling Future. The VIA Classification of Character Strengths (updated Oct. 23, 2008)
1. Wisdom and Knowledge – Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge
2.◦ Creativity [originality, ingenuity]:
Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualise and do things; includes artistic achievement but is not limited to it
3◦ Curiosity [interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience]: Taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering
4◦ Judgment & Open-Mindedness [critical thinking]: Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one's mind in light of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly.
5◦ Love of Learning: Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one's own or formally; obviously related to the strength of curiosity but goes beyond it to describe the tendency to add systematically to what one knows
6◦ Perspective [wisdom]: Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and to other people
7. Courage – Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal
8◦ Bravery [valour]: Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what is right even if there is opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular; includes physical bravery but is not limited to it
9◦ Perseverance [persistence, industriousness]: Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles; “getting it out the door”; taking pleasure in completing tasks
10◦ Honesty [authenticity, integrity]: Speaking the truth but more broadly presenting oneself in a genuine way and acting in a sincere way; being without pretence; taking responsibility for one's feelings and actions
11◦ Zest [vitality, enthusiasm, vigour, energy]: Approaching life with excitement and energy; not doing things halfway or halfheartedly; living life as an adventure; feeling alive and activated 3. Humanity - Interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others
12◦ Capacity to Love and Be Loved: Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated; being close to people
11◦ Kindness [generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, altruistic love, "niceness"]: Doing favours and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them ◦ Social Intelligence [emotional intelligence, personal intelligence]: Being aware of the motives and feelings of other people and oneself; knowing what to do to fit into different social situations; knowing what makes other people tick 4. Justice - Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life
12◦ Teamwork [citizenship, social responsibility, loyalty]: Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group; doing one's share
13◦ Fairness: Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting personal feelings bias decisions about others; giving everyone a fair chance.
14◦ Leadership: Encouraging a group of which one is a member to get things done and at the same time maintain good relations within the group; organising group activities and seeing that they happen.
15. Temperance – Strengths that protect against excess ◦ Forgiveness & Mercy: Forgiving those who have done wrong; accepting the shortcomings of others; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful
16◦ Modesty & Humility: Letting one's accomplishments speak for themselves; not regarding oneself as more special than one is.
17◦ Prudence: Being careful about one's choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted
18◦ Self-Regulation [self-control]: Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one's appetites and emotions
19. Transcendence - Strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning
20◦ Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence [awe, wonder, elevation]: Noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience
21◦ Gratitude: Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks
22◦ Hope [optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation]: Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it; believing that a good future is something that can be brought about
◦23 Humour [playfulness]: Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes
24◦ Religiousness & Spirituality [faith, purpose]: Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe; knowing where one fits within the larger scheme; having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort.
Follow up questions And what would you describe as your secondary strengths? When could you employ all these strengths more often? Dream The Dream phase explores “what might be:” a time for people to explore their hopes and dreams for their work, their working relationships, their organisation, and the world at large. It is my experience that once people have begun to take on board their strengths they are more ready to dream, and feel less influenced by the past.
The intent of the Dream phase is to identify and spread affirmative, and hopeful images of the future. This can also be accomplished in large group forums, where unusual combinations of stakeholders explore:
• Creative images of the organisation s most positive potentials • Innovative strategic visions
• An elevated sense of purpose.
Design The Design phase involves making choices about “what should be” for individuals, within an organisation or system. It is a conscious re-creation or transformation, through which such things as systems, structures, strategies, processes and images will become more fully aligned with the organisation's positive past (Discovery) and highest potential (Dream).
Destiny The Destiny phase initiates a series of inspired actions that support ongoing learning and innovation – or “what will be.” Since the entire 4-D Cycle provides an open forum for employees to contribute and step forward in the service of the organisation, change occurs in all phases of an Appreciative Inquiry process. The Destiny phase, however, focuses specifically on personal and organisational commitments and paths forward. The result of destiny is generally an extensive array of changes throughout the organisation in areas such as: • Management practices • HR processes Measurement systems • Customer service systems • Work processes and structures What do you think is the core life-giving factor or value of your work/organisation - which it wouldn't be the same without? If you could grant three wishes for your work/organisation, what would they be? What achievements are you (and/or your team) proud of? Apart from the money, what makes it worth coming into work?
Finally I would like to enlist your help with a metaphors exercise. As a tool for coaching, the client's metaphors an insight into their unique perception of their situation and their goals. We all use metaphors in our everyday speech.
A Metaphor is defined as "A way of speaking in which one thing is expressed in terms of another, whereby this bringing together throws new light on the character of what is being described" (Gorden, 1978). My experience is that visual metaphors are often very powerful, and humour liberating. For a number of years I have I have used quite a well known training exercise which I know as the composite animal. Recently I have begun to reflect that I would like to deepen my understanding of using metaphors and would be most grateful for your feedback. First, lets try the exercise and see what you come up with. Using individual parts of different animals as a metaphor for an aspect of your work, what individual skills do you currently feel that you have as coach? Labelling is allowed once the drawing is done. Now use the same technique to ‘describe’ yourself as the perfect coach. Now get together in groups and see what composite animal you can produce together to illustrate the skills required for a coach. If you have enjoyed the exercise and see it as having value, I would welcome your feedback and illustrations over the coming months.
Basic AI Bibliography The Power of Appreciative Inquiry: A Practical Guide to Positive Change by Diana Whitney and Amanda Trosten-Bloom Gives the underlying principles of AI and the 4-D process, gives a detailed, step-by-step explanation of engaging in an AI process and describes the principles and 4-D process as applied to a real-life organisational change initiative. Appreciative Inquiry: Rethinking Human Organisation Toward a Positive Theory of Change Edited by David L. Cooperrider, Peter F. Sorensen, Jr., Diana Whitney and Therese F. Yeager Containsarticles explaining the theory of AI and the body of research demonstrating and supporting its efficacy. The Appreciative Inquiry Summit: A Practitioner’s Guide to Leading Large-Group Change by James Ludema, Diana Whitney, Bernard Mohr & Thomas J. Griffin Explains the use of Appreciative Inquiry for “whole system” involvement in change processes, including organisational personnel, customers, vendors and other stakeholders.
Via Kevin Chamberlain