When it comes to creating positive changes in your organization, what are the questions you’re asking? You see researchers have found that the questions we ask shape the outcomes that we get.
When we ask questions about why things aren’t working we discover all the weaknesses of our strategy, our culture, our policies, our processes and systems. And while these are important insights to have, the reality is fixing these institutional weaknesses is generally a slow, expensive and difficult process in most workplaces.
But when we ask questions about why things are working (even if they are small glimmers of hope at the outset), we discover all the strengths of our strategy, our culture, our policies, our processes and systems. While this doesn’t mean we should ignore our weaknesses, the reality is building upon these institutional strengths is generally a faster, more affordable and sustainable way to create lasting positive changes.
So how can you pull this off in your workplace?
Appreciative Inquiry is a systemic strengths-based approach to creating lasting change. Based on the research of Professor David Cooperrider (Michelle’s PhD supervisor) this approach has been instrumental in:
- Accelerating the growth of the United Nations Global Compact from 1500 firms to 8000 of the world’s largest corporations;
- Improving energy efficiency across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts resulting in nearly nine billion dollars of benefits for residents and businesses; and
- Bringing together the world’s religious leaders to unite more than seven million people around the globe to try and build a better world.
How does an Appreciative Inquiry Summit work?
Grounded in the strengths-management philosophy, Appreciative Inquiry starts from the premise that you learn little about excellence by studying failure. For example, instead of talking more about:
- Gender inequality, what might be possible if we started to explore inclusive workplaces or women who are thriving at work?
- Why our children are struggling to be resilient at school, what might be possible if we started to explore flourishing school communities?
- Why our people aren’t engaged, what might be possible if we started to explore thriving workplaces?
Given human systems have been found to grow in the directions about which they inquire, making a careful, informed and thoughtful choice about the topic of conversation is where any Appreciative Inquiry effort starts.
Rather than having management, HR teams or small groups tasked with exploring potential answers alone, an Appreciative Inquiry Summit brings everybody together to:
- Discover what’s working when it comes to bringing out the best in your people.
- Dream of what’s possible if these strengths were consistently built upon to create a sustainable, culture of inclusion.
- Design pathways forward to mobilize people’s hope into clear actions that will deliver the diversity outcomes and realize your shared vision.
- Deploy the promised actions by leveraging social support and social accountability to maintain momentum, navigate obstacles and celebrate what is being accomplished.
Delivered over one or two days (depending on your needs) the speed, dexterity and level of trust and collaboration created in an Appreciative Inquiry Summit is rarely experienced in most organizations. Its ability to bond opposing stakeholders around a common purpose, to motivate siloed leaders to pool their resources and to transform hard-nosed cynics into raving fans is why Appreciative Inquiry Summits have steadily grown in popularity when it comes to creating lasting change.
We help organizations leverage the potential of Appreciative Inquiry Summits in a number of ways:
- We can take care of everything – the design, delivery and debriefing of your Appreciative Inquiry Summit so you walk away with a clear change plan and highly motivated and committed teams ready to take action.
- We can coach you through the process – for organizations who already have skilled facilitators or smaller budgets this is a low cost, high value way to get the most from your Appreciative Inquiry Summit. We can tailor the support to help you get your stakeholders on board, design your agenda and participant guides so you’re confident the right conversations will be had, and help you report your outcomes and ensure your teams are energized and committed to take action after the Summit.
- We can help only where you need it most – if you need an objective eye to design your Summit or an independent facilitator to deliver what you’ve already created we’re also here to help.