I will wrap up the discussion of appreciative inquiry by highlighting the 5D Model, the framework used to structure an AI organizational development initiative. The 5 stages are:
Define – describing the intent and scope of the initiative
Discovery – uncovering and appreciating the best of what is
Dream – envisioning what could be
Design – co-constructing what should be
Destiny – delivering and sustaining the dream
We actually use this model to organize and frame our work with clients. It has stood the test of time!
One of the first pieces of advice I was given when I started consulting was to get up every day and get dressed in my business clothes, even if I was working at home. The appreciative inquiry principle behind this is “acting as if is self fulfilling.” I think this is true. If you’ve ever been in a bad mood, but decided to smile and be nice to people anyway, at some point the bad mood becomes a good one.
We’ve done a lot of strategic planning and creativity capacity building through both our paid consulting work and our non-profit once-a-quarter and the most interesting conversation is about who to invite. Inevitably, the contact person names the Board and the ED (or the C-suite in the case of for profit organizations). What about the staff, volunteers, clients, funders, suppliers, etc is our response. Many OD researchers and practitioners are passionate about large group forums which bring the whole system in the room as it unleashes creativity, capacity and energy. Who do you invite?
A great question begins the process of change, according to appreciative inquiry practitioners. To be asked, “what is it you want to create?” in response to a whine about how bad your life is challenges you to think differently and creates movement forward. Underneath every complaint is a vision for something different. Think of a great question to get at that vision and watch how the energy shifts during a conversation.
The positive principle of appreciative inquiry suggests that positive questions lead to positive change. These positive questions bring out what nourishes, excites, energizes and inspires people to change and move towards something different. Deficit questions, on the other hand, keep us stuck and confused. My favorite question in the face of difficulty has been “why is this happening?” and that question is not helpful in moving me forward. It leads to a victim mentality. The question, “what do I want more of?” leads to more positive action.
Choosing what we study is a powerful and challenging appreciative inquiry concept to most leaders. Most of our traditional management theory falls under a gap assessment paradigm, and as humans we do tend to gravitate to what’s wrong or not working. Choosing to study what is working, sometimes called positive deviance, makes a big difference in the energy we bring to something.
According to appreciative inquiry practitioners, free choice liberates power. I agree. We are fortunate to facilitate diverse stakeholder strategic planning processes, and I am always humbled by the amazing things that happen when the formal leaders let go of control and create an environment of free choice. People become committed to action and energized by what they can create.
I was chatting with a colleague the other day about appreciative inquiry (AI) and his desire to put abstract drawings into concepts. I took that as a challenge and here is one of the first principles of AI, that our words create our worlds. This is such a timely reminder for me, as I have been struggling with a few things lately and the way I talk about it is doom and gloom which has led, quite frankly, to me feeling pretty crappy and not really creating what I would most like. If I talk about what’s going on that’s good, I can always find a step forward. If we all talk together about what’s right, we construct a whole new reality.