David Cooperrider, the man behind Appreciative Inquiry, was asked by the US Navy to figure out why there was a such a high staff turnover. They were losing too many trained men and women; and it was a scenario that had to change. Cooperrider’s response was unusual. He turned around to the US Marine standing by the door and asked “What makes you stay?”
In every human situation, something works
Doing more of what works is the key driver for Appreciative Inquiry, as opposed to trying to do less of what we know doesn’t work. Acting from the assumption that something is working makes it more likely that we will find that something. This is worth doing, as expectations – particularly from people in authority – influence performance. (See the Pygmalion effect.)
Focusing on the positive influences the outcome
Focussing on the positive has been found to be extremely effective, for example, in sports psychology. There is plenty of research to back up the idea that focusing on positive aspects makes a successful outcome more likely. (See the Expectancy Effect; the placebo effect: the value of positive emotions; and the psychology of luck)
Rediscovering our past achievements will affect our future
We have more confidence in our future, when we carry forward the achievements of the past. It’s much easier to construct a future vision when this is based on memories of positive experiences, rather than starting with a blank canvas and trying to come up with something from scratch.
If we were to focus exclusively on eliminating problems, or even on a vision of the future which does not take account of what is already good in the current situation, there is a danger things that we will lose what works already.
It makes sense therefore to start the change process, as AI does, with what is valuable and what is already working well, and to base change on doing more of what works.
If you’re interested in running an AI workshop in your organisation; and you would like someone to take you through the process and facilitate it, give me a call.
The objective was to help us frame our vision and strategic direction.
In my view she demonstrated great insight and professionalism in her work.
Mike Burrows, Trustee, CME