In my last article I introduced appreciative inquiry and some background for the methods and why it is useful. This article I share some of the tools and methods that can help you perforce or apply appreciative inquiry in areas of your life.
Since I have really only looked at how appreciative inquiry is used for strategic planning and thinking, that is what I am going to angle the methods for this article as well, but keep in mind these could easily be adjusted for other purposes. So, again the method is to discover what makes an organization “alive” in the sense of its life blood or vitality? What makes it tick and be at its best? Then to take that discover and use the learned experiences by imagining a future and then designing the processes and structures that will enable it to become the future reality.
Creating and Focusing on Positive Goals
All too often we position a situation based on what cannot be done or we hear someone say what can’t be done. A great tip to respond in a meaningful inquiring way instead of simply, “Why Not?” is to ask, “What would you need in order to respond on this way and what would it take to enable that if you had to?” This positions the question to look more at what is possible instead of what is not. Focusing on the problems and limitations just puts borders in place that makes it harder and harder to achieve what you do desire. Take the resources from the past to build on your strengths.
As with focusing on positive goals, if you spend time looking to resolve problems by talking about the problems, little focus is actually spent building from experiences of great experiences. With appreciative inquiry, you can take any topic and change the wording to make it a more positive for what you want, instead of a topic based on things you don’t want. Arswino wrote a recent guest article here on setting a new mind pattern which follows the same approach of setting and wording topics to be that of which you do want more of, not the things you don’t want.
This inquiry tool is a great way to discover more about the strengths, aspirations and dreams of another person. Paired interviews with a set of questions that work well with the SOAR (stengths, opportunities, aspirations and results) framework as a focus will help you to discover more about the core factors, values and strengths of a person or organization. During an interview, focus on basing the questions on the best past experiences and dreams or hopes of a person and stay focused on the questions and as being an active listener. There are many examples of questions to use for interviews some of the ones I’ve used for paired sessions are listed below:
We’ve all had times of nostalgia and thought back about past experiences and how great they were. Think of the best moments or timeframes in your career (not only at AMI) when you were having the time of your life, your high point in your professional life or your most rewarding peak points. Recall that time and tell the story of the situation? What made the experience exceptional to you?
Without being modest, what is it you value most or are most proud of about yourself in your career? What do you most value in the nature of your work? What about in the organization?
What is strong in the organization that enables people and the organization to operate at its very best? Without those factors, the organization would cease to exist or at least be very different than it is today.
Describe an exceptional customer experience you have been part of? What made it exceptional?Describe an exceptional customer experience you have been part of? What made it exceptional?
Fast forward five years into the future. Think of the organization now how you would like to see it. Everything the organization and you have strived for has become a reality and the core strengths and values have been preserved. The organization is thriving. You look around and see evidence of many successes everywhere you turn; in business results, in technology and services, and in the way people interact and work to unleash the power of one another. What do you see that is new, better and different? Describe it in detail.
Creative design can be done in many ways. The idea of this one is use an exercise that has a creative focus to build or design the ideas for the future of what ought to be. Getting people to think outside of their normal box and to expand in some new creative way is one of the best techniques to ensure there are new ideas and an active imagination, which is exactly what you want for planning the future of what you want to have. There are many different ideas here and you only need to use something that forces people out of there comfort zone. Some starting places for an exercise might be any of the following:
- create a poster or collage to demonstrate what you want things to look like
- perform a short skit and act out an example of what you are designing
- draw a picture or build a craft / example of what things will look like
- write a poem or song to demonstrate it
- create a story to describe what things will be like
Application of Appreciative Inquiry
One of the great things of AI is that it can be applied in many different ways. It can be used in informal ground up methods of inquiry right through to structured full on organizational change driving systems with projects and cycles of each phase. Os course not only systems can benefit from using appreciative inquiry, but many areas in life. It can be used in explore the a new purpose, discover what experiences and practices make up the best, most vibrant systems. As well, it can be applied for setting new vibrant goals that have focus on both the positive results desires as well as having room for imagined dreams and aspirations.
Appreciative inquiry is also a useful method to building closer relationships through the stories and understanding it drives out. It emphasizes learning and change with a strong positive core. And finally, AI is also very helpful for coaching others, as it enables the relationship to be strengthened and helps to change things in the present in such a way that one’s dreams and hopes are more likely to become reality.
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