International Journal of Appreciative Inquiry


AI: Creating magic for South African entrepreneurs – by Judy Janse van Rensburg

AI: Creating magic for South African entrepreneurs

Judy Janse van Rensburg

Working with entrepreneurs as part of a business incubation program in one of South Africa’s poorest provinces has lead me to believe that AI might have magical properties. Entrepreneurs are dreamers, and AI is all about dreaming and making those dreams come alive. The combination of the Anticipatory principle, the Heliotropic principle and the use of appreciative language can lead to extraordinary results. Had I not witnessed these experiences first hand, I might not have believed it.

The poor survival rate of entrepreneurs is well documented and the evidence of broken dreams is often reflected in high unemployment figures. Trying to start a business with little or no funding in a poor province takes a lot of guts and determination, and most business owners will tell you that there are many times they have felt like giving up.

Understanding what ‘gives life’ to a system can mean the difference between success and disaster.

AI gave hope to entrepreneurs as they focused on their positive core. Getting to know themselves as entrepreneurs empowered them to see new possibilities and take positive action. Understanding what “gives life” to a system can mean the difference between success and disaster. When entrepreneurs are aware of what gives them life, and when they are at their best, they can harness that knowledge and create magic. When they are able to review their best experiences of dealing with clients, they become inspired to make more effective and strategic sales calls.

Knowing when they feel most energised and alive allows entrepreneurs to focus on their areas of brilliance and delegate the rest. Rapid business expansion then becomes possible, and to those on the outside it almost appears magical. The key is to spend enough time and go really deep with the dream – when the dream is clear and articulated, willpower becomes irrelevant and motivation is available in an instant.

The Anticipatory principle has two major elements: imagination and the  creation of a picture of the future. I witnessed the amazing strength and power of possibility when one of the entrepreneurs I was coaching was determined to pitch her business for funding, despite having started chemotherapy two days prior to the pitch. She made a conscious decision to focus on life-giving activities for herself as well as her business, as she had a very clear picture of the future.

‘In what ways could I attract more of my ideal clients?’

Teaching entrepreneurs about the Heliotropic principle (what we focus on grows) enabled them to focus on creating and approaching their ideal clients, instead of focusing on “not having money/sales”. Adopting appreciative language with entrepreneurs seemed, at times, to have almost magical results. With one entrepreneur in particular we reframed “I need to get more clients” to “In what ways could I attract more of my ideal clients?” Instead of making 100 sales calls per week, focusing on short term “jobs”, this entrepreneur could apply his efforts more strategically and focus his attention on attracting long-term, ideal clients, which saw him grow his business exponentially within a very short space of time. AI could be key to empowering more entrepreneurs in Africa.

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