At the recent World Appreciative Inquiry Conference (WAIC) 2019 hosted in Nice, France I was privileged to meet many attendees who freely shared their reflections on why and how they embraced Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and the good experiences it continues to generate. The thread of similarity evident in each person’s story was the transformative nature of the AI experience that illuminated a way forward. A particular statement I often emphasise and that I heard echoed throughout the conference, “when we create change, that change creates us”, was alive and well in the stories people shared.
Following on from the tremendous success of WAIC 2019, I am keen to hear from people who attended the conference and would like to contribute their AI story to the Voices from the Field of the AI Practitioner: International Journal of Appreciative Inquiry. Details of how to make contact with me are included at the end of the following article.
Appreciative beginnings: Doing what matters most
Appreciative beginnings are a kind of window into what matters most to us and what may be in store for us in the future. They provide us with enough information about ourselves that we recognise an opportunity for the connection we feel to it. For me, Appreciative Inquiry (AI) became the bridge between what matters most and how to strengthen this throughout my lifetime. It celebrated my appreciative beginnings in a way that enabled me to transform my feelings into positive inquiry, or more specifically, Appreciative Inquiry.
It is always a welcome experience to listen to how AI has contributed to peoples’ personal and professional lives. Indeed it is common to hear someone say that although they initially employed the AI approach within their work environment, it quickly found its place in their personal life and transformed them in a way that celebrated the workspace even more – a kind of personal paying it forward! I see this time and time again when I enter workspaces that utilise AI, where the creative interaction within teams and organisations moves beyond the world of work into daily life. Actually, AI seems to be so integrated in peoples’ lives that work is often talked about as a vocation, not a job! When I think about the individual reflections people have shared over the years of their introduction to Appreciative Inquiry, it is clear there is something deeper going on that is inextricably linked to each persons’ emerging narrative.
Work is love made visible
Each of us has our own story of an appreciative beginning – a moment or moments in time that seamlessly connect with Appreciative Inquiry. My appreciative beginnings stem from two experiences: in my early teenage years I was encouraged by my father to think carefully about the kind of work I would like to do when I eventually completed school. At age fourteen I came across Khalil Gibran’s book The Prophet (Gibran, 1973). In it he emphasises that “Work is love made visible”. This line had a strong impact and inspired me to think about work that would enable me to live such an experience.
The other appreciative beginning was an even earlier experience when I was a young child spending much of my time up a tree – a place where my imagination thrived. It was a living, breathing universe and home to all kinds of active and unique organisms, me included. Its branches supported me as if to embrace every feeling and idea I brought into this welcoming place of nature. I remember wondering if, and hoping that, my life as an adult would also be this way.
Home to the imagination
As with my experience of the tree, AI enables the workplace to be home to the imagination and encourages exploration. Promoting the conditions that support co-creation, the AI process asks questions that “set the direction” and are pivotal to the way an organisation evolves. Ideas are shared, discussed and nourished. When we are encouraged in this way we flourish because who we are and what is meaningful to us becomes part of the collective narrative and all that we co-create. We begin to think, feel and say “I love my work!” and continue to share this love of work to such an extent that it is love made visible.
One of the keys to good generative change are creative questions typical of those inspired through the AI approach that somehow connect us to our appreciative beginnings. Indeed, AI ticks all the boxes when it comes to incorporating the dynamics of a creative question, which I have identified as follows:
Promotes innovation through encouraging interaction between our intellect and intuition;
Inspires creative thinking;
Generates creative conversation;
Conjures imagery that develops as the conversation progresses;
Always results in possibilities.
What is it that David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva (Cooperrider & Srivastva, 1987) initially tapped into in the 1980s? Why and how has it become more than a solution-focussed, person-centred approach? Their work inspires and cultivates self-determined change; it not only highlights and demonstrates for individuals, teams and entire organisations ‘what can be’, it also reflects back and emphasises the positive core that emanates from the collective narrative. Their work is a reminder that we all need to be valued for what we can bring to the workspace; that we can learn and grow from the collective narrative; and that the inherent positive dialogue at the heart of Appreciative Inquiry can elaborate on our appreciative beginnings.
How to Contribute Your Story to WAIC 2019 – New Voices
As a member of the Editorial Board for the AI Practitioner Journal | International Journal of Appreciative Inquiry, I have been compiling short reflective stories for the Journal since February 2016. To date, we have published over twenty articles in the Voices from the Field section from AI practitioners across the globe as a way of sharing their experiences of the AI process. In celebration of the recent World Appreciative Inquiry Conference (WAIC) 2019 hosted in Nice, France in March this year we will be publishing articles highlighting the rich diversity of AI Practitioners.
If you would like to share your Appreciative Inquiry story with a global audience and would like more information, I can be contacted via:
Phone/Text/WhatsApp: +61 432 397 526
Thank you, Keith