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Reflections on the Discovery of Self

During the European Summer of 2022, I spent some time in the Netherlands where I was invited by Joep de Jong to be interviewed for a short film that focuses on the discovery of self. A filmmaker well-known for his work and expertise in Appreciative Leadership, Joep suggested a free-flowing conversation, one that would develop organically. The result was a welcomed exploration into how each person is a story interconnecting with the stories of others, and how Appreciative Inquiry (AI) encourages my personal understanding of these connections. Ultimately, I felt reassured that the more we understand our own story and the things that stir our curiosity, the more likely we will be to recognise all that emerges to liberate who we truly are.

Keith Storace | Australia

Keith Storace manages a private practice at Kiku Imagination where he applies the Appreciative Dialogue (ApDi) therapy program to assist individuals move toward, strengthen, and enjoy what is meaningful while dealing with the challenges they encounter along the way.

 

Download the full article.

Many AI practitioners I have spoken with over the years describe their introduction to AI as a kind of homecoming, where they feel a deep sense of connection. I am always intrigued to learn more about their story and how their sense of connection is often a re-connection to something that has remained meaningful to them. I refer to this re-connection as “appreciative beginnings”, those moments in our early history where we experience a feeling of bliss usually connected to something that we find deeply meaningful.

I use the term “appreciative” in three ways: as acknowledgement of what has brought us joy and what inspired curiosity at such an early time in our lives; how this combination of joy and curiosity continues to hold meaning for us to the present day; and as recognition of how our embrace of Appreciative Inquiry has been influenced by appreciative beginnings. 

Since commencing as editor of Voices from the Field in 2016 for the AI Practitioner journal, certain aspects of every article written for the column by AI practitioners across the globe can be traced back to each author’s appreciative beginnings. For them, AI has been a bridge between what matters most and bringing it to life in the world. It’s the depth of meaning their work holds for them that is a manifestation of the ripple effect set in motion by those early days of joy and curiosity, a pivotal aspect of self-discovery that eventually leads to good work. 

Appreciative Inquiry is a promise, a process and way of life that continues to move each of us along the good side of human history. It embraces, ponders, and elevates us to the reality that we are connected – we are each other – and together we have what it takes to co-create a future that is best for all life on this planet.

Joep C. de Jong has filmed over 70 conversations elaborating on the power, validity, strength, and truth of Appreciative Inquiry. Reflections on the Discovery of Self is available on vimeo, along with a list of other conversations, each one a unique and inspiring story revealing what is possible.

Intro by Keith Storace

The final article is one I was invited to write following a short film created by Joep C. de Jong where he interviewed me while I was in the Netherlands in 2022. In Reflections on the Discovery of Self, I was encouraged to explore questions on the emerging self, Appreciative Inquiry, and the Inner Child.

A Practitioner’s Journey to Living With Climate Change

This article, the first in a series of four that focus on climate change, is an invitation to AI practitioners to help shift the paradigm of “fighting the climate crisis” to one of deep transformation so that we, our organizations, our communities, the world at large, and the more-than-human world can learn to live with the undeniable and irreversible changes occurring on our planet. Living with does not mean accepting passively what is happening. Rather, it calls us to acknowledge, adapt – and imagine new ways to thrive.

Download the full article.

Alexandra Arnold| USA

Alex Arnold (she/her) MSPsy, MSHR/OD, ACC, is program director at The Taos Institute and a climate resilience coach at Alma Coaching. She is the host of The Quiet Activists online community, where she uses positive psychology and Appreciative Inquiry to help introverted and highly sensitive people shift from climate anxiety to inspired action. 

 

As coaches, consultants, educators, leaders and change agents, we are “change experts”. What better position to be in to shape the future of our world? Sure, it’s an enormous responsibility. But, with AI at our side, we are well equipped to step up to it. For a start, we know the benefits of bringing all voices into the room.

In their recently published book, Ecological and Climate-Conscious Coaching: A Companion Guide to Evolving Coaching Practice (Whybrow, Turner, McLean, 2022), members of the Climate Coaching Alliance discuss the “eco-phase cycle”, originally developed by Peter Hawkins. This model suggests that each of us finds ourselves in one of five eco-phases: eco-curious, eco-informed, eco-aware, eco-engaged or eco-active. Indeed, our journey to living with climate change begins with curiosity, and by listening to more than just one story.

Listening to science

There is a lot of data available, varying opinions, and all sorts of messages – from “it’s too late anyway” to “someone else will fix it”. We could talk about degrees, pounds of carbon dioxide, or number of years before we reach one catastrophe or another. How much do we really need to know? 

To summarize the United Nations on climate action in one paragraph, the effects of climate change are that: The world is losing species at a rate 1,000 times greater than at any other time in recorded human history. Melting ice sheets cause sea levels to rise, threatening coastal and island communities. Cyclones, hurricanes, and typhoons feed on warm waters at the ocean surface and destroy homes and communities, causing deaths and huge economic losses. Changes in the climate and increases in extreme weather events are among the reasons behind a global rise in hunger and poor nutrition. Wildfires start more easily and spread more rapidly when conditions are hotter. Changing weather patterns are expanding diseases, and extreme weather events increase deaths and make it difficult for health care systems to keep up. Climate change increases the factors that put and keep people in poverty.

Given the enormity of what we are facing, it is easy to go from denial to despair, or to listen to lots of facts without fully integrating them. Yet it is important that we “not only listen to the science with our conceptual mind, but also listen with our hearts and guts and whole being”. (Whybrow et al., 2022).

Listening inside

In any form of change, and for a new way of life to emerge, we must first acknowledge what has been lost or must be left behind; this isn’t a logistical problem, it’s an emotional one.

Climate grief, or ecological grief, is now recognized by the American Psychological Association. This Canadian Climate Institute article (Cunsolo & Rezagian, 2021) breaks it down into four types: grief from acute disasters; grief from slow-onset changes like loss of ice, habitat or species; vicarious grief when witnessing suffering in faraway places; and anticipatory grief, which is closely tied to eco-anxiety. There is no shame in adding to this list: grief for a way of life, for the comforts, conveniences, habits and traditions that are no longer sustainable, and the realization that change is inescapable.

“Climate grief differs from other forms of grief in that rather than one loss, we experience multiple losses, past, current, and anticipated. Where the pain of a more traditional form of loss may lessen over time, climate grief may keep returning, ever sharp and differently textured, with each new loss. If we can learn to grieve well – making space for it, and knowing that it will not destroy us – we can accept grief as a familiar friend, and that acceptance might allow us to experience a deeper connection to our world. If we can do that, then there is a gift in this time of sadness and anxiety; in surrendering to grief, we can connect to love.” (Whybrow et al., 2022)

According to Neena Verma, author of Grief, Growth, Grace: A Sacred Pilgrimage (2021), grief is an inevitable part of life, and so is “the human capacity to grow strength in the garden of sorrow and seek the path of deep growth, transformation, and grace.” Death and growth are not separate or consecutive. They are intertwined. What would it look like to allow death and grief to also hold beauty and hope? In some parts of the world, dying leaves in autumn are celebrated for their vibrant colors. In our gardens, it is decaying organic matter that provides nutrients for new food to grow.

In nature, death is everywhere. What else can we learn from the very world we are trying to save?

Listening beyond

When reconnecting with our deeper emotions, we are reconnecting with our humanness. As human beings, we are part of the greater living system of our planet. How do we make sure that our non-human neighbors always have a seat at the table? In programs such as the Dialoguing with the Earth certification, founded by ICF-accredited coach Lilith Joanna Flanagan, you can learn to dialogue and partner with nature to create a collaborative cohabitation with the earth. 

Another way to invite the perspective of the natural world in our work is with the Council of All Beings practice, based on the work of Joanna Macy, where participants are chosen by a non-human life form and speak on its behalf in front of a council in ways that “grow the ecological self, for it brings a sense of our solidarity with all life” (Macy, 2017).

To access knowledge from beyond our limited human experience, let’s acknowledge just how young we are in comparison to other species and within the history of this planet. There is a clash between our short-term self-focus and the much longer timeframe that needs to be considered in the context of climate change, like the seventh-generation principle found in Indigenous wisdom.

To stretch your time horizon, you may take a Deep Time Walk (2022), a recording of the earth’s 4.6-billion-year history to be listened to on a 4.6 km walk. In this unique experience, science and poetry merge to share the story of how our planet formed, of how life evolved and finally, in the last one-fifth of a millimeter of that walk, of the devastating impact of humanity since the industrial revolution.

When we listen to the natural world we are part of, the deep emotions inside us, or the news around us, we bring a multiplicity of voices into the room, and we take the first step into living with climate change.

References

Verma, Neena. (2021) Grief, Growth, Grace: A Sacred Pilgrimage. Rupa Publications India.

Whybrow, A., Turner, E. and McLean, J. (2022) Ecological and Climate-Conscious Coaching: A Companion Guide to Evolving Coaching Practice. Routledge.

Intro by Keith Storace

Also, in a new series for Voices from the Field, A Practitioners Journey…, Alex Arnold will present four articles over the next four issues of AI Practitoner that focus on living with climate change. In her first article titled: Bringing All Voices into the Room, Alex provides us with an initial overview of the current state of climate change, listening to the science, and how all this challenges contemporary thinking. 

Being the Question: Opening to Change: The Principles of Enactment & Simultaneity

What is equity? We hear that word all the time; in fact, it has become a buzz word that sounds good. So many companies and organizations have initiatives and employees whose sole role is to ensure equity, but what is equity really? In many places equity is defined as ‘a condition of being fair or just’. Sounds straightforward, but with people it’s not that straightforward at all. This can be problematic because we, in the world, have competing ideas about what fairness is and what justice is. We often see things based on our lived experiences, which complicate how people see fairness and justice. This attempt to both name equity and to advocate for the application of fairness and justice in our systems is messy and leads to a proliferation of meanings that aren’t necessarily aligned towards the same goals, diluting the power of our work.

Download the full article.

Faith Addicott | USA

Faith Addicott, MPA, MPOD is working to improve the intersection of work and life through innovative and human-centered process design. Her consulting work has centered on nonprofits and local government, where she has undertaken organizational assessments and strategic planning using AI and other strengths-based processes. She is a champion for inclusive workplace design.

 

Staceye Randle | USA

Staceye Randle, MPOD is a Human Resources professional who is passionate about creating workplaces focused on helping people grow and learn. She is also an advocate for ensuring equity and justice in every aspect of her private and professional life.

 

 

If, however, we apply the AI principle of Enactment to the task, we learn that the most important word in the definition of equity, above, is ‘being’. In enactment, we are called to ‘be the change we want to see’. In our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work, this means embodiment of equity, being in our own actions and stories, both fair and just. It’s not that we don’t need the application of these concepts to our systems and institutions (we do!), it’s that through enactment we bring them into being in a way that influences every situation. 

In this frame, Appreciative Inquiry asks us to BE equity, to manifest and occupy the space of justice with our own lives. This is revolutionary.

In a system dominated by tokenism and performative actions related to equity (start DEI projects but don’t fund them, hire diverse candidates but don’t address the racist cultures that harm them and force them out, or just check the boxes), the enactment of equity is soul-deep. It resonates through us, and we ring like bells in the halls of change, clarion calls shattering the falseness of racist systems. Enactment of equity silences rooms and erupts in cheers in the same breath.

How do we come to embody justice? We ask ourselves and others deep questions. We ask, in the spirit of complete exploration, what is equity? What is fairness? What is justice? In short, we come to enactment through inquiry – the Simultaneity principle, which says that inquiry is an intervention. The moment we ask a question, we begin to create a change. When we ask those questions of ourselves and others, we open the space for being – for the creation of new pathways, both neural and generational.

These two principles are deeply entwined when applied to the work of belonging. We ask; we become. We ask others to become.

When fully realized, our questions become more than generative; they are transformative, alchemical. Because, in the face of centuries of inertia (these harmful ways of thinking and doing have been around a long time), questions are an acknowledgement of possibility. The possibility of something else, something better that we have only to find.

We find a more just and equitable world first in our own humility, in our love of others, in our curiosity and in our being. Through these principles, we come to be what we seek.

Intro by Keith Storace
Continuing their ongoing series titled: Our Principles in Action: Appreciative Inquiry for Justice & Belonging, Faith Addicott and Staceye Randle ponder the AI Principles of Enactment and Simultaneity and how these principles move us to understanding the power, value, and transformational aspects of “Being the question”. 

 

 

Awareness of Wholeness: Two principles in balance

In the May 2021 issue of AI Practitioner, Faith Addicott commenced a series for Voices from the Field titled “Our Principles in Action: Appreciative Inquiry for Justice and Belonging”. The series explores the ten AI principles in the context of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Given that the focus of this issue of AI Practitoner is dedicated to learning and leveraging generative approaches to DEI, we decided to devote this installment of Voices from the Field to two principles in Faith’s series, the Wholeness and Awareness principles, and how they contribute to our appreciation of what is possible.

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Faith Addicott | USA

Faith Addicott, MPA, MPOD is working to improve the intersection of work and life through innovative and human-centered process design. Her consulting work has centered on nonprofits and local government using Appreciative Inquiry and other strengths-based processes. She is a champion for inclusive workplace design.

 

 

he Wholeness principle: Wholeness brings out the best

Wholeness brings out the best in people and organizations. Bringing all stakeholders together in large group forums stimulates creativity and builds collective capacity.

The Awareness principle: Be conscious of underlying assumptions

Understanding and being aware of our underlying assumptions is important to developing and cultivating good relationships. Practicing cycles of action and reflection can build one’s self-awareness.

As we lean into this special issue of the Appreciative Inquiry journal, we wanted to bring forth two principles that both complement and elevate each other. It is a core part of our experience with Appreciative Inquiry that interconnectedness exists between all of the AI principles, and also between the human beings who live in the intersectional spaces of our world. 

Wholeness as a principle speaks to this. It asks us to acknowledge that every person has value, every voice belongs. When we bring wholeness into the center of our thinking, it becomes clear that equity work must be a core element of any change initiative because it removes any false sense that difference means differing levels of creative capacity or worth. In the ways that we organize ourselves socially this has deep implications.

More broadly, wholeness is the quality of being complete or a single unit and not broken or divided into parts. When organizations embrace wholeness, it opens up a wide variety of possibilities, both the human side of our experience (being whole people at work) and the organizational side (transcending silos and silo mentalities).

People and organizations that dare to show their personal side with all the emotions, doubts, challenges and feelings involved, are generally better able to solve problems, address conflicts and reduce the influence of big egos.

By creating a unified vision that the entire workforce understands, the various teams in the company can build their objectives with that vision in mind. This will build greater trust between teams and help everyone adopt a big-picture view of goals, rather than focusing only on their own department. 

Wholeness invites us to think about how AI can help us in working across silos, communicating strategies across divisions, purpose and value development, naming authenticity and belonging in the workplace, understanding interconnectedness and dependencies, and generally raising our awareness of how our embracing of diversity grows our positive shared future.

In the definition we provided above, the Awareness principle of AI is focused on unearthing our assumptions, on finding and owning our biases and our strengths. In the context of wholeness, the awareness principle asks us to come to a greater understanding of our interconnectedness, and challenges us to unlearn comparative valuation of people.

Some of the biggest assumptions we carry in our white-centered society are rooted in othering, in assigning places or silos to each “kind2 of person. These move far beyond race and ethnicity. We categorize by gender, weight, sexuality, ability, neurotypicality. The history of the west is rooted in a history of mechanistic and divisive world views. We have learned to break things into smaller pieces and constituent parts in ways that we rarely examine.

In our work, we must examine and unlearn as generative actions – awareness also names our need to move, to change, to be in action, not just the contemplation of equity. We must both breathe and push into birth a world of wholeness; we must be both the wind and the sail. It is the balance between things that brings possibility.

In the intersection of awareness and wholeness, we come to a place of crossing paths, a place that creates spaciousness for all people to belong. In this place we are the sum of all our identities and more: we are beings who live in context. That context must be without judgment or valuation because its positionality is universal. 

Appreciative Inquiry itself is an intersectional act – we both appreciate, and we ask. If we do that in keeping with the principles of awareness and wholeness, we multiply our understanding of what is possible for all people, of all races and all identities, in the space of creative freedom and belonging. This is the heart of all diversity, equity and inclusion work, and our principles call us to the task.

Intro by Keith Storace

is a registered psychologist with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) and associate fellow with the Australasian College of Health Service Management (ACHSM). He has designed and implemented health and wellbeing frameworks across the community, health and education sectors. Keith’s current focus is on developing his work in Appreciative Dialogue (ApDi) to assist individuals in moving from self-doubt to inspired positive action.

 

Shop Talk at the Dinner Table: AI in family systems that work together

At the 2019 World Appreciative Inquiry Conference (WAIC) in Nice France, I had the pleasure of attending Oona Shambhavi D’mello’s presentation titled: “The Power of a Question in a Culture of Critique”. I was delighted when Oona agreed to write an article for the February 2022 issue of AI Practitioner. Oona returns to Voices from the Field in this issue with another article, this time co-authored with her family members, all of whom are AI practitioners! Their individual and collaborative approach to Appreciative Inquiry lets us share in a unique story of shop talk around the dinner table. It’s my pleasure to welcome Oona back, along with her family members Preeti, Bosco and Satyashiv.

Download the full article.

Oona Shambhavi D’mello | India & US
Individual | Sister | Daughter | Sustainability Learning Leader
Lead: CEO of MySustainOnline

Oona Shambhavi D’mello is an artist, OD practitioner and agent of social impact. Oona’s mission is to impact the lives of people, serving their personal and professional growth, the wellbeing of their ecosystems and the health of the planet, with appreciative language being a key facet to promote human and social sustainability.

Her passion for expression is curated to promote “art can heal” firsthand. Oona’s purpose is to promote human and social sustainability by inspiring leaders, organizational ecosystems and communities to create sustainable impact for our planet.

Satyashiv D’mello | India & US
Individual | Brother | Son | Social Sustainability Leader
Lead: Human & Social Sustainability at Conscious Development

Satyashiv leads DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion and belongingness) and social sustainability at Conscious Development, and is the founder of YouUbuntu. His vision is to inculcate the paradigm of YouUbuntu through the maxim, “I am because we are”. Through his work, Satyashiv integrates positive psychology, metaphysics, organisational development, learning sciences and coaching to evoke higher order thinking and positive action towards a flourishing planet.

Preeti D’mello | US
Individual | Wife | Mother | Diversity & Inclusion Thought Leader, Futurist and Coach
Lead: VP, Global Head: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and LeaD Academy at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)

Preeti is inspired by the motto “inclusion without exception” at TCS, and is responsible for the ongoing systemic transformation in the leadership, diversity, equity and inclusion ecosystem at TCS. With thirty years of experience, Preeti brings a grounded, practical and strengths-based orientation to organizational development and leadership as well as mentoring and coaching, leveraging her experience and understanding of human nature to evolve effective turnarounds for personal, business and leadership challenges. 

Bosco D’mello | India & US
Individual | Husband | Father | Leadership Thought Leader & Coach
Lead: Leadership Capital & Organizational Development at Conscious Development

Bosco established Conscious Development with a singular purpose: to enable individuals to bridge the gap between who they are and who they can be. He has been a partner to leadership in the USA, India and Singapore in leadership capital development, diversity and culture, and executive coaching. He supports the vertical development of leaders through the integration of inner and outer life, connects them to their potential, and elevates how they think and work. Bosco supplements his professional commitments with his passion – teaching – as visiting faculty member at institutions including Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and SP Jain School of Global Management.

Shop Talk at the Dinner Table: AI in family systems that work together

How we are on the inside is how we experience the outside. A joyous heart and clear mind make many a barrier breachable. An exhausted heart and an angry mind make even the good moments inconsequential. But what determines whether it is joy or exhaustion that commands our hearts and minds? The most significant determinant, as far as civilisation goes is – relationships: the relationship with oneself, relationships with others, a relationship with nature and all that is unseen.

Debatably, a significant marker of our evolution is the ability of human relationships to work with cohesion and alignment, and value one another in times of homeostasis and hyper-complexity.

This is a learned awareness. As individuals, a family and colleagues with different capacities, we have learned much from our interpersonal relationships, a long-written code within the blueprint of our intimate family system that was delightfully brought to life by David Cooperrider through the power of Appreciative Inquiry.

Our story is unique – we are a family of practitioners that hold the same goal of meaningful and sustainable change in systems, often by applying AI in different contexts. Not only do we share a common goal, but also come together professionally: we work together, both informally and within an organisational structure.

Valuing diversity of thought, open conversations and safe dialogue along with honest and vulnerable introspection has been a keen and consistent aspect of our family and team cultures, with a core alignment to and practice of AI, both the philosophy and process.

By leveraging the wisdom and process of AI through exploration and discussion, trial and error, empathy, compassion and failing forward, we have honed some traits of healthy and effective interpersonal systems that we have tried and tested at home and work. Here are some of our insights:

1.  Diversity of thoughts and ideas

In a family, it is often assumed that everyone thinks the same way. Is it because we believe that people who have lived together, share genetic traits and environmental influences, are the same? Is this assumed sameness the foundation of safety which must exist in a family (in our case, often family plus colleagues)?

We think not. Yes, members of a family are alike and often share many common views. AND YET members of families and teams can also value diversity of thought because sameness is not the foundation of safety; trust is. (In fact, sameness can result in inertia, which in many spiritual schools of thought is regarded as synonymous with death).

A different perspective need not be seen as an opposing one. There is value in that which makes us different, a value that can be life-giving to groups and systems only if we abandon our assumption that sameness is a strength. 

Diversity of thought is the gateway to evolution. Whether it be around the dinner table or conference room, diversity of thought is the recipe for positive disruption and innovation, a known pathway to stay ahead of the competition. Once leveraged, diversity of thought allows groups to have a multifaceted world view and strategic approach to solving problems, road mapping the future, and collaborating effectively.

2.  Variety of strengths

With this diversity of thoughts and ideas also comes a variety of strengths. Even though we may share similar “nature and nurture”, we have individual stories that are ripe with different contexts, ecosystems and experiences that have influenced our operating systems and given birth to different strengths.

Leveraging the collaborative and interdependent nature of human systems, which is clearly visible in Appreciative Inquiry, is the foundation of how family and workplace systems like our own can and should value different strengths.

Often, the challenge is identifying which moment is most appropriate for which strength. At this point, a deeply democratic conversation, governed by discovering what has worked in the past, collectively envisioning the future, and co-creating a design strategy and process, helps us make an informed decision and commitment together as a family and/or team at the workplace.

Knowing that “there are many ways up the mountain” fills the group’s minds and hearts with hope, joy and togetherness, effectively preparing us to act in the spirit of collaboration.

3.  Shared power and interpersonal respect

Every system has a power dynamic, often fixed and undisputable unless unforeseen events intervene. Even within groups that share genetic coding, beliefs, values and environments, diversity exists – of thought, experiences, ideas and strengths. Tapping into this diversity demands that power be shared. Power in this context isn’t the ability to exercise force over the other; rather, it is the ability to take the stage and share one’s ideas, and have access to a circle of influence to enable real change.

Within a family and at a workplace, diversity demands that power be claimed and shared equally so that everyone can offer their thoughts, ideas and strengths for the benefit of the entire system.

This may seem utopian to some – can power really be shared willingly? Yes, it can. By leveraging open communication, curiosity and honesty, founded on provocative open-ended questions, the diversity of thought in a room becomes apparent, especially since we share a common desire for interpersonal respect.

Power, shared fairly and equally, balances giving and taking, energises circles of influence by valuing different expertise, and enables frameworks that seek out individual and group responsibility and accountability. Additionally, interpersonal respect further encourages diversity of thought, open communication, intentional leadership, ownership and accountability.

4.  Curiosity and friendship

When starting to explore relationships and what makes us come together, we soon realise there is a common thread running through us all. It may have a different colour or texture and we may imagine it differently, yet there is always a common denominator. We all aspire to be seen, heard, valued and loved. These simple words require complex efforts, yet if we look through the fog of this complexity, we notice that all of these are achievable through friendship.

We have often found that AI sessions start with everyone – almost instantaneously – establishing friendship. It is usually an outcome of having a common goal, contributing and making an impact – or just being a part of a group. From our research and reflection, the basis of this friendship is a genuine curiosity to know more about others, which paves the path for powerful exploration and designing the way ahead.

Curiosity is a powerful enabler of connection, psychological safety, creativity and innovation, progress, and friendship. Understanding what matters to one another, listening with the intention of understanding rather than the intent to respond, displaying courage and vulnerability by sharing one’s own story, and valuing differences as a pathway to “blue sky thinking” are all agents of sustainable growth, whether it be around the dinner table or in the conference room.

5.  Alignment of passions

In a group that plans to stay together– a family or a team – it is essential to be aligned on shared values, principles, passions and purposes. The beauty of true alignment is that it is entirely co-created. True alignment is the output of each individual sharing what matters to them, their aspirations for the group and how they can employ their strengths to play a part in achieving this goal.

We may think, can diversity of thought and alignment co-exist? Yes, it can, and must. Neither of the two must be threatened by the other. Alignment amongst members is in no way meant to imply rigidity and inertia. In fact, true alignment is built on safety and curiosity, so that any contributing member can offer their diversity of thought without raising anxiety over threatening the progress of the entire group.

With alignment comes momentum. Only once members of a family, team or organisation are aligned as active contributors on their values and goals will there be observable momentum between individuals and in projects. 

6.  Individual and shared accountability

The purpose of accountability is not to have someone to blame, but rather to commit to something that is initiated, to trust in one’s ability to achieve the goal, to use every task as a container to fail forward, to solicit collaboration whenever needed, and to celebrate the effort that led to success.

In a family and a team, accountability must be a matter of excitement rather than potential risk. In today’s world of work, accountability feels like a big and scary word that creates pressure, stress and psychological exhaustion.

“One for all, and all for one” is the axiom that has filled our shared experiences with a sense of community and safety. Each person acts toward the benefit and success of the group, and the group works towards the benefit and success of any individual within it. This axiom celebrates the innate trust in everyone’s capacity to do well, flourish, and learn well if we fail.

Professionals, teams and organisations have much to unlearn and relearn when it comes to accountability and how to apply it as a tool to generate effort and inspire everyone’s best self.

All the above insights are somewhat simultaneous and iterative when put into action. Relationships are at the core of any human function and are the determinators of long-term joy and effectiveness. We have much to think about when it comes to the nature of how our relationships develop – do they enable us to show up as our authentic and best selves, or do they compel us to fit the mould and play-act so that we can have a seat at the table? 

Dinner tables and conference rooms are potent with the potential to do good, learn from our mistakes, dream big, shed all apprehension, garner momentum, and rest and restart so that we can live well and make a difference.

Intro by Keith Storace
is a registered psychologist with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) and associate fellow with the Australasian College of Health Service Management (ACHSM). He has designed and implemented health and wellbeing frameworks across the community, health and education sectors. Keith’s current focus is on developing his work in Appreciative Dialogue (ApDi) to assist individuals in moving from self-doubt to inspired positive action.

 

Our Principles in Action: The Poetic Principle

At the recent Global AI Jam April 2022, organised through The Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry, I had the pleasure of being on the Australian Panel discussion on hope for a global future, and the related article can be read following Faith Addicott’s and Staceye Randle’s article on the Appreciative Inquiry Poetic principle that emphasises we can choose what we study.

Download the full article.

Faith Addicott | USA

Faith Addicott, MPA, MPOD is working to improve the intersection of work and life through innovative and human-centered process design. Her consulting work has centered on nonprofits and local government using Appreciative Inquiry and other strengths-based processes. She is a champion for inclusive workplace design.

 

Staceye Randle | USA

Staceye Randle, MPOD is a human resources professional passionate about creating workplaces focused on helping people grow and learn. She is also an advocate for ensuring equity and justice in every aspect of her private and professional life.

 

 

What do you choose to know?

Choice is something people often take for granted. As we discussed in our previous article about the principle of Free Choice, being able to choose something– or at least think we have chosen something – is very important to our human sense of self and autonomy. After all, we tend to think that free choice and being able to think critically separates us from animals. 

Much of the conversation today around critical race theory (CRT) revolves around parents or politicians being able to choose what their children learn in school. So why would people choose for their children to be ignorant of history, even if it is painful? Perhaps on some level these folks know what we know – if we choose to study something, we shine a light on it: the light of our intellect and intention, of our acknowledgement of the basic reality of that which we study. While CRT is taught in graduate level courses and at law schools, even there the truth sometimes gets in the way of what folks want to politically acknowledge. And by then it’s often too late for the choice of study to truly move the world – academia is already rarified, not universal.

At this moment in history we are seeing, in America particularly, the reality of the Poetic principle. The move to block the teaching of Black history, to ban books whose stories conflict with a desired narrative, to ban language itself in some states … these are not just existential threats. They are, at the heart of a battle over what is REAL. By choosing to continue the vital study of race in America, the history,the victories and the losses, the people and movements which have led to this moment we validate our shared humanity across color and creed. We open the door to new possibilities.

To choose to study the history of Black and indigenous peoples, to study the homesteading of Chinese and other Asian–American groups, to learn about what folks have endured and conquered, the whole amazing resilience of people who are not white, is to validate the reality of this lived experience. And when we do that, we create a different, more universal, platform for defining who “we” are. We open to a shared reality instead of a colonizing mindset which only knows the story of one kind of people. 

One thing is for sure, what we choose to study makes a world of difference when navigating the changes required to move towards real racial justice. In fact, what we choose to study just plain makes a world. Our world.

Appreciative Inquiry: Hope for a Global Future – An Australian Perspective

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a promise, a process and a way of life that continues to foster good change for individuals and communities. It encourages each of us to move along the good side of human history as it embraces, ponders and elevates us to the reality that we are connected -–we are each other – and together we have what it takes to co-create a future that is best for all life on this planet. This became all the clearer to me during the Australian panel discussion at the 2022 Global AI Jam. 

Facilitated by Sue James and Libby Mears, the focus for the panel was on what it takes to foster and sustain hope for a global future. Panel members included Kate Heron, Repa Patel, David Lees, and me, Keith Storace. With an emphasis on AI and each individual panel member’s experience of what it offers, four themes emerged: the AI journey; bringing AI to life; strengthening the common voice; and from little things big things grow. 

The Appreciative Inquiry journey

Appreciative Inquiry is a good example of the value of connecting with people.
Kate Heron

Having immersed myself in the world of AI for several years, it came as no surprise hearing each panellist reveal a common thread; an inextricable link between their values and Appreciative Inquiry.

Throughout the panel discussion, there was a strong sense of trust in AI, with a clear understanding that good possibilities emerge when we engage in the AI process. 

Kate shared that AI has been a life-changing experience where the value of connecting with people is a strong draw for her: “…coming to a conversation with an open heart has been transformative … AI has been a professional extension to my natural personality.”

Similarly, Repa shared: “…there was a lot of alignment with my belief system and AI”, adding what had emerged for her was that AI was not just a feel-good temporary experience but one that “…connects heads and hearts”. It’s the approach she employs when working with leaders , and it produces concrete results. 

David said he became immersed in strengths-based practice, as it was called in Australia, and “…began to appreciate there were a whole lot of different conversations around the world about the transition from a deficit-/problem-based approach to a strengths-based approach”. He added that exploring AI at a deeper level revealed a clear link between his values and a strengths-based approach with the AI principals, values and assumptions.

 

I related my own experience of engaging in AI as a re-connection to what I call “appreciative beginnings”, meaningful moments across a lifetime that seamlessly connect with what AI offers as a process and a way of life.

Bringing AI to life

Appreciative Inquiry is the bridge between what matters most and bringing it to life in the world.
Keith Storace

It is fair and logical to say, for the most part, that our goals are only as achievable as the actions we take toward them. This is where AI creates the conditions that enable movement in the direction of our goals. One of its key tenets is: “What we focus on becomes our reality” and I see this working as a psychologist, leadership consultant, and especially in developing and implementing AI centric programs. This tenet is also reflected many times over through the countless stories shared across the world by AI practitioners. Some of these experiences have been published in books, articles, and especially in the AI Practitioner. When we talk about AI being hope for a global future, we’re talking about hope-in-action that is encouraged and supported by the AI framework of Define, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver. A point I often make is that AI enables us to think differently, and sometimes we need to think differently to live fully; to fully appreciate what can be. This can have a ripple effect at a micro and macro level.

Having embraced AI because it aligns with his beliefs, ethical considerations and strong sense of social justice, along with his desire to bring AI to life, David emphasised the importance of working from a sense of deep respect, where difference is embraced through the kind of curiosity that appreciates and builds on what everyone has to offer: “I see myself not as an expert but as someone who adopts a decent position in my work so that I draw on the expertise of the people in the room”. 

Like David, Repa agreed with the importance of harnessing each person’s expertise and stated that she walks alongside everyone else, noting that her purpose in life is to elevate consciousness: “Appreciative Inquiry permeates my life, not just my business as a structural tool; it’s the way I interact with my team and my friends. I’ve had colleagues say what I do and how I do it fascinates them, and they walk away thinking and feeling differently.” 

With a focus on moving forward and contributing to a good future for all, Kate emphasised the importance of ensuring that the smallest voices are also heard, especially when it comes to protecting the environment. She also added that one of the core values identified by her organisation focuses on being ethical: “What we’re trying to do is advocate, not just for ourselves but for the communities we’re designing for, believing that design is a powerful opportunity for change.” She elaborated, saying that such a strong core value sits at the heart of bringing people back to nature and protecting the environment: “We’re advocating for the environment as much as we’re advocating for people.”

Strengthening the common voice

Appreciative Inquiry is a form of activism.
David Lees

Appreciative Inquiry has all the attributes of what the world needs when it comes to supporting the common voice and moving toward the kind of social change necessary to ensure a good future for all. This is especially evident in the principles of AI, especially the principle of Free Choice that posits people are more committed and perform better when they have the freedom to choose how and what they contribute.

When it comes to social change, David talked about how it seems to happen slowly over time. He highlighted the importance of being present and paying attention to the changes that are occurring, as subtle and as slowly as they may be: “The more we notice change, the more potential there is for that change to grow, to appreciate, and so I’ve been occupying myself with that question about how can we better notice and measure progress?”

Kate suggested that that being aware of our own natural defenses that may emerge when it comes to difficult situations is helpful: “…letting down some of those barriers and being open to change and doing that from a place of humility I think, for me, that’s the most important thing”.

Repa reiterated the importance of conversation and how this facilitates change at an individual and collective level. This resonated with me, knowing that conversations can have a life of their own, a transformative effect on the other person that we may not be aware of, as Repa identified: “I come back to the fact that I never know what the impact is of anything that I say or do, but I have to do it with the belief that if I do something in the right way with the right intention, I don’t control what happens afterwards.”

From little things big things grow

The premise of Appreciative Inquiry is that everything we do is going to have an impact on each other.
Repa Patel

The song “From Little Things Big Things Grow”, co-written by Australians Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody, was resounding in my head following the panel discussion. It was written as a protest song supporting indigenous people’s land rights and reconciliation. It is a reminder that, even against all odds where political agendas seem insurmountable, small steps where subtle action fosters and illuminates the right way forward can create good change. 

One of the strengths of the AI process is that it can be subtle and powerful at the same time without compromising the necessary awareness needed to move in the direction of our goals. This rang true for me when Repa talked about the possibility of change through AI on a global scale. She explained that if we start from a point of compassion, where we recognise and embrace our differences in opinions and viewpoints or beliefs, which is where AI becomes pivotal, then good change is possible: “Appreciative Inquiry has a lot to add if we can just embrace it to help us with some of the thornier issues and the more difficult issues that we’re dealing with … the whole concept that we can, as a global community, operate as one community rather than different nations and different political persuasions within those nations is where Appreciative Inquiry can really help at a macro level.” 

Kate added when we come from a place of love and connection, as Michele Hunt talked about in her presentation, what may seem as an unrealistic dream can be possible as a result of the connections we develop and nourish through AI: “Why we’re all in Appreciative Inquiry is because we are stimulated by the thought that actually our connections really do matter and that we have the possibility of making change, whether it’s on the micro or macro level, and sometimes it is the micro level that matters the most because you can fundamentally change the course of human behaviour and of an ecosystem.”

I remember smiling and feeling that the world is in good hands when Kate said this. It resonated true for what AI has achieved to date across the globe and is prepared to take on in the future, especially as we are facing numerous challenges that are having a global impact.

David added that a fundamental aspect of the AI process is that it enables us to think in different, radical ways: “…you know, the kind of reframe where we see things. Appreciative Inquiry gives careful attention to process and not just outcome so it’s not just about achieving particular things but the way you engage in the change process, who you include and how this is critical. I reckon that’s got some potential at a global level, to think about how we can construct a process that is inclusive, curious and builds change from the bottom up.” 

It begins with conversation

Developing a process that is inclusive begins with conversation. When you begin to have a conversation, you’re developing a story, and this is fundamental to the AI process; the kind of story that incorporates, grows and appreciates with time, so much so that it has a good impact. As I noted earlier, one of the key tenets of AI is “What we focus on becomes our reality”; this all starts with conversation; it’s an important leadership skill: knowing how to listen, when to speak and when to be silent, all couched in an atmosphere of kindness.

A good example of this was seen some years ago when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, gently embraced a woman of the Muslim faith who had lost family members in a terrorist shooting. Jacinda did not have to say a word, it was a quiet conversation, she had connected at a deeper level that the whole world seemed to understand; it was subtle and powerful at the same time.

Hope for a global future where love, kindness, creativity and justice permeate the way we interact is a challenge we all face, considering the current discord we are experiencing across the world. Our hope rests on our hope-in-action where we embrace humanity for what it can be, through every interaction we experience with each other; through an appreciative lens.

 

Intro by Keith Storace

is a registered psychologist with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) and associate fellow with the Australasian College of Health Service Management (ACHSM). He has designed and implemented health and wellbeing frameworks across the community, health and education sectors. Keith’s current focus is on developing his work in Appreciative Dialogue (ApDi) to assist individuals in moving from self-doubt to inspired positive action.

 

Power of a Question in a Culture of Critique

“The Power of a Question in a Culture of Critique”, Oona Shambhavi D’mello continues the theme of expressing who we are and shares ten steps that support everyday inquiry as we work our way through the complexity of life. It is my pleasure to introduce our voices from the field in this issue of AI Practitioner.

Download the full article.

Oona Shambhavi D’mello is an artist, OD practitioner and agent of social impact. Oona’s personal mission is to impact the lives of people, serving their personal and professional growth, the wellbeing of their ecosystems and the health of the planet, with appreciative language being a key facet to promote human and social sustainability. 

 

 

When I was a little girl one of my favorite possessions was my mother’s moonstone ring. I would wear it and, given my small fingers, it would easily slip off and fall. There were times, wearing it in the backyard as I played on the rope swing, I would watch the ring slip off. There were spots in the sand pile where I would hide the ring and then busy myself in finding it. That moment of losing the ring, watching it slip off and looking in the sand pile was intriguing and stressful. I would feel the win when I found it, until one day I couldn’t.

It is hard to make sense of why we do some of the things we do.  If I were to sit with this story and decode it, the one thing that stands out was this sense of adventure with the moonstone ring. It is complex, and for many reasons, we humans seem to thrive in the dynamic of complexity. Personally, I am comfortable with such dimensions, in my own being and that of the world. When they are sometimes tough and call for investigation, I dive into the layers of the self and find my way in and out of complex systems. 

When the moonstone disappeared, I would ask myself – “What do you love about this game”, “What does this game do for you?” “What is the emotion it creates” “Why do you enjoy it”?

Not knowing that this was a subconscious technique, I do remember that the questions in themselves felt explorative, open ended and created expansion as I unpeeled my own psyche for answers. Never did I feel blame for losing that ring. There was safety, no judgement and certainly no criticism of a little girl’s game.

As human beings navigating complex life situations, we are all undeniably seeking answers to everyday stuff, just as we are to the existential question of “who am I?’. Our social conditioning is also deeply connected to what I call the science of separation – the strange idea that we have been educated in: that our sameness triumphs diversity, leading to criticism of all things different – people, behaviors, cultures, styles and the rest of it. In addition, there is the play of power that provides greater privilege to the majority, leading to the enshrinement of the status of a critic. This shows up in schools as much at the workplace, leading to an interpretation that the more faults we find the smarter we are. My own experience of constructive criticism in art school and in the study of literature was not pleasant, and one that spoke to creating alignment rather than exploration. I see this being mimicked in corporations – maybe because the source of this malady is the same. 

Can we ask questions that evoke attention to the good?

The question that I ask thus is, what if we changed this rhythm and paused – what if we responded by asking questions rather than reacting with critique? We might be misled in the modern world to treat criticism – appreciative, constructive or otherwise to facilitate learning. We might not always do right or know the way, often when the only way out is in. Can we soak in and ask the questions that evoke attention to the good, to what is working and to possibilities?

As an artist, let me talk about my experience as I peer into the canvas. I have a desire, a need to express that, more often than not, is unclear – what is evident is that I wish to explore. Sometimes this desire feels compelling and urgent and evokes a certain discomfort because I am not sure of where to start. These canvas ruminations are the same as our workplace dynamics. If only we would explore and ask, rather than exert expertise via our critique, we would be more humanistic and innovative.  

The magic role of inquiry

The role of inquiry is magic. It has the power to completely alter the way we see the world. The role and power of a question supersedes its context and opens doors to possibilities. We forget to flourish when we focus on being less, not enough and not right. In my experience, inquiry is one such tool for our tool belt, allowing curious conversation, connection, positive thinking and belongingness. 

How do we make this shift from reaction to response, from knowing to exploration, from certainty to emergence? I follow 10 steps that support my everyday inquiry:

  1. Attend: to give oneself and others what is needed to exhibit and experience self-care and self-love.
  2. Pause and breathe: to create a gap, build distance from the issue at hand and become and observer to the moment at hand.
  3. Meet yourself where you are: psychological safety supports exploration. Take yourself where you need to be, rather than where you “should” be.
  4. Listen to your body: pay respect to the greatest tool you have that speaks to you, if you pause and listen.
  5. Drop the agenda: to be present so as to live fully.
  6. See the good: acknowledge the positivity! Disallow matter to take over your mind.
  7. Allow for the new: welcome change and hold it with wisdom so that you can experience the hidden messages.
  8. Engage with the flow: learn to flow like water and not fight the current of the stream.
  9. Accept: relinquish doubt and embrace the reality.
  10. Shift: embody the lessons and shift your internal narrative for sustainable results.

A positively oriented, gratitude eliciting question can bring to life an abundant approach to development, learning and the subject of change. We can conquer and nurture ourselves by asking – “What am I doing right”?

I know that the more I engage, the more possibilities emerge. My work is to inspire and reignite that child-like simplicity & eldership that allows asking more and telling less.

Intro by Keith Storace
is a registered psychologist with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) and associate fellow with the Australasian College of Health Service Management (ACHSM). He has designed and implemented health and wellbeing frameworks across the community, health and education sectors. Keith’s current focus is on developing his work in Appreciative Dialogue (ApDi) to assist individuals in moving from self-doubt to inspired positive action.

 

Our Principles in Action: Free Choice IS Inclusion

There is, without question, an increasing desire for leaders throughout the world to encourage and support practices that enable individuals and teams to engage in decision making in a way that cultivate a sense of worth and dignity. In their ongoing series, “Our Principles in Action: Appreciative Inquiry for Justice & Belonging”, Faith Addicott and Staceye Randle elaborate on the Appeciative Inquiry principle of Free Choice and how it “…might be the most powerful tool we have”, especially as it is essential to expressing who we are. 

Download the full article.

Faith Addicott | USA

Faith Addicott, MPA, MPOD is working to improve the intersection of work and life through innovative and human-centered process design. Her consulting work has centered on nonprofits and local government using Appreciative Inquiry and other strengths-based processes. She is a champion for inclusive workplace design.

 

Staceye Randle | USA

Staceye Randle, MPOD is a human resources professional passionate about creating workplaces focused on helping people grow and learn. She is also an advocate for ensuring equity and justice in every aspect of her private and professional life.

 

 

Psychologist Rollo May says, “a man or a woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and his or her commitment to them. People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day to day.” Our ability to choose is one of the things that makes us human, and opening freedom of choice to all people is inherent to inclusion and to democracy itself. The Appreciative Inquiry principle of Free Choice isn’t just about the fact that “people and organizations thrive when people are free to choose the nature and extent of their contribution”. Free choice “is an essential aspect of being human”. 

Yet the experience of people who have been systematically marginalized and silenced, where oppression occurs daily as multitudes are excluded from decision making and representation in rooms where choices are made, belies the ethos of inclusion. Entrenched racism says “those aren’t really people” in its work to discredit and harm. This can be traced back to the history of people in the United States since its inception – indigenous people were brutalized as non-human and Black Americans were not human beings, but capital. Free Choice asks us to not only allow people to be a part of decisions that determine the course of change, but to acknowledge that failing to do so dehumanizes people and the organization (or world!) as a whole.

You may have heard the phrase, “nothing about us without us”. It is used to communicate the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members of the group(s) affected by that policy. It’s simple, catchy – and true. Imagine the power of having a system where people truly have free choice and the chance to be heard. Not just some people in the system, but all people in the system. What could that look like and how would that actually feel?

In our organizations, one of the most powerful and effective ways of centering diversity, equity and inclusion in our work is through building in choice. We can let go of the idea that all institutional knowledge rests on leaders’ shoulders, and instead consider diverse employees as co-creators in their own organizational experience. Perspectives from diverse cultural and experiential backgrounds enrich and improve our work when we allow for this co-creation, choosing inclusion over expertise.

Participation and the freedom to choose is essential to having people feel a sense of power. As we seek to weed out racism and exclusion in our world, leaning into the principle of Free Choice might be the most powerful tool we have. Free Choice asks long overdue questions about how we treat people – do we treat everyone as fully human, as inherently deserving of choice? If we start all Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts with a commitment to the human voice and choice of all people, we alter the fundamental lens of our work.  We honor our shared humanity and unleash the power of shared dignity.

Intro by Keith Storace
is a registered psychologist with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) and associate fellow with the Australasian College of Health Service Management (ACHSM). He has designed and implemented health and wellbeing frameworks across the community, health and education sectors. Keith’s current focus is on developing his work in Appreciative Dialogue (ApDi) to assist individuals in moving from self-doubt to inspired positive action.

 

Application of Appreciative Inquiry for Organizational Changes During the Covid-19 Pandemic

One of the key global topics at this time in human history is about the Covid-19 pandemic that for almost two years has held our attention and challenged us to think differently. It has shifted the narrative from being predominantly focussed on the future to the here-and-now experience of how we are coping as a global community. Melisa Yildiz explains how Appreciative Inquiry can be applied for organisational changes as we figure our way through the pandemic.  I am delighted to introduce our voices from the field for this issue of AI Practitioner.

Download the full article.

Melisa Yildiz is a researcher in the Netherlands (Maastricht University) and in Belgium (Hasselt University) working in the domain of Service Innovation & Management, with an engineering background. She is an experienced soft skills trainer, having delivered hundreds of hours of training sessions in the areas of leadership, emotional intelligence, and organizational skills and personal development.

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has had the world under its influence since early 2020 and forced many organizations to go through transformational changes and adapt to the circumstances that have emerged because of it. It is well established that Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a successful approach and change management modality for organizational development (OD). With its set of principles and implementation practices, it involves all the stakeholders of an organization, enabling them to self-determine their change and navigate through the change process. However, the literature in this field lacks information explaining whether/how it holds up when applied during a crisis. There is a gap to be filled with the discovery of the answers to the question “How can AI help organizations go through transformational changes during the Covid-19 pandemic?” To approach this gap, this study has examined:

“Which features of AI can be particularly useful in a time of a crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic?”

“How can AI implementation processes (e.g., 4D cycle) be modified to meet the current situation of the world during a crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic?”

“Are there any organizational factors that can facilitate the implementation of AI during crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic?”

The conclusions were drawn by following a qualitative research methodology and interviewing eight well-respected scholars and practitioners in this field whose work has contributed to organizations and to literature about AI over decades. This was a diverse group with members from four different countries: Canada, United States, South Africa and Belgium, with differences in expertise that brought richness to the findings. No controversial data was arose from the study; all were unanimous in relation to the benefits of using AI for organizational change in times of crisis.

The findings show that when it comes to which features of AI can be of assistance in times like this, the name of the practice speaks for itself: “Appreciation” means to acknowledge the reality and complexity of the world’s situation and in doing so, contrary to what has been assumed in some literature, not labeling experiences as “good” or “bad” by focusing on one side or another. When it comes to “Inquiry”, it is about asking generative questions which invite people to reflect on their experiences. During the current crisis, the questions took a shift because the context required that in order to stay relevant.

To help organizations navigate through the uncertainty of a crisis, AI uses change questions that focus on the smallest incremental changes that are in the circle of influence with the current circumstances. Examples can be “what can we do better this week?” or “what have we achieved since yesterday?” In crises, a big challenge for all organizations is to navigate through the world’s uncertainty.

AI enables that by perceiving crises as an opportunity for development in crisis contexts as much as in more predictable times. So, AI invites us to have a growth and curiosity mindset to perceive successes and failures as learning experiences. Having such a mindset amid uncertainty allows focus on incremental changes that can both influence and control at the same time. Influence and control are empowered by one of the most prominent and distinctive features of AI: strengths-based and generative probing to channel what is powerful within the organization’s context.

Another aspect that the findings shed light on is the more practical side, the implementation process of AI (e.g., 4D cycle). The findings show that the processes of AI don’t need to change, and the models essentially hold. However, regardless of whether it is applied during a crisis or not, the process is always modified based on the context and the needs of the group. Therefore, the goal of all the steps is to include every voice in the system. This makes the entire process meaningful for everyone as the organization becomes infused with innovation that results from the collaboration.

To do that, AI uses interviews and storytelling methods where each participant is asked to share their perspective and bring personal agency. Through these exercises, the organization can undertake a self-discovery of its values and understand the ways in which it can use them to navigate through the crisis. So, it is necessary to make sure that the group spends enough time on this. Therefore, another crucial element is the role of the facilitator, which is to fully acknowledge the impact of the crisis on the group. A pitfall is that some facilitators see the steps of process as linear checkboxes and follow them strictly regardless of the group’s needs. However, especially in crises, the facilitator should be flexible with the process, be able to modify it based on the needs of the group and the context, and overall be ready to diverge with the group. Since the facilitator should try to establish the same quality of relatedness in crises times, the role becomes paramount.

Finally, the last set of findings in this study tackles the question “What if there are some organizational factors that can be used to facilitate the process?” First, the internal mindset of an organization and the leadership’s approach play a crucial role in the effectiveness of the process. An organization first needs to be aware of the mindset it carries, and if it happens that this mindset doesn’t align with what they want to achieve, they need to have the agility to change it.

One other factor that is intrinsically linked with AI is effective communication. For example, the Social Constructionist principle and storytelling exercises in the implementation process help build organizational trust by using the basics of effective communication exercises naturally. Therefore, effective communication is both a part of the process and its outcome, since the process invites the organization to use these practices in the long run afterwards.

Another factor that was found to be correlated with AI is organizational trust. AI uses and engenders high levels of trust during crises by its inclusive nature, beyond hierarchical barriers, which creates a sense of shared meaning. With the support of leadership, as with the other factors, trust is also encouraged during and after the process. The last factor, which has one of the strongest links to AI, is organizational resilience. Everything aforementioned works toward developing resilience because AI leads organizations to perceive crisis as a learning experience and to enhance adaptability with its practices.

A metaphor can summarize the main takeaways: AI is like a piece of art: with a changing context (like the current pandemic crisis) the frame changes. But the artwork inside stays the same. This means that the AI principles, features and processes still hold when applied during a crisis. All that is needed to adapt is to look at all aspects from a context (the frame) to make the practice relevant. For that, the work of the facilitator (the artist) becomes paramount. The results build on existing evidence that AI helps navigate through change and crisis, like a compass pointing at the opportunity masked by the crisis. For all those reasons, AI is an excellent method to consult and even meant for times like this.

The contribution of this study is that it supports the necessary nuances of AI practices to be implemented in times of crisis, which offers highly relevant implications for practice from first-hand experience. There is a consensus that there will be a mix-up of virtual and in-person practices. A further study can examine the reasons for and in which practical ways online and in-person practices can be interlaced.

Intro by Keith Storace
is a registered psychologist with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) and associate fellow with the Australasian College of Health Service Management (ACHSM). He has designed and implemented health and wellbeing frameworks across the community, health and education sectors. Keith’s current focus is on developing his work in Appreciative Dialogue (ApDi) to assist individuals in moving from self-doubt to inspired positive action.

 

Our Principles in Action: Appreciative Inquiry for Justice and Belonging The Narrative Principle

One of the key global topics at this time in human history is about the Covid-19 pandemic that for almost two years has held our attention and challenged us to think differently. It has shifted the narrative from being predominantly focussed on the future to the here-and-now experience of how we are coping as a global community. Faith Addicott in collaboration with Staceye Randle continues the series titled: “Our Principles in Action: Appreciative Inquiry for Justice & Belonging” with an exploration of the Narrative principle. I am delighted to introduce our voices from the field for this issue of AI Practitioner.

Download the full article.

Faith Addicott | USA

Faith Addicott, MPA, MPOD is working to improve the intersection of work and life through innovative and human-centered process design. Her consulting work has centered on nonprofits and local government using Appreciative Inquiry and other strengths-based processes. She is a champion for inclusive workplace design.

 

Staceye Randle | USA

Staceye Randle, MPOD is a human resources professional passionate about creating workplaces focused on helping people grow and learn. She is also an advocate for ensuring equity and justice in every aspect of her private and professional life.

 

 

Head into any kindergarten class (pre-pandemic) and you would see otherwise notoriously active five-year olds sitting quietly around their teacher. They are quiet, still, concentrating on every word the teacher reads to them. Felicity’s grandmother could never be disturbed on weekdays between eleven in the morning and noon. No phone calls, no conversations. She was focused on her favorite soap opera, The Young and the Restless. No interruptions were allowed during this time.

What do these situations have in common? They show how a story can stop us in our tracks, disrupt habits, or transform our daily lives. Stories are impactful. Stories connect people. Stories can bring about change.

This is the essence of the Narrative principle. Like the principles already discussed (Anticipatory, Constructionist), the Narrative principle acknowledges that “The past, present and future are not separate stages, but rather beginnings, middles and endings of a story in progress. Organizations and human systems are stories-in-progress.” In the equity and justice space, the Narrative principle is a particularly powerful tool, ensuring that the organizational, human story is one that includes all voices.

We need this principle because the truth is that most of the time, marginalized people do not feel heard in the places where they live and work. Their stories are not the stories in the brochures, their experience unreflected in language or messaging. They are often discounted or minimized, pushed far from the center of the collective tale. Applying the Narrative principle gives marginalized people an opportunity to tell their stories.

This opens space for the lives of those historically silenced to occupy the center of the narrative; too often the conversation around equity and justice does not focus on those impacted most, instead centering the feelings/experiences of the majority. Through the wider lens that is created when more people have a place in our shared storytelling, we can move towards real change. Peter Forbes sums up stories very well, saying that “Stories create community, enable us to see through the eyes of other people, and open us to the claims of others.” When we can see the truth in those claims, we can give the voices of those who have suffered under inequity the power to make a different world.

There is a deeper truth in this principle as well. Stories require a teller – and someone to hear the tale. The most important part of communication isn’t talking. It’s listening. As practitioners, we must focus on listening, on allowing ourselves to be transformed by the stories we hear. Deep learning and opportunities to create change lie in this listening space. If we want to create a more equitable and just society, then the someone who hears must be us. All of us.

Intro by Keith Storace
is a registered psychologist with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) and associate fellow with the Australasian College of Health Service Management (ACHSM). He has designed and implemented health and wellbeing frameworks across the community, health and education sectors. Keith’s current focus is on developing his work in Appreciative Dialogue (ApDi) to assist individuals in moving from self-doubt to inspired positive action.

 

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