Positivity Kills the Cat

Appreciative Inquiry in the Shadow of a Capitalist World View

October 2012
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Although Appreciative Inquiry is part of a movement (referred to by Ken Gergen in 1994 as the relational turn) seeking to engender more socially responsible forms of organizing, it can be used to achieve top-down managerial goals and as a linguistic device to regulate compliant behaviour. We argue that if AI, when equated with positivity, is in danger of “killing the cat”, a more critical form of AI can help revive it.


Author: Patrick Goh

Patrick Goh is a Fellow of the British Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. A personnel practitioner for over 30 years, his HR and OD experience spans the range of sectors: public (Singapore Foreign Ministry), private (British Airways) and charity (Church Mission Society). He is head of Global HR for an international non-governmental organisation, Tearfund. E: patrick.goh@tearfund.org

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Author: Phil Simpson

is a Probation Officer by training and has worked with Church Mission Society for a quarter of a century as a mission partner and drug worker in Pakistan, and as regional director for Eurasia. He is an ordained Anglican minister (NSM) and holds a MSc in Systemic Organisation and Management. He currently works as an independent process consultant. E: phil_simpsoncms@mac.com

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  1. Birgitta Schomaker (verified owner)

    Recently I started reading about Mindell´s work and Deep Democracy. In that vein, the article by Goh & Simpson immediately got my full attention with Jung´s quote: “How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also, if I am to be whole.”

    The authors make a point that the values of capitalism and its moral logic become the norm, increasingly also in not-for-profit organisations, e.g. in healthcare, NGOs, the arts, etc. Goh & Simpson plead for using our critical mind and notice when employees, participants at an ‘appreciative dialogue’ or AI session are manipulated into ‘rephrasing their complaints into something appreciative’ to hide power and control issues. You can find some compelling examples in this brief article. Thought provoking!

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