How Heartfelt Conversation Is Co-created with Appreciative Inquiry

I continue to be struck with wonder at the transformative power of Appreciative Inquiry. It doesn't matter how often I'm present to the experience of  Appreciative Inquiry, the magic, the power, the spirit to move people toward each other to give of their best selves and share their aspirations never fails to deliver.  The collective energy among a group of people who don't know each other at the start, irrespective of how many are in the room, who they are, what the topic is delivers expressions of hope, possibility and positive potential.

Affirmative topic of Generations Wiser Together

I've just come off designing an AI workshop and facilitated the same workshop with two very different groups.  The goal of the groups was the same.  We were inquiring into the affirmative topic of Generations Wiser Together.  My client, worked tirelessly to bring groups together in two different towns.  We aimed to attract as much diversity as possible.

Heartfelt Conversation - younger and older person in dialogueIn the one group, we achieved our objective of great diversity.  We had a good mixture of ages – from 70+ to 17 year olds.  A good balance of genders, and a good balance of Caucasians and African Americans showed up.

In the second group, in a smaller town, we were not as successful with attracting diversity.  The group comprised all Caucasian women in their 40s, 50s and 60s, with an 88 year old and a 20 something.

Yet, in spite of the different group compositions, the magic of Appreciative Inquiry came through.  We opened up space for people to converse deeply and at length with each other.

Maximizing Diversity

Following the classic AI interview protocol, we invited the group members, seated in a circle, to pair up with someone, requesting tJack and Junehey look around the circle and find someone least like them physically.  So we had younger black men paired with older white women, and younger white women with older white men.  Regretfully, we had no older black men.

The connections that were formed in that initial discovery conversation set the tone for a continued evening of enriching discovery, deep sharing, surprise and delight, joy, laughter and demonstrations of great talent from group members.

Co-creating Wishes and Dreams

Demonstrations of great talent came in the second phase of our AI protocol when groups shared their wishes and dreams for a wiser world, when generations are living more wisely together.  With the invitation to be as imaginative and as playful as they dared, groups in less than 30 minutes co-created presentations of their wishes and dreams.  Words and ideas they had been sharing moved from the head and heart into the body.  Embodiment of artistic talent through poetry, music, dance and drawing transformed the space and transfixed the groups witnessing each others' performances.  Spontaneous applause and appreciation broke out after each group had performed.

Heartfelt conversation - Wisetribe 1We moved into identifying opportunities – what might we design that could bring the dreams and aspirations into reality?  What ideas did member of the group have that could strengthen the bonds across the generations and help bring about a wiser world? Here was the chance for members to share what they had a passion for, would be willing to take responsibility for.  They invited others to join them in their dreams.

Opportunities for a Wiser World

Opportunities for a wiser world ranged from bringing Eastern practices into one of the hospitals in town in the form of meditation and yoga, that would not only help patients who could take part in such activities, but especially for the staff who experience stress in their jobs in the hospital environment. Another suggestion was to take the produce being cultivated in an organic farm into restaurants in the town.  One woman, a retired journalist, was excited to take the AI questions and ask them in her community to deepen connections among community members.  Moreover, she was inspired to reach out to her journalist colleagues, hoping to bring some media attention to the intergenerational wisdom exchanges.

Simplify ChartAnother project that inspired a young woman was to assist older people in their “right sizing”.  She had discovered that when she helped her father simplify his life by sorting through all his possessions, amassed over a life-time, their love, respect and appreciation for each other strengthened.  She listened deeply as he told the stories associated with different objects before he let them go.  She learnt so much about her father's past, valuing the experience, she felt so many other older people might also enjoy telling their stories as they simplified their situations for a new phase of their lives.

Heartfelt Conversation

In our closing circle, where the participants are invited to share a high point of their experience and also what they might to take forward from the experience and implement for themselves, the insights and connections were truly touching.  This is when the magic and transformative power of Appreciative Inquiry is evidenced.  At the beginning, we were a bunch of strangers and in 3 – 4 hours.  After a series of heartfelt conversation, we had deeply touched each other's lives, through a series of intentionally constructed affirmative questions that seek to discover the best in people, their communities and the world around them.







How Appreciative Inquiry Questions Work, With Robyn Stratton-Berkessel – PS040

How Appreciative Inquiry Questions Work, Episode Overview

RSB Resized to 400 by 600 approxThis episode is Part II of a two-part show.  Kathy Becker, CEO of the Center for Appreciative Inquiry interviews Robyn Stratton-Berkessel. Both are Appreciative Inquiry Practitioners and professional colleagues. In the previous episode, Part I, Robyn interviews Kathy demonstrating  the Appreciative Inquiry Discovery Interview.  In this episode the roles are reversed and Kathy interviews Robyn.  We demonstrate how Appreciative Inquiry Questions work. Appreciative Inquiry is a positive approach to change which has been used globally for almost 30 years. It seeks to inspire, mobilize, and sustain, employee engagement and collaborations.


It's my great pleasure to be interviewed by Kathy Becker.  As the creator of Positivity Strategist, let me introduce myself.  My name is Robyn Stratton-Berkessel, and I am most grateful that you've come to my website and are listening in to my show.

In a nutshell, I'm an author, a speaker, a podcast host, an app developer, a designer and facilitator, and coach.  My strengths are leading positive change. I partner with executives and teams around the world, designing and delivering high impact and positive change with a focus on co-creating cultures of ownership, inclusion and collaboration.  You can find out more about my journey on my About Page.  If you scroll to the bottom of that page, you'll find out how I was an annoyance factor in my earlier years and the shift I underwent in my life.

High Point Experiences as an Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator

Being interviewed is such a wonderful opportunity to actually experience the work I love – as participants in my workshops do.  Instead of interviewing or facilitating others, I am in the participant's chair.  I have the chance to talk about the work I do from a very special place.  I talk about a high point experience in my career as an Appreciative Inquiry Practitioner.

You’ll hear not only the unfolding story of a high point Appreciative Inquiry experience, but some of behind-the-scenes set-up as well.

Appreciative Inquiry Questions

Below is the generic Appreciative Inquiry Discovery Interview Protocol.

Listen in to the episode to hear the responses to each of these questions and learn much more about the Appreciative Inquiry experience.

1 What has been a high-point experience for you as an Appreciative Inquiry practitioner, when you felt most alive, successful, and effective? Please share your story.

  • What was the situation?
  • Who was involved?
  • What happened?
  • What was the experience like for the client group and you?
  • How did you feel?

2Without being humble, what do you value most about yourself, your work, and how it’s organized?

3What are the core factors that make this work function at its best, when it feels a perfect fit for who you are, and you see how this work impacts your clients.  What are some of those impacts?

4What are three wishes for the future of this work for you as an AI practitioner?

Appreciative Inquiry Case Study - How Appreciative Inquiry Questions WorkBonus Offer: Free Case Study Download

To learn more about this Appreciative Inquiry Summit, please download the full case study co-authored by the client and and the Appreciative Inquiry Practitioner.

You will learn about the entire process from detailed preparation leading up to the summit, the design of the summit, the team work that make it works so powerfully, the project milestones, the participant experience and their outcomes.btn_Download


Delighting Clients

As you listen in, you’ll learn not only about my personal high point experiences doing my work, but also how it impacts everyone involved.  You will hear what happens when people share their stories and feel truly heard. You will hear what outcomes result from the conversations that happen. You will hear how an Appreciative Inquiry Summit is organized.  You will hear how the clients are delighted.

Links Mentioned In This Episode

  • Robyn’s Twitter            

Books Mentioned In This Episode


Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.

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A Momentous Life, With Achim Nowak – PS027

Achim Nowak talks with ease and elegance about human interaction and how energy is infectious. His 2013 book, “Infectious: How to Connect Deeply and Unleash the Energetic Leader Within” is all about that.  His new book, “The Moment: 4 Keys to a Momentous Life” goes even deeper to help us appreciate that the choices we make moment to moment can lead us to make a huge difference in the world.

A Momentous Life – Episode Overview

Achim Nowak, speaker, coach and author talks with ease and elegance about human interaction and how energy is infectious. His 2013 book, “Infectious: How to Connect Deeply and Unleash the Energetic Leader Within” is all about that.  His new book, “The Moment: 4 Keys to a Momentous Life” goes even deeper to help us appreciate that the choices we make moment to moment can lead us to make a huge difference in the world.


A Momentous Life with Achim NovakAchim Nowak has a gift with words and speaking.  As you listen in to this episode, you will be entranced.  You will agree, he is deeply qualified to have written a book, entitled,  “Infectious: How to Connect Deeply and Unleash the Energetic Leader Within.”  Early in the conversation with Positivity Strategist host, Robyn Stratton-Berkessel, they chat about about what it means to connect deeply, and what the sources of energy are.  Achim’s third book, “The Moment – 4 Keys to a Momentous Life” will be out soon, and he provides us a privileged preview.

Deep Connection

Connection happens at many levels. Deep connections are those that stir us at an unspoken level.  Achim shares with us an example of how certain intangibles are predictors of how well we can deeply connect with others, whether in a formal or informal setting.  When we can access that place where communication becomes a beautiful dance of co-construction, we realize that while we are separate individuals, resonant connection and meaning-making happens in relationship with others.  We experience that at the deepest level we are all one.

I mention to Achim during our recording, that I was savouring the conversation we were co-creating, and as I write up the show notes now, I believe we were embodying that which Achim was sharing about deep connection and energy.   Together, in relationship, we created a beautiful deep connection that has lingered and I would very much like to continue.  Deep connections are heart-felt and touch us at the soul level.

Personal Energy

It’s beautiful to listen to Achim speak about personal energy and how it can be unleashed.  He talks about the intangibles, the unspoken elements that attract human beings to each other to deepen the relationship. He shares a description of personal energy that was offered up by one of his students some time ago.  The student suggested good personal energy is a state of “being alive”. That lit me up, and this quote  by Theodore Isaac Rubin comes to mind:

“Have you considered that if you “don't make waves,” nobody including yourself will know that you are alive?”

Personal energy, Achim shares,  is a life-force described to us in all spiritual traditions. In essence, personal energy is being at one with the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual parts of ourselves. When we cultivate a heightened awareness of our whole self, we open ourselves up to offering our more intimate and therefore our more real, also known as, vulnerable self.

The Pleasurable Ride

I love the way Achim talks about accepting who we are, valuing all that we have done, appreciating our efforts, our relationships, trusting our best selves to arrive at a point where we say “I don’t have to struggle.”  ‘I am not alone.”  We embrace the reality that there are resources and people who are experiencing a similar journey;  as humankind we are in this together.  When we come to such insights about our best choices, the pleasurable ride begins.  With this mindset, life becomes easier.  We recognize, it doesn't have to be a struggle.

POSITIVITY LENS for this EpisodePositivity Lens Notebook

Download Achim's suggested “positive activities” for this episode: Hint: it’s about your energy source and valuing the moment.

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Being Open to Possibilities

Reflecting on the career thread of his own life, Achim talks about his work as a theater director in New York City, his two year surfing adventure in Tobago and then coming back to New York city to teach mediation skills to youth.  This was indeed a wonderful career transition for Achim as it highlighted for him the value of being empowered to shape conversations in ways that serve and are not about inserting your own point of view. These kids learnt early how to create meaning together.  Achim, too was making greater meaning in his own life, as the trajectory of his own life experiences – theater, adventure, mediation, teaching – were taking a wonderful form that has resulted in the pleasurable ride he enjoys today.

Seductive Language

A lovely piece in our conversation touched on our appreciation of language.  Achim delights in sharing with us how language serves in expressing our energy.  Language that is bold, colorful, provocative delights the senses.  Such language keeps us connected with the spice of life.  In a world of emails and tweets, and in an increasingly virtual world, carefully crafted language is far more energizing and serves to connect in ways that transactional writing, devoid of color doesn’t.  Being brief is not an equivalent to being drab and colorless.

A Gentler Path Forward

Talking about language opened up the conversation to talk about story-telling as a way to connect deeply and engage with others, especially in group settings. Listen in as we exchange some of our own stories about Appreciative Inquiry and Open Space Technology as “a gentler path forward.”

These methodologies, or forms, as Achim warmly describes, open us all up to co-create conversations and share personal stories that help us embrace what is and collaboratively carve a way forward that helps us all succeed without having to fight so hard.  It’s in the conversation and story-telling where understanding and kindness emerges.

When we embrace the form, magic happens.  When we say what’s true for us, we find a willingness to explore and share what works for us.

Identifying Strengths

“What do you value about yourself?”

Achim had no hesitation in identifying “risk taking” as a strength.  Risk takers go to the edge.  When we are at the edge, we face our fears and that’s where real learning happens.

Listen in to how Achim tells his story of risk taking. It’s illustrative of his gift of story-telling, deep connection and energy.  He will put a smile on your face.

The Moment

It’s very excting to hear Achim talk about his new book, “The Moment – 4 Keys to a Momentous Life.”  The book will be available soon.

To illustrate the tone and intent of this new work, Achim shares a most beautiful, poignant story of a moment that came and went.  Such awareness awakens us to the reality that moments happen, moments slip away; yet, in the moment, we know there is something special about an encounter.

He invites us to experience the moment more richly and more fully.  Imagine if we didn’t just let moments slip away. What if we were to recognize and embrace the life-force of the moment?

Four Keys To A Momentous Life

Achim shares the four principles in his latest book.  His intention is to offer us a practical and joyous reading experience that’s is positioned between teaching meditation and the deep contemplative traditions of seeking enlightenment

  1. Fully engage with all the senses.  I can know my world more deeply; I can engage with it through all my senses
  2. Crave meaning.  There is instant meaning (not the kind of meaning that comes from hindsight).  Meaning, of course, also includes silly meaning that is fun in the moment. When I crave meaning, I enhance my experience moment to moment.
  3. Ride the energy wave.  Energy presents itself in some form, whether through another person or some other way and I can chose to ride it or block it.  Life connoisseurs are those who chose to ride the energy wave.
  4. Ability to slow down time. This means being in the flow state, where time and the activity are mingled and time is immaterial.  This flow state allows me to know my senses more.

Play on those moments

Achim offers us ways to step off the treadmill to embrace a richer quality of life.  He invites us to be present to the moment and notice what happens when we are.  We are always co-creators in the moment.

He urges us to not  just observe, but ride the energy wave and be surprised!

Big Conversation

In wrapping up our rich conversation, Achim shared that “peace” is a topic that stirs him.  When we know what peace is for ourselves in our social lives, in our communities – where we work and play – that is a great start.

We seemed to have come full circle, as, when we can show up fully as our whole self and connect deeply, we energize the leader within us to take responsibility to be present in the moment and be at peace because we can express ourselves and know also we have been heard.


Links Mentioned In This Episode

Achim's Articles/Papers

Books Mentioned In This Episode

Search 2014 for the Best in Humanity

Search 2014

Search 2014


The video below affirms my choice to be a positivity strategist!

I encourage you to invest 1.32 minutes to watch this video put out by Google, entitled “Year in Search 2014” focusing on the most searched for terms for 2014.

Hold your judgement 🙂

Pictures speak a thousand words

The medium is the message.  Pictures speak a thousand words.  Pick your favorite idiom or quote.  For me it's “words create worlds” and “what you focus on grows.” What we search for, we will find.  Where we put our attention, our energy follows.  These searched for words in this video shine the light on the best of our human story:  Hope, Science, Love, Greatness, Sense-making, Remembrance, Inspiration, Discovery, Imagination.

If you scroll through some of the comments under this video, you'll see also another side of the human condition: the cynicism.  Many are saying this message of hope is hokey-pokey.  These comments reveal a different reality when they claim that  the most searched for words are search for “porn”, “sex” etc.   No doubt, that's real, too.

Search for the best

There are multiple realities.  There's the good and the bad and everything in between.

I value the wholeness of the entire human experience.  This video demonstrates to me that hope, and love, and inspiration, discovery and imagination are what get me out of bed everyday.  Searching for the best in humanity.  Couldn't live without it.

The 11 Best Things About Podcasting, and why I’m Celebrating National Podcast Day on Sep 30


My Personal Top 11 List – About Podcasting

In this post, I want to share my own personal “Top 11” list about podcasting; a list of things that have excited me in launching my own show.  (I'm so over “Top 10” lists, plus I'm a This is Spinal Tap fan:)

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The Power of Positive Questions

JC.6The power of positive questions was the topic of my interview on the Greatness Zone with host, Jay Forte.  Jay's work is to provide talent and strength-based tools to help people live extraordinary lives, so we had a good affinity.

Jay had seen my TEDxNavesink talk, Playful Inquiry – Try this Anywhere  and simply loved my opening question:  “What's the best thing that's happened to you today.”

Together, we explored the impact of asking questions that empowered both the inquirer and the inquiree.  There is reciprocal value in entering into a conversation from a place of inquiry rather than being merely an information giver or seeker.

You can listen to our generative conversation or download it from iTunes.  

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Embracing Change

Since today is January 1st , 2013, New Year's Day, it's THE day for implementing the change, you've been thinking and/or planning for the last few days, weeks, months or years.  The first day is always the best day to start.  I've got an app to keep it going.

Embracing Change

Unashamedly, I am going to plug my own app Embracing Change.  It follows the Appreciative Inquiry world view of change – you start with what's good, what's whole and healthy, what works  for you first.  Then you begin to design how you'll use your existing talents and strengths will put you on the path to achieve your goals.

Below is a snippet of one of the videos in the app.  You can download Embracing Change, and, by the way, it achieved #2 ranking in the business category on iTunes.

To your success, health, happiness and prosperity in 2013!

Let Love be our Guide


The time to talk Love, to think Love, to show Love, to give Love, to receive Love, to acknowledge and appreciate Love is just as essential in the world as 2013 approaches as it has always been.  Love is the greatest universal positive attribute.

As a species, we need Love.  The universal human story is about Love winning. When Love is unavailable, lost or destroyed we feel the pain and the despair, as individuals and as collectives.  The context changes over time, but the story of needing Love to triumph is unchanging.

And you might want to interchange “Love” with “Goodness”, “Kindness”, “Generosity”,”Caring” – virtues that pervade history irrespective of culture, religion, politics and the myriad of organizational constructs.

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