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Synchronicity: An Exciting Emergent Principle in Appreciative Inquiry

Episode Introduction

Tom Myers is an entrepreneurial, Associate Professor at the Robert P. Stiller School of Business at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. He’s in the International Business and Management Faculty, teaching courses in entrepreneurship, international marketing, leadership and organizational development. Right from the get-go of this episode, you’ll find out why Tom is more than qualified to teach these subjects to students who seek to have impact in the world. He comes not only with real life, international business experience, but also from an inner knowing of the inherent interconnectedness of all matter that makes up the complexities of life.

Episode Overview – Synchronicity, an exciting emergent Appreciative Inquiry Principle

SynchronicityAt the time of our conversation, Tom was completing his doctoral research and Ph.D. on the topic of “Seeing the Connections: The Emergent Synchronicity Principle in Appreciative Inquiry.” Tom, as a scholar and practitioner of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) originally set out to research “Positive Employee Engagement” for his thesis.  

He wasn’t too far into his research before he opened up to his own family history.  As he learned about the positive workplace engagement that his own ancestors had created for their 5000 employee silk production company, he acknowledged the abundance of synchronicities that were unfolding, thereby, tugging at him to accept these synchronicities. He chose to act on them.  Seeing the connections, Tom shifted his research topic to the significance and value of synchronicity and how we make meaning and understand relationships throughout our life, while, at the same time, he was also seeing the connection with the Principles of Appreciative Inquiry.

Did You Discover Appreciative Inquiry or Did Appreciative Inquiry Discover You?

Following a Masters degree in Positive Psychology, Tom was first introduced to Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College, where he chose to complete his certification in the Positive Business and Society Change Program when Professor Lindsey Godwin joined the faculty.  He has been integrating AI into his work ever since, and, through his doctoral studies, is deepening his experience with AI in an academic and practical sense.

Constructing Your Own Life Story

Embarking on a PH.D. journey with the intention of focusing on the AI Principle of Social Construction to research the topic of Positive Employee Engagement, Tom started in a traditional way to look at what constituted employee engagement from an historical perspective.  Tom didn’t have to look very far, when he realized one of the best examples of a positively engaged workforce existed in his own family history.  Tom’s inquiry:

  • How might we look back at our personal ancestry history in order to create a source of intergenerational energy for today?
  • What might we discover if we explore our ancestry with an appreciative and generative approach?

Tom’s  ancestors were the Cheney Brothers who founded the Cheney Silk Manufacturing Company in Manchester, Connecticut which grew to be the largest producer of silk in the western hemisphere.  The Cheney brothers created a workplace culture that was ahead of some companies today and provided benefits to employees that most workers still do not receive even today.  It was deemed a workplace ‘utopia.’  

Listen in to Tom sharing his family story and read more in a moving and informative article Tom wrote for the Appreciative Inquiry Practitioner, entitled “Lessons from Ancestors: My Historical Intergenerational Appreciative Inquiry.

Meaningful Connections are Around Us All Time

Synchronicity is a concept, first explained by psychiatrist Carl Jung, which holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship, yet seem to be meaningfully related. (Wikipedia)

Listen in to learn more from Tom’s research through interviews and focus groups he's conducted over the course of his research. 

Appreciative Inquiry Interview Template

Tom has generously offered to share his Appreciative Interview template that he used in focus groups as part of  his research.  You might like to download and experience the questions yourself, or even better invite a small group to experience the questions.  Tom would be really grateful if you would share your findings with him.  His email is included in the template.  Open the Positivity Lens Reveal below to download the PDF.

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Synchronicity TemplateAppreciative Inquiry Interview Template for Synchronicity

This is such an opportunity to experience an Appreciative Inquiry set of questions and inquire into your stories of synchronicity and the stories of others, if you so chose to do.

You will be moved by what you discover about yourself and others as you inquire into your own stories of  “seeing the connections” – how synchronicity shows up in your life.  It will help you acknowledge, become aware of and act on the synchronicities, as mentioned in the post below.

 

 

3 “A”s

As a result of the interviews and focus groups, Tom heard from participants that they could identify their experience of synchronicity as three main events, which he has named the 3 “A”s

  1. Acknowledgment – you start to acknowledge the “coincidences;” namely the connections that are meaningful to you.
  2. Awareness – next time you encounter this meaningful connection, you become more observant and conscious;  this has happened again, therefore, you are more open to the occurrences of these meaningful connections from a range of sources, e.g. whether it’s people coming into your life, symbols that have meaning for you or events that show up in your life
  3. Act on it – you recognize that it’s time to pay attention and act on the connections which are meaningful

Two keys psychological orientations come up regarding synchronicity:

  • Being open
  • Being vulnerable

In those two states of being, you are more likely to experience synchronicity.  It’s worth reflecting on the questions to see if those two states feel true for you.

How to Enhance Abilities to Embrace Synchronicity

Create Quite – meditate, yoga, reflection allow us to be more open to see the synchronities

Allow for Space between – synchronicity occurs in the quiet spaces; journaling time; reflection on the unplanned event, the things that do crop up between the planned events.

Trust – trust the feeling; when you plan too much, you may not allow for intuition

Connect to Tom

Website:  Champlain College

Tom on Twitter

Tom on LinkedIn

Tom on Facebook

Article: Lessons from Ancestors: My Historical, Intergenerational Appreciative Inquiry

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

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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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Why Your Workplace Culture Needs Play

“Play” lights me up. Why? It brings out such values as curiosity, learning, development, collaboration and being in co-creative relationships with others. Play speaks to the human side of business. It’s fun, developmental, positive and when freely initiated it’s self-organized. Play is a developmental and life-long activity.

Recently, I had the good fortune to spend some considerable time immersed in the topic of play, in my voluntary capacity as Chief Curation Officer, and speaker for TEDxNavesink on the topic play. There were 24 talks and entertainments on this topic across all stages of life, as well as a wide range of contexts, and expressed through a number of lenses: psychologists, researchers, technologists, gamers, writers, musicians, kids, educators, an anthropologist, a spiritual teacher, a toy designer, a venture capitalist, an improv artist, an artisan beer maker, and an organization development professional.

There were many takeaways from the TEDx Play event, and in this post, I focus on one big one: the distinction between free play and managed play.  As an organizational development professional actively working to bring the values of play into workplaces, free vs managed play resonated.

Free Play vs Managed Play

Free play equates to making it up as we go – improvisation – as many kids still have the freedom to do. They hang with other kids and they’re left to their own devices: lots of learning in that kind of play.  On the other hand, managed play is being part of an organized activity where there are coaches, parents and others with expectations: lots of different learning in that kind of play.

Free play is where we’re given free rein to use our imaginations, our inventiveness, our resourcefulness, and find our innate leadership, and followership.

Workplace Culture and Play

Thanks to Lisa Nielsen for the image.

Thanks to Lisa Nielsen for the image.

In workplaces, we could say free play is where we’re given free rein to use our imaginations, our inventiveness, our resourcefulness, and find our innate leadership, and followership.  We have opportunity to experiment and try, try again. Determination, tenacity and courage are developed.  With free play, creativity rises to the top and failure is a non-issue. It simply means we keep adapting until we  get the results we want.  We’re usually challenged and stretched in such contexts, and if not, we move on because we’re bored, are no longer learning, contributing or having fun. In the world of Open Space, we call that “The Law of Two Feet.”

On the other hand, managed play is where we participate by following predetermined or someone else’s rules.  There are authorities who guide us and correct us if we step too far outside the bounds and it’s perceived we could potentially cause harm to ourselves or others.  We learn to play inside the rules, to play safe and not show weakness or vulnerability.

When we bring the play ethos into business contexts, both free and managed play are relevant for different purposes and contexts – creative agency vs. the military, for example.  Leadership with an eye on shaping the organizational narrative and culture will decide which leaning will serve the whole system best.

Play is a developmental and life-long activity

Play is how we grow. Play shapes who we become.  We create performance in play.  We make room for it in our childhood (yet, that may be increasingly debatable), and we need space and time to continue to develop our playful selves as (working) adults. Play as development flourishes when these three attributes are present:

  • self-determination
  • co-creation
  • positivity

Play is how we grow. Play shapes who we become.  We create performance in play.  We make room for it in our childhood (yet, that may be increasingly debatable), and we need space and time to continue to develop our playful selves as (working) adults.

Co-creating experiences in workplaces where these three attributes get lived out is my best work.  They produce performance I might now refer to as free play which can light up all the players.  There are multiple participatory methodologies that facilitate such playful cultures of ownership, innovation, and shared leadership: namely Appreciative Inquiry, Open Space Technology and World Cafe.  All to be expanded upon at another time.

I’m curious, in your workplace, how does play factor in?

N.B. I originally wrote a version of this post as a guest blogger on Switch and Shift.

Think Agile to Create an Agile Culture, With Taffy Williams – PS037

Episode Overview

In this episode, Taffy Williams shares his experience, learnings and insights about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur today.  Mindset is a big part of it.  Having  flexible, positive mindsets are key to playing well in this space.  Organizational cultures that value  optimism, opportunities, possibility, resilience, excitement, interest, imagination and creativity enable entrepreneurial characteristics to flourish.

Episode Introduction

Think Agile to Create an Agile Culture, With Taffy Williams

Taffy Williams, author of Think Agile: How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed talks to Positivity Strategist Podcast host, Robyn Stratton-Berkessel about his new book.   It’s a really good read, featuring real-life case studies, stories, and invaluable tools, and what I found particularly valuable in this book is the Concepts to Action section at the end of every chapter.  Taffy provides great insights into the need and value for thinking agilely or flexibility and why it’s important. The book provides practical know how on issues as such as funding, launch timetables, planning, repurposing  and more.

Taffy is the founder and president of Colonial Technology Development Company, which has helped launch a number of successful, entrepreneurial biotech, software, and pharmaceutical companies. He writes the popular Startup Blog,  as well as articles for Examiner.

Motivation for Writing “Think Agile”

The motivation to write “Think Agile” was a confluence of events. After years of varied professional experiences, and helping companies in turnaround situations, Taffy created his Start Up blog, and then began to contribute to the Examiner. His intention is to be able to help entrepreneurs build companies by sharing lessons learned.
The validation to write the book and its title came from talking to a trusted colleague about the need for a flexible mindset for any entrepreneurial endeavor to succeed.

Defining “Think Agile?”

Think Agile is an amalgam of thinking flexibly, and being prepared.  Some things you can prepare for and some you can’t, so a flexible or agile mindset implies thinking more about where you want to go, how to get there and what you might accomplish after you have embarked on the journey.  It implies you are aware in advance that you may have to pull out alternatives and options in the event of something coming up that you could not predict.  It’s about having a number of “what if”  scenarios.

Five Lessons Related to Thinking Agile

Listen into the conversation to learn more about Taffy’s five lessons related to thinking agile. They all come from his lived experience including being a PdD student, a civilian in the military and ongoing business advisor.  Taffy offers interesting examples and practical know-how around each of his five lessons:

  1. Question the status quo
  2. Take more that one shot on goal
  3. Banish bureaucracy
  4. Accept failure as the cost of doing business
  5. Believe you can do anything

Why “Entrepreneur”?

As you listen in, you'll realize that much of what Taffy talks about is relevant and applicable to anyone who has an idea, a passion, a belief they have something to offer in any field of endeavor.  While the book aims to help young entrepreneurs with Taffy seeking to help people fast-track and learn from the experience of others, the ideas and practices works throughout life.  Think agile is akin to having an entrepreneurial mindset.

Agile Culture and Positivity

In enterprises today, irrespective of size, the attributes of an agile culture are the best bet.  The organizational culture that fosters collaboration, participation, inclusion, diversity, curiosity, openness and many others mindsets and practices, that I would deem positive, strength-based and appreciative is what is most likely to sustain and engage and fit with the ethos that collectively we have the capacity and capability to co-create.

Other cultural strengths that come to mind are inclusive decision- making, adept at change, letting go, and resilience.  When you surround your self with people who are curious, optimistic, look for opportunities and who pay attention to unexpected possibilities joy, excitement, interest, imagination, creativity flourish.

All of us, irrespective of our roles or titles can train ourselves by acquiring skills, changing mindsets and beliefs that integrate all dimensions that produce a quality of work and life for all.

Taffy shares what has worked for him and values about himself. What's worked for him is to cultivate a positive attitude, when you need it most, then you’ll be able to access it.  Having a belief and a conviction about what you can do, and the stick-to-it-ness has served Taffy well in his career to date.  He now works for equity, so he truly believes in his own capability to make a positive difference in the long run.


PPositivity Lens NotebookOSITIVITY LENS for this Episode

Download Taffy's suggested “positive activities” for this episode: Hint – It’s about how the agile entrepreneurial mindset is aligned to positivity.

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Consider Repurposing

Many products and services are repurposed.  They are designed originally for one purpose, and, as times change, the composition, the use can be repurposed for something else. Taffy cites a number of examples, ranging from the drug world, engineering and fashion.

“In a fast changing, technology driven world, relatively few things remain successful for long.”

And, excitingly, we humans have all the ability in the world to repurpose ourselves.

I think about the thread of my life and wow, I love that I have been able to repurpose, reinvent, redefine myself.  It's a continous improvement, and a discarding of what no longer serves.  Being and thinking agile is useful!  If you think about the trajectory of your own life, what number repurpose are you on?  What are your stories?

Links Mentioned In This Episode

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.

Listen to Stitcher

Subscribe-iTunes-180x120

Subscribe Via RSS

If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

  • I invite you to share it using the social media buttons on the bottom of this page.
  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.

Appreciative Inquiry Across Contexts, Cultures and Generations with Linda Quarles – PS007

Episode Overview

Linda-Quarles, Appreciative Inquiry

Linda Quarles has a strong background in corporate america.  She has worked in Global organizations, including Microsoft, BAE systems in the areas of Organization design, strategic facilitation, organizational change management, vision casting and culture transformation.  Linda is the mother of two daughters; she has traveled extensively for personal and consulting work.

Linda and I first met about 18 months ago at BAE Systems in Arlington, VA, US where Linda was a key member of a talented team working on implementing the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Agenda across the organization.  Our project was to design and facilitate a summit for 300+ employees.  Appreciative Inquiry was the framework selected to do this important work and to ensure it was a totally different different from any of the prior conferences and symposia this organization had used in the past.

Freedom to step outside of our comfort zones

In this episode, we talk about the impact of Appreciative Inquiry in a Government Contract Defense organization with many ex-military employees, many of whom were sceptical and concerned about breaking the mould.  You can read a summary of the highlights of this summit, Freedom to step out of our comfort zones,  which shone the light on the root causes of success where D&I was already working so well, and had gone unnoticed.

Appreciative Inquiry across contexts

There’s another beautiful story of the transformational results Linda witnessed when applying Appreciative Inquiry in a school in northern China that shifted the dynamic from reluctant to joyful participation, and on the last day singing and dancing.  The teachers  came up with a plan for moving the school forward that no-one outside that context could possibly have done.  Linda stresses the value of the one-on-one “Discovery” interview, framed in an appreciative way.

The value of positivity and negativity

  • “Your attitude determines your attitude”- possibly the secret of being content in all situations, as we only have control in the moment over our own outlook or attitude.
  • There are always challenges in life:  illness, conflicts, business difficulties and failures,  loneliness, and if we can use the lens of positivity, it does help.
  • Positivity is an attitude, an optimism, hopefulness, resilience that comes from the place:  I’m choosing to look at this in a specific way – I meet people, I learn something new, or something else comes along something better yet. To have that awareness in the moment is positivity.
  • There is a value in both low moments and high moments.  Low energy is to be valued as it can be the impetus for positive change.
  • Go see the video of Apollos Hester, young high school footballer, who shows what having a positive outlook looks like after a difficult game.  Unbelievable and inspirational!

Aspirations for our children

  • The concept of servant leader – putting others ahead of yourself – and the impact of our behaviors on others is never too early to learn.
  • Relationships may need extra work to keep children aware of others outside themselves, as it's a distracted world for children with so many things competing for attention.
  • The art of story telling  has such power for us to connect in addition to all the tweetable, soundbitable snippets we have come to accept as communication.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Be sure you listen to Linda’s beautiful story of visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi with her children.  It shows how children have that appreciative eye and the gift of being in the moment.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

 

Links 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.

Listen to Stitcher

Subscribe-iTunes-180x120

Subscribe Via RSS

If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

  • I invite you to share it using the social media buttons on the bottom of this page.
  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.

Joy in Pakistan, And Undertold Stories with Cathy Joseph – PS006

Episode Summary

Cathy JosephIn this episode, my special guest is my most wonderful friend and colleague, Cathy Joseph.  Cathy has much to share about her life with appreciative inquiry.  She has recently returned from an amazing project in Islambad, Pakistan.  Cathy shares the joy of her project in Pakistan and taunts us with the beginnings of undertold stories, and what has touched her about this work.

Cathy, is an independent consultant and trainer with a specialization in talent management and strength-based change.  

Appreciative Inquiry was Right

When Cathy first learned about Appreciative Inquiry at a professional conference, it felt right that this is how she wanted to work in corporations – bringing participatory methods allowing everyone to have a voice, to bring out the best in every one. Intuitively, this made sense.  It ran counter to the corporate culture she had been immersed in.

A High Point Story of Joy

Cathy has  many high point stories starting from doing her AI Certification at Case Western Reserve University to her most recent experience in Islamabad.  What was surprising for her among the group of trainees in Pakistan was how the dominant mindset was tied to traditional problem solving.  When they finally were able to apply the learnings and provide the AI interview experience to the kids in their pilot program at the Mashal Model School, they were astounded that the kids got it.  The children ranging from 9 to 16 embraced the interviews to share their joy of their past experiences and then to share dreams of the future.  They shared their imaginings of a peaceful world of service, verbally in Urdu and through their artwork.  Examples of their dreams of the future included:

  • Being teachers so they also could support their community and show care, just as they were experiencing from their teachers
  • Being a doctor who didn’t want to charge for services
  • Themes of togetherness, playing together, being together.  They were very inclusive in their thinking
  • One little girl drew a house with a window, because her dream was to be able to sit in a chair and see the sun through a window that she didn't yet have.

These transformational experiences for the trainees and the students were high point stories for Cathy.

What is Positivity to You?

Joy in Pakistan, And Undertold Stories with Cathy Joseph

  • A way of being, a mindset, philosophy,
  • Many parts that make up the whole
  • Fundamental knowing that things are good.  Even in moments of darkness – it is a moment.  At the end of the day, I'm going to be okay, all right.  It allows me to get through.
  • Barb Fredricksen's work on positivity –  we build up a reservoire of positivity over time which helps us

How to Deal with Negativity

Cathy’s had a lot of experience with negativity.  Negativity is a reality, just as positivity is a reality.  Learning that her perspective is also valid and she could presented it with a solid knowing was liberating for her.

  • It takes baby steps to shift the perspective from seeing only why things will not work to “yes, it’s a possibility that it may work.”
  • From a negative situation, she always has hope that something good will come out of it.  “It’s linked to positivity – as it’s my default mindset.  There are always these pieces of hope”.
  • The lens of hope and possibity can trump the fear and sense of loss.
  • The overwhelming feeling that comes from being with like-minded people who embrace the same mindset works always.
  • Focussing on something better.
  • Knowing that the languague around AI is a way to talk about, and, have credibility for her own thinking – a process and history that it works.  It’s not just being Pollyanna.

 Power of Corporations to Change the World

An advocate of CSR, a big aspirational conversation Cathy would like to be part of is that big corporations do have the power to change the world.  It is good business to do good in the world.  We need these change agents in corporations who can bring about positive change.   Appreciative Inquiry is a way to do this and help with collaborations across corporations, NGOs, governments working as change agents.

Links 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!

Listen to Stitcher

Subscribe-iTunes-180x120

Subscribe Via RSS

 If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

  • I invite you to share it using the social media buttons on the bottom of this page.

Change the Narrative for Culture Change

Culture Change is not a revolving doorThe CEO of a multimillion dollar company was in the office building elevator one day going down to lunch from his executive suite on level 77. Several floors down three employees stepped into the same elevator all very engaged in a conversation. They paid no attention to him – the CEO – standing in the elevator.

As the elevator door closed with its three new occupants, he quickly became aware, their conversation was a series of complaints and grievances about the company of which he was CEO and founder.

Read more