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A World Inquiry: The Impacts of Appreciative Inquiry across the World, with Ada Jo Mann – PS059

Episode Introduction

I'm excited to talk to Ada Jo Mann about her long relationship with Appreciative Inquiry (AI). She is a pioneer of AI going back to the early 1990s.  Ada Jo was one of the co-creators of the Global Excellence in Management (GEM) Initiative, a founder of the early AI Consulting Group, a co-creator of AI World conferences and AI summits around the world.  Ada Jo and I don’t only talk about the past. I jump straight into a current global initiative conceived by Ada Jo.  She begins by sharing with us her impetus to conduct a World lnquiry on Appreciative Inquiry.

Episode Overview – World Inquiry into Appreciative Inquiry

In this episode, I invite Ada Jo to respond to three questions that we’ve designed to bring many voices from around the world together to share stories of how Appreciative Inquiry has been impacting lives for almost 30 years.  It’s a hugely exciting initiative.  Our intention is to elevate the discourse of AI to a new level using social media to communicate and broadcast the breadth of Appreciative Inquiry and to highlight the growing numbers of applications through personal stories.

The World Inquiry invites folks from all over the world to share their experiences of how they have been touched by Appreciative Inquiry and help create a viral message of positive change.  We're asking folks to record their stories on video (using mobile devices), upload them to the web and be made available  on the soon to be  re-vitalized AI Commons.  They will serve as a rich, searchable database for doctoral students, AI practitioners, AI trainers and consultants, and anyone interested in first hand reports of the power of Appreciative Inquiry to create individual and collective positive change. 

Question 1: Finding Appreciative Inquiry

How, where, when and by whom were you introduced to Appreciative Inquiry? What compelled you most about it? What is it about AI that you connect with most?

World Inquiry - Ada Jo Mann

In listening to Ada Jo, you will learn about her amazing and fabulous contributions to the world.  She began her long career in international development as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chad. Years later she helped create and then became the first Director of the Small Project Assistance Program, a 30 year partnership between USAID and the Peace Corps. After Peace Corps she moved on to USAID where she met and worked with David Cooperrider, creator of Appreciative Inquiry to whom she was introduced by Jane Magruder Watkins, another tour de force in Appreciative Inquiry. Ada Jo and David created the GEM Initiative, a seven year multi-million dollar grant from USAID to improve the organizational capacity of non-governmental organizations in all regions of the world using Appreciative Inquiry. GEM served as a living laboratory for the development of Appreciative Inquiry

Ada Jo, as so many others who “find” AI, reflects that it was like a “home coming.”  Questions she had been asking right at the outset of her long career were implicit in the world view of AI.  Questions such as

  • How might we build on the strengths of this community?
  • What if we were to include all stakeholders in the vision?
  • How can we include all the different perspectives in the design of this new program?

Question 2:  Appreciative Inquiry Impact on You

Where and how has AI made a difference in your life and work? How has AI changed things for you? How has AI brought out the best in you personally and or professionally? (In the way you work, do business, in your family, etc.) Please tell a story that  highlights how AI has had an impact on your life and/or work.

Ada Jo shares many stories in response to these questions. If you want to learn about some of the history of Appreciative Inquiry, listen in.  She also refers to a number of synchronicities that have touched her, and right at the outset of our conversation, she comments on how the interview I conducted with Tom Myers on Synchronicity as an Emergent AI Principle rings true for her.

Two key principles  of AI stand out for me as I listened to Ada Jo:  Questions are fateful;  and the act of storytelling.

Questions are Fateful

The questions you ask start the change.  We call it the Simultaneity Principle.  Ada Jo tell us that it was in fact a question put to her by another AI colleague, Neil Samuels at the end of an Appreciative Inquiry gathering that provoked her to initiate the World Inquiry on Appreciative Inquiry.  Neil asked Ada Jo if she'd followed up on all the work that she had done during the GEM project.  That question was the impetus to make it happen!

The Act of StorytellingWorld Inquiry - people networked

When we tell stories, we tap into the collective
unconscious. Storytelling is universal, it crosses all cultures.  The oral tradition is one of the oldest, and as part of the Appreciative Inquiry experience, sharing your own story with others opens up the possibilities for deep connection. For some people talking about personal strengths may be difficult, but telling a story of what's working well and how you were part of that comes out more easily and taps into all cultures.   When you experience that collective energy at AI Summit, it's truly magical.

Question 3: Your Innovations

One of the beauties of AI is that it can be adapted and re-imagined depending upon the needs of  the situation in which it is being applied. Have you had an opportunity to create innovations to the original 4-D process? What did your innovations look like? How have you used them? Please share an example of your innovations using AI.

Throughout this interview, Ada Jo's many contributions and innovations are woven into her stories.  A few more include the book she collaborated on with Diana Whitney, Jen Silbert and Dawn Dole called Positive Family Dynamics.  The book came about because participants in workshops and summits would say “I could use this with my family.”  Listen in to how Ada Jo describes the collaborative process of creating this book.

Other innovations include the founding of the AI Consulting Group which is no longer, but served a number of global consultants to collaborate and stay connected in the early days.  Significantly, AI Consulting sponsored the first AI Global Conference in Baltimore, MD in 2001.  The design of that first conference has remained as a standard for all future conferences and a precursor to AI Summits.

When I asked Ada Jo what she valued about herself, she talked about her strengths as an opportunity finder and creator of innovative designs and solutions together with her drive and organizing skills to get things done.   What a combo!  I certainly recognize the visionary who makes it happen. With Ada Jo, it's not an either /or, but a both/and!

The Poet – Creator of Heroic Crown Sonnet

As a final treat in this episode, I invite Ada Jo to recite her latest Heroic Crown Sonnet.  She explains what this special kind of sonnet is.  Her first composition about her time with the Peace Corps was very well received.  The one she recites for us is entitled the Appreciative Inquiry Crown.

Ada Jo has kindly allowed me to share her Appreciative Inquiry Crown.  What a joy to be able to read this sonnet – still a work-in-progress. Please open up the Positivity Lens Reveal  below to view.

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You'll get a thrill out of this Heroic Crown Sonnet whether you are experienced in Appreciative Inquiry, or reading about AI for the first time.  Ada Jo captures the essence, the spirit, the process and all the possibilities that can emerge.  Please enjoy!  If you'd like to be in touch with Ada Jo, her LinkedIn profile is available below and her email is provided in the footer of the PDF.

How to Connect to Ada Jo and Links Mentioned

Ada Jo's Website: Innovation Partners International

Ada Jo on LinkedIn: Ada Jo Mann

Ada Jo's Book:  Positive Family Dynamics

Articles by Ada Jo and Collaborators

Confessions of an AI-coholic

Collaborative Conversations, Creating Positive Family Dynamics

Ethiopia Summit

Liberia International Development In AI Practitioner

International Development GEM – A Positive Revolutions in AI Practitioner


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
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  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

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Shifting Power – Exciting Possibilities through Appreciative Inquiry With Tim Slack – PS55

Episode Introduction

Shifting PowerMy guest, Tim Slack is filled with energy, ideas, gratitude and generosity as he talks about his experiences with Appreciative Inquiry.  You’ll hear many references to people Tim admires, and whose work, contributions and essential being have been a positive influence in his work as a  master practitioner of Appreciative Inquiry.  Tim, along with Suzanne Quinney co-founded Appreciating People. They are recognized as UK leaders in the application of the power shifting approach of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in communities, organizations and government agencies.

Tim lives and works in Liverpool in the UK, not far from Penny Lane, of Beatles fame, and, he reports, the tourists still flock there!

Episode Overview –  Shifting Power with Appreciative Inquiry

In this episode, you will hear from Tim, how extensively and innovatively he, his partner Suzanne Quinney and their associates are applying the transformational change method of  Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in the world. In our conversation, we offer that Appreciative Inquiry is undergoing a sea change – a transformation – of its own. Tim and many other AI practitioners continually contribute to the growing number of  practical and life-changing resources, expanding upon the traditional resources of Appreciative Inquiry across the globe.  We talk about the transformative impact of AI at the individual, community and organizational levels. Tim gives examples the resources he and his team have created and the groups he’s been working with: kids in schools, surgeons and nurses in hospitals, women returning from combat in the military, curators in museums, students in universities, the homeless, LGTBQ community, clergy and members of churches and more.

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

I like to ask my guests about their initial experience with AI because growing evidence reveals that when we have our first exposure to AI, it feels so natural to us, that it seems we have “come home” and the entire worldview, principles and practices makes perfect sense to us as a way of being and working.

Tim scored the double jackpot – he discovered his future wife, Suzanne, and AI together. It was Suzanne who introduced him to AI.  They have been co-creating and lighting up the world ever since.  Together, they embarked on a long learning journey with and about Appreciative Inquiry from some of the best teachers and practitioners.  They developed professional relationships which over time developed into strong personal friendships, collaborations and ongoing co-creations.

Influences in Appreciative Inquiry

It delighted me to hear Tim offered that my book, Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions: 21 Strength-based Workshops was very influential in helping him see the many practical applications of AI.  He also included Jackie Kelm’s books, Appreciative Living and The Joy of Appreciative Living as examples which take AI outside of academia and big organizational development summits into small group work, day-to-day practices and personal transformation. (Links below are offered below.)

Appreciating Church – The Book

Tim shares the story about how the Appreciating Church project originated.  A range of different church communities undertook trainings in AI, but the continuity element was lacking, meaning people experienced training and it stopped there.  So Tim and his colleagues created a longer term process so that the participants had resources to be able to apply it themselves in their own communities and beyond.  The program has been getting stronger and stronger over two years and in January 2017, the book, Appreciating Church will be available. This is an exciting addition to AI's body of work.

The opening lines of the book, dating back to the 14th century, quote St. Julian de Norwich (known to be the first woman to write a  book in the English language):

And all shall be well, all shall be well… for there is a Force of love moving through the universe, that holds us fast and will never let us go.”  St. Julian de Norwich (c.a. 1342-1416)

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-6-02-50-pm

Click on the image to view a PDF outline of “Appreciating Church” – the book

Listen in to learn more about this very exciting work, what’s in the book and how it could be recontextualized to other communities.  Hint, it’s about a God of Abundance, not pain and fear or scarcity, and how we can use our strengths collectively.

With 210 people already trained across the participating churches, Tim talks about the shifts that have already occurred and the impact this work is having, as it expands.  He also pays tribute to Jane Magruder Watkins and Ralph Kelly in embarking on this work.

 

Appreciative Inquiry Resources AKA Essentials

I find it delightful to plug into Tim’s perspective.  The “resources” he continues to create for the AI community – trainers, practitioners and their clients are referred to as “essentials.” Check out the Essentials page on the Appreciating People website.   They are truly beautiful and valuable – content-wise and aesthetically.

AI – A Sea Change?

We talked about the shift that we are witnessing in the applications of AI.  The sea change lies in the acknowledgement that AI is not just about big systems and organization development.  There is a desire to find out more about “the self” and desire to apply Appreciative Inquiry for personal growth and change.  Living in times of chaos and turbulence, we are looking for resources to help us be more grounded, to give us a framework that offers us hope and possibility, enabling us to tap into our inner strengths.  AI does this.  A recent survey I conducted confirms this trend.

Journaling

The value of journaling to support the “appreciative muscle” came out of the work Suzanne Quinney had been doing with the hostel residents (Suzanne describes the power of this work in an earlier conversation I had with her.)  The questions, the inspirations, the prompts in the journals allow the person to document their thoughts, reflections, insights along their journey.  Tim has created a number of journals that are specific to different contexts.  For example, “How To Be More Awesome” for students; “Food for Thought” for people who want to strengthen their appreciative muscle. The process of journaling can help in building resilience.  Questions are drawn from Appreciative inquiry and activities from the field of Positivity Psychology, such as daily gratitude, mindfulness and wellness activities. Tim is a big advocate of multiple learning modalities, including art and humor.

Shifting Power – Ensuring all Stakeholders ARE IN

During  our conversation, one of the tools Tim mentions is the ‘ARE IN’ check-in process, created originally by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff who created “Future Search” which was based on the original Search Conferencing Participatory Planning and Design methodology. (Open the Positivity Lens Reveal below to learn more)

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One of the challenges in bringing the whole system together to explore an organisation’s development plans is to ensure you have got the ‘right’ people there.

ARE IN could be a useful mechanism to ensure buy-in and ownership – which is a precursor to shifting power – give voice to all.

This acronym is a useful reminder when planning a large scale, whole systems change experiences.

The ARE IN tool, was developed by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff, as part of the ‘Future Search’ methodology.

They recommend that a whole system event or process should include participants who ‘ARE IN’, i.e. those with:

A uthority to act (e.g. decision making responsibility in an organisation or community);

R esources such as contacts, time or, money;

E xpertise in the issues to be considered;

I nformation about the topic that no others have;

N eed to be involved because they will be affected by the outcome and can speak to the consequences;

This check list implies you have people in the room who can make decisions and who can ensure change is sustained beyond the planning stages. 

What is Excellence?

Tim leaves us with hints of what Appreciating People are beginning to work on – looking at excellence in surgical procedures in hospitals. He concludes by pondering if the next question we could be asking, after the seminal AI question “What’s already working well” is

“What is excellence?”

A banquet of food for thought!

Links and Mentions

Tim’s Wesbite: Appreciating People

Tim’s email: Tim Slack  [email protected]

Tim’s Blog Posts: News from Appreciating People

Tim’s Twitter: @AppreciatingPeople

Tim’s LinkedIn:  Tim Slack

Interview with Suzanne Quinney: Social Innovations by Appreciating People, with Suzanne Quinney

Interview with Jackie Kelm: Three Steps to Appreciative Living, with Joy Engineer Jackie Kelm

St. Julian de Norwich – Amazon Page

 

Books Mentioned in the 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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20 Positive Outcomes from a Strength-based Approach to Change

Change is Popular

Strength-based approach to changeThe topic of change doesn't go away.  Google the phrase books on ‘change‘ and 1,570,000,000 results come up.  Change methods results in 928,000,000 searches;  change management 474,000,000;  change leadership 493,000,000; strength-based change 51,200,000; strength-based leadership  4,150,000.  You get my point.

There are countless ways to approach change. Your values, mindset and experience will determine what fits for you.  We talk about winners and losers in change.  There is money to be made in change, especially if you are brought in to design or facilitate it.

Responding to Change

With regard to organizational change, where you sit in an organization is likely to determine how you might view it.  You could adopt any of the following perspectives and actions. You could:

  • Deal with it
  • Force it
  • Mandate it
  • Institutionalize it
  • Defend it
  • Implore it
  • Ignore it
  • Create it artificially – from a place of fear, threats, organizational weaknesses, fire and brim stone and forcing compliance
  • Invite it
  • Embrace it
  • Request it
  • Play with it
  • Recommend it
  • Create it transparently – from a place of possibility, opportunities, strengths, aspirations and foster commitment

Strength-based Approach to Change

When you take the perspective that every system – human or otherwise – has something that works already – it opens up the opportunity and the possibility to begin to address change from those perspectives.

Invite more of what works already so we can do more of THAT!

You know what?  People respond to that.  When a community discovers together what it does well already and openly celebrates, and acknowledges assets, successes, and its collective capabilities, it creates upwards spirals of energy and interest that fuel a spirit of WE can do this, Vs. IT can't be done.

The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated ~ William James

There are a number of ways to invite people to be active participants in their own change. Appreciative Inquiry, Open Space Technology, World Cafe, Search Conferencing are such examples.  Creating a safe space for people to share the best of their past and co-create their dreams and pathways for a bright future speaks to creating change from a transparent place.  It requires trusting open, collaborative, generative and generous perspectives and practices.

20 Positive Outcomes

When you invite people to discover the high points of a past change experience where they focus on what works Vs do a post mortem on the weakness and failures, this is what can be unleashed:

1 stories of best performance

2 celebration of past successes

3 growing positive metrics

4 sharing most favorable feedback

5 energized activities

6 engaged communication

7 willingness to jump in

8 go that extra mile

9 volunteer mindset

10 abundance of ideas

11 increased support for each other

12 greater sharing of ideas

13 openness to customer feedback

14 greater collaboration around initiatives

15 more communication across the organization

16 increased transparency

17 greater acceptance of risk

18 sharing resources

19 leadership shows up where least expected

20 joy and play become part of work

The list is a just a start.  What else have you discovered?  Let's build the evidence for strength-based change to develop our communities and places of work.

Appreciative Inquiry – Overview of Method, Principles and Applications

10 minute read

My intention with this resource is to provide an overview of Appreciative Inquiry for people who are new to this strength-based, transformational, positive change methodology.

My Intention for this Resource

This resource is an overview of the change methodology Appreciative Inquiry. Topics covered:

  • What it is
  • How it is a strength-based, positive framework
  • What it can achieve through collaborative conversations
  • The 4-D process of Appreciative Inquiry
  • How it can be applied personally and professionally
  • The guiding principles
  • The importance of affirmative questions
  • The value of story-telling in Appreciative Inquiry

My wish is that you will be more curious and excited about the possibilities of this life-centric, positive approach to change after reading it.  And, there are many more posts and stories throughout Positivity Strategist if your interest has been piqued.

 What is Appreciative Inquiry?

Seeing with Appreciative Eyes

What is Appreciative Inquiry?

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a change methodology grounded in theories from the disciplines of organization behavior and the sciences of sociology and psychology, with a good dose of metaphyics. Those of us who practice AI refer to it as both a way of being and doing.

Appreciative Inquiry is a perspective on the world that invites us to see ourselves and the world through an appreciative or valuing eye.  We are made aware that how we use language, how we ask questions, and what stories we tell shape our own and collective destinies.

Appreciative Inquiry CertificateEarning my certification in Positive Business and Society Change Program at Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in 2004 with Professors David Cooperrider and Ron Fry has been a high point of my personal and professional life.  It has enabled me to meet extraordinary people and contribute in ways I had never dreamed possible, adding to the body of work in this field.

Definition of Appreciative Inquiry

From the Handbook of Appreciative Inquiry, (link here) here’s a comprehensive definition:

Appreciative Inquiry is the co-evolutionary, co-operative search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them … AI involves the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate and heighten positive potential … AI practice focuses on the speed of the imagination and innovation.  Instead of negative, critical, and spiraling diagnoses commonly used in our organizations … there is discovery, dream, design and destiny.”

Organizational Change

Appreciative Inquiry Summit

Organizational Change

Appreciative Inquiry is an affirming way to embrace human, institutional and organizational change.  As a change methodology, AI offers a life-centric structured approach to energize people in organizations to move in the direction of what they most desire.  Its framework focuses organizational members on their existing core capacities, strengths and successes; it invites them to to envision a desired future; it initiates collaborations to design projects and activities the members are willingly commit to.

This change methodology has the perspective that every system, human and otherwise, has something that works right already —things that contribute to its aliveness, effectiveness, and success, connecting it in healthy ways to its stakeholders and the wider community.   With the Appreciative Inquiry perspective, we can create positive change that can be sustainable, thereby expanding capacity for wellbeing and flourishing. Read more

Shifting from linear to holistic design

Org-chart-21-300x193Organizational cultures vary, just as human personalities vary. Many are embracing methods and tools that bring all voices to the table. Participatory, inclusive decision-making practices and use of collaborative tools and technologies, along with social media platforms to level the playing field are becoming more common, facilitating our capacity to be more experimental, productive, playful, and engaged.

Read more

Highlights from an Appreciative Inquiry Summit

Sharing stories at an Appreciative Inquiry Summit

“Joy and pride grow from knowing you have just done something as well as you can do it”  ~ Lloyd Dobens

I know that feeling.  I have witnessed it in others.

Recently I completed an extremely satisfying 6 month project.  The project was to lead the design and facilitation of an Appreciative Inquiry Summit for the Chief Diversity Officer of a very large global organization.  The Summit, with over 300 people, was an appreciative inquiry into the affirmative topic, “Freedom to step outside our comfort zones”. There was much joy and pride in knowing we had all done something as well as we could do it. 

Read more

Appreciative Inquiry – Unintended Consequence of App Development

It's been 1.5 years now since Juergen Berkessel and I co-founded Polymash, a creative agency with a focus on strategy development, app design and marketing for the mobile world.  Juergen is an artist and a technologist.  He comes from a professional photography background, graphic design and a long stint in IT and product development.  My career has been in human and organization development.

In combining our talents, I am noticing the impact we are having on our clients as we work with them to help them make the shift to mobile devices.

Read more

“The Optimism of Uncertainty”

imagesI'm reminded increasingly these days of this quote by Howard Zinn, (1922 – 2010) historian, activist, professor.  It comes from his article, “The Optimism of Uncertainty”. If you do a search on this article, you'll find it referenced in a number of places, for example:  The Nation on September 2, 200.

“We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don't “win,” there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope. An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time.To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. Read more

What Excites You?

shutterstock_30659077-199x300 “What are you excited about?”

I love the question.  In my practice of Appreciative Inquiry, we say  it's the question that starts the change process.  A powerfully affirmative question inspires us to share stories about the successes and strengths I already know about and can celebrate.  Moreover, the question leads me to focus on what I want more of.

It is no effort to list what I am excited about.

I am excited that the conversation is widening and we are becoming more conscious of what is importance to us and what we value – more people becoming engaged and more voices are being heard.

I am excited that we are changing policies and introducing reforms to bring greater equity and justice into the world, especially in the financial sector.

Read more

Shift Technology Mindset from “I don’t need an iPad” to “I LOVE my iPad”

My-iPad-225x300From “I don't need an iPad” to “I LOVE my iPad”

How often I am witnessing that shift!  And, I wouldn't mind $100 for every time I've influenced a friend or colleague to invest in an iPad.

It's a year since the iPad came on the market. At first, I admired it vicariously via my partner, who is an early adopter with most things technological, especially computers, cameras, music and bikes.  Once I got my fingers on it,  (I did resist for a week or so), I changed to “I want one.”

Since then, I am increasingly loving my iPad.  It goes where I go: into every room in the house, the car, the plane, the boat, the doctor, the dentist, the hair salon, the beach, the park, the local coffee shop, bars, restaurants, and workplaces, of course.  My iPad is with me, everywhere.

Read more