I’ve written before about Appreciative Inquiry (Ai). Ai is a whole-system approach to change grounded in the belief that the system (team, organization, family, etc.) will move towards and therefore get more of those things on which it focuses it’s time, energy, and attention. Or simply stated by Anthony Robbins, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” Appreciative Inquiry, as the name implies, guides the system to focus on what is appreciated, valued, working well, and what we want to create more of.
Ai is a fundamentally different approach to change than many of the traditional problem-solving approaches. The fundamental difference between creating and problem-solving is this: in problem solving we seek to make something we do not like go away. In creating, we seek to make what we truly care about exist. Consider this, written by Peter Senge, renowned leadership author and organizational change expert“Of course, most of us, in both professional and private life, spend far more time problem solving and reacting to circumstances than focusing our energies on creating what we really value. Indeed, we can get so caught up in reacting to problems that it is easy to forget what we actually want.
Organizations must do both – resolve day-to-day problems and generate new results. But if your primary role is to fix problems, individually or collectively, rather than create something new and meaningful, it’s hard to maintain a sense of purpose. And without a deep sense of purpose, it’s difficult to harness the energy, passion, commitment, and perseverance needed to thrive in challenging times.
If you wonder which is primary in your work, simply ask yourself or your team, “What are we trying to accomplish today?” Usually teams will describe a set of problems they’re trying to manage. Then, ask what they could accomplish by eliminating those problems. Typically they’ll describe yet another set of problems that could then be tackled – for instance preventing a service breakdown if only they first could solve their interpersonal conflicts. What often is forgotten is the more basic question: what are we trying to create? Without a compelling answer to this question, it is hard to know why all the problem solving actually matters. Problem solving becomes the busywork of organizations in which people have forgotten their purpose or vision. Reconnecting with that purpose always starts with asking questions like: Why are we here? What are we trying to create that will make the world a better place? And, who would miss us if we were gone? (By the way, if you are in a business, “our investors” is never an answer to the last question – investors will always find another company where they can earn an adequate return on their capital.)”
These are powerful questions to ponder, on both a professional and a personal level. Here they are again:
- Why are we here? (Why am I here?)/li>
- What are we trying to create that will make the world a better place? (What am I trying to create that will make the world a better place?)li>
- Who would miss us if we were gone? (Who would miss me if I were gone?)
Here is my answer to the first question, professionally speaking. I am here to guide each individual with whom I work in discovering the creative, resourceful, whole, and worthy human being that he or she is and to guide him/her in stepping fully into that being.
Sound intriguing? Call me. Email me. Or better yet, take my “Healthiest You” assessment and I’ll contact you to debrief it together – it’s on me!