Making the most of what we do – thoughts on appreciative inquiry

appreciative inquiry

Recently, I ran a session for the AC CoCoaching forums based on Appreciative Inquiry (AI). The session proved again how powerful a method AI was in unlocking people that are stuck in past problems and allows for releasing of the yet unknown positive outcome by considering what could be amazing and then wildly dreaming about what else could happen if ….

Appreciative inquiry has a wide subject context drawing from the belief that we can affect our future at the time of thinking and that in exploring this thinking context in an open, positive and progressive way, we can gain an even more favourable outcome.

A few years ago, I had a call from my friend who was quite excited about the discoveries in CERN. In our conversation, we started to explore the question “what if ….?”. This was invigorating, and we started to explore a business context to help others unleash this powerful question. We built a integrative collaborative website that allowed people to think wildly together. We built an appreciative inquiry website where one thing prevailed, it allowed people to build on ideas, and not to criticise or demean them. The collaborators were drawn from all over the globe and conversations were exciting and ground breaking. We amalgamated the concept into real meetups and events and created a buzz in the entrepreneurial community. It was always our dream to turn this into a philanthropic venture allowing for grants and donations but the finance to allow this dream to happen hit a wall and after three years of profitable trading, we decided to move on from this.

We did impact people’s lives, we did affect positive outcomes and we saw people grow through this engagement. Sure we hit challenges but our focus on our positive mission kept us in line.

The appreciation piece had worked.

Academically, appreciative inquiry rests on five key principles from a coaching perspective.

  1. By understanding that what we believe is true leads to that outcome is the constructionist principle.
  2. Simultaneity principle is that we can change our course of thinking as we are reacting to stimuli around us. If we think of how we as coaches hold our coachees safe space, providing challenge and nurturing thought, we can understand how much of an impact out work has on peoples outcomes.
  3. We need to encourage others to be able to tell stories of the situation, exploring the different actors, the metaphors, and differing languages. This poetic principle invites us to be creative and use whatever methods our clients need to engage in the scenario in hand.
  4. Having identified and worked through the ‘now’ creation, we need to imagine the shape of the future. What could this future really look like, what could the dream look like? This is the anticipatory principle.
  5. Finally, the positive principle invites us all to remain with a positive outlook, exploring and enjoying hope, joy, excitement and inspiration and aligning values with the dream. I think of this as the what ‘why would we do this’ question. We already understand that by aligning values to outcomes and mission we get great results so introducing the belief and engaging this inspiration really can deliver.

As we explore our coaching sessions, perhaps we should integrate what we are trying to help the client to gain outcome could be achieved through this method – give it a go.

Next week we will explore a model that we can adopt in our coaching.