“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” — Albert Einstein
To succeed at change and transformation you need to create the conditions.
You need to empower the people that will lead and be the change.
To effectively lead positive change, you need to create a supportive environment that empowers individuals and enables them to bring out their best.
By creating the conditions for positive change, including freedom to be known, heard, dream, choose to contribute, act with support, and be positive, you can empower individuals to be their best selves and drive sustainable, meaningful change.
Without this support, people may be hesitant or resistant to change, which can lead to a lack of progress or even failure.
If you want to leverage the benefits of Appreciative Inquiry, you need to set the stage for it by empowering people and supporting them along the journey.
This means creating a culture of positivity and collaboration, where individuals are encouraged to share their strengths and successes and work together to co-create a better future.
6 Conditions that Empower People for Positive Change
David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney, the co-founders of Appreciative Inquiry, have identified six conditions that are essential for setting positive change efforts up for success.
To empower and unleash human potential, they recommend focusing on these six conditions, which can help to create a supportive and empowering environment for change:
- Freedom to be known in relationships
- Freedom to be heard
- Freedom to dream in community
- Freedom to choose to contribute
- Freedom to act with support
- Freedom to be positive
Let’s walk through each one…
1. Freedom to be Known in Relationships
People’s identities form and evolve in relationships.
Appreciative Inquiry levels the playing field by bridging the gap across hierarchies.
In the context of Appreciative Inquiry, “Freedom to be Known in Relationships” refers to creating a culture and environment that allows individuals to express themselves freely, openly, and authentically, in a way that is meaningful and respectful to others.
This involves creating spaces where people can share their stories and experiences, and feel seen and heard by others in a non-judgmental way.
The idea is that by fostering an environment where people can be their true selves, they are more likely to feel valued, connected, and engaged, which can lead to positive change and transformation.
2. Freedom to be Heard
Open conversations don’t just give people space to speak up—everyone is committed to listen to everyone else.
In the context of Appreciative Inquiry, “Freedom to be Heard” means creating a safe and inclusive environment where every individual’s voice is valued and heard.
It is important to provide opportunities for everyone to share their perspectives and ideas, and to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in the conversation. This is essential in order to tap into the collective intelligence of the group, and to ensure that everyone’s strengths and perspectives are leveraged to co-create and co-evolve solutions.
By providing freedom to be heard, we can ensure that the solutions that emerge are representative of the whole system, rather than just a few dominant voices.
3. Freedom to Dream in Community
Leaders must encourage people to unleash their individual dreams and build a larger, collective one.
In the context of Appreciative Inquiry, “Freedom to Dream in Community” refers to the idea that people should be encouraged to envision a better future together and to co-create a shared vision for that future.
This involves engaging stakeholders in a collaborative and inclusive process that allows everyone to contribute their ideas and aspirations for what could be possible.
By creating a sense of shared ownership over the vision for the future, people feel more invested and motivated to work towards making it a reality.
This concept emphasizes the importance of listening to and valuing the perspectives of all stakeholders and empowering them to participate in shaping the direction of the change effort.
4. Freedom to Choose to Contribute
Appreciative Inquiry reconnects people with their most profound purpose—people feel reenergized and determined.
People contribute because they want to, not because they are forced to.
In the context of Appreciative Inquiry, “Freedom to Choose to Contribute” refers to the notion that every individual has a unique set of skills, strengths, and talents that they can use to contribute to the collective effort.
It recognizes that everyone has something valuable to offer and that they should be given the opportunity to do so in a way that aligns with their strengths and interests.
By empowering people to choose how they contribute, they are more likely to feel invested in the process and to be motivated to make a meaningful and lasting contribution.
This can lead to a more engaged and committed group of individuals who are working together towards a shared goal.
5. Freedom to Act with Support
When everyone is listening and caring about each other, the desire to act increases—the system stimulates people to actively participate.
In the context of Appreciative Inquiry, “Freedom to Act with Support” refers to the idea that individuals and groups should have the autonomy to take action towards positive change, while also having the support and resources they need to achieve their goals.
This involves creating an environment where people are empowered to take action and make decisions, but also have access to the tools, information, and support they need to be successful.
It’s about balancing freedom and autonomy with the resources and support necessary to make change happen.
6. Freedom to be Positive
Culture is the behavior we reward and promote.
When negativity is no longer omnipresent, people re-learn to focus on positive conversations.
In the context of Appreciative Inquiry, Freedom to be Positive refers to the ability to focus on positive possibilities and strengths, rather than on problems and deficiencies.
It involves a mindset shift that enables individuals and organizations to see beyond limitations and negative patterns, and instead envision and create a better future based on what is already working well.
This freedom to be positive creates a safe and supportive space for individuals to share their ideas and collaborate on solutions that build on their strengths and capabilities.
By embracing this freedom to be positive, individuals and organizations can experience a more energizing and empowering approach to change and growth.
Embracing Appreciative Inquiry: Empowering Positive Change in Your Organization
Appreciative Inquiry provides a powerful framework for fostering positive change within organizations and communities.
By focusing on the positive core, engaging in strengths-based inquiry and change, and fostering a growth mindset, leaders and individuals can co-create a better future.
By creating the conditions for positive change, including freedom to be known, heard, dream, choose to contribute, act with support, and be positive, organizations can empower individuals to be their best selves and drive sustainable, meaningful change.
With Appreciative Inquiry, anyone can become a catalyst for positive change and make a difference in the world.
Get the Books
Here are the books on Appreciative Inquiry that I found most useful applying Appreciative Inquiry at Microsoft:
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