“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” — Steve Jobs
If you want to achieve significant and lasting change through Appreciative Inquiry, it’s important to go beyond just following the recommended principles, methods, and processes.
You need to focus on two essential qualities that lead to more successful transformations and transformational outcomes.
By identifying and leveraging two essential qualities, you can unlock the full potential of individuals, teams, and organization to drive meaningful transformation.
The 2 Keys to Achieving Successful Transformational Outcomes
In a study that analyzed Appreciative Inquiry applications, Gervase Bushe and Aniq Kassam found only 35% of the cases resulted in transformational outcomes, despite following the recommended principles, methods, and processes of Appreciative Inquiry.
Bushe and Kassam conclude that two qualities of Appreciative Inquiry are necessary to achieving Appreciative Inquiry’s transformative potential:
- A focus on changing how people think instead of what people do.
- A focus on supporting self-organizing change processes that flow from new ideas.
Here are some ways to get started…
How To Change How People Think
Here are three strategies that can help to change how people think:
- Encourage reflection: Encouraging individuals to reflect on their assumptions, beliefs, and values can help them to become more aware of their own thought processes and to identify opportunities for growth and change.
- Foster a growth mindset: Encouraging a growth mindset can help individuals to see challenges and failures as opportunities for learning and growth, rather than as indicators of fixed abilities or intelligence.
- Emphasize positive outcomes: Focusing on positive outcomes and successes can help to build momentum and motivation and can help individuals to see the potential for change and growth in their own lives and work.
Changing how people think, changes what people do. If you just focus on what people do, smart people will question why they are even doing it.
But if actions flow from a different mindset, then you will have a more solid foundation.
That said, in my experience, sometimes the best way to get people changing behavior is to have them “try” something for a while. Otherwise, they might get stuck in analysis paralysis. Or they might not have enough practical experience to draw from so their thinking gets stuck or is flawed.
And I’ve found that one of the best ways to change how people think is to change the language.
That’s what makes questions work so well. They trigger a different thought process and new language.
How To Support Self-Organizing Change Processes that Flow from New Ideas
Here are three strategies that can support self-organizing change processes that flow from new ideas:
- Encourage diversity of thought: Encouraging a diverse range of perspectives and opinions can help to generate new and innovative ideas and can help to break down groupthink and other forms of conformity that can stifle creativity and innovation.
- Create a culture of experimentation: Creating a culture that embraces experimentation and risk-taking can help to facilitate the development and implementation of new ideas and can help to build trust and psychological safety among team members.
- Provide opportunities for unstructured time: Providing individuals with unstructured time can allow them to explore new ideas and pursue their own interests and passions, which can help to spark creativity and generate new insights and perspectives. This can be done through initiatives such as “hackathons” or “innovation days,” which allow individuals to work on projects that are not part of their regular duties.
David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney, the co-creators of Appreciative Inquiry, have also identified six conditions that are essential for setting positive change efforts up for success. See 6 Conditions that Empower and Unleash Human Potential.
Get the Books
Here are the books on Appreciative Inquiry that I found most useful applying Appreciative Inquiry at Microsoft:
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