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Think about your own experience of change Can you identify any theory E and theory O programmes that you ve experienced Which were most successful
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86 Appreciative Inquiry
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Many of the change theories that we have looked at so far start from an assumption: There s a problem and we need to x it This isn t really surprising: it s the way many of us have been taught to think However, this does have some negative consequences If you come looking for a problem, you ll nd one In fact, you ll nd more than one, and in the process you risk creating a negative mindset and invoking personal defences Fortunately, there is an alternative approach and it s compatible with the change through learning approach taken in this book The technique is called Appreciative Inquiry (AI)6 and it starts from the positive: Let s look at what s good here and see how we can make it even better
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See Cooperrider and Srivastva (1987)
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Change Models
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When faced with a failure, or a failing situation, people naturally get protective and try to avoid problems Failure can breed fear and uncertainty Some people will react by sticking their heads in the sand to avoid the problems, while others will redouble their efforts at what they know Neither reaction is good for creating change Those with their heads in the sand won t see the need for change, while those who are working harder will be too busy to hear the message or take part in attempts to improve anything Either way, people will seek security in what they know and fear what they don t know Once we embark on a nd a problem, x a problem type approach, we change our mindset and language We re looking for problems, we re talking about problems and we re thinking in the negative, seeking out what s wrong After a while, we see problems everywhere we look This becomes draining and saps our energy: we go home at night burdened with problems for which we need solutions Naturally, we start to create defence mechanisms to protect ourselves from the problems that we see Taken together, these forces make change more dif cult People not only fear change, but they don t have the energy or time to learn new things and try them out Fear of further failure creates an aversion to risk There s no space or time for learning or change
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862 A Different Approach
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Appreciative Inquiry starts from a different perspective Instead of focusing on what the problems are, we seek to focus on what s good and there s plenty of good in any organization It could be a new company with all the excitement and wide-open horizons that start-ups have Or it could be an organization that has been around for a while, in which case the success of simply surviving is worth celebrating Once we start to look at what s good in an organization, people become positive and our energy levels rise Rather than taking problems home, we take home enthusiasm When people have a positive outlook they learn more, and in such an environment it is easier for learning to ourish In a safe, successful environment, people are more likely to try new ideas However, success can bread complacency and can sometimes block change: If we did it right last time, then why change So we need to make sure that we drive learning to produce change We can do this by looking for opportunities to learn more and put our learning into action Opportunities come in many shapes and forms: just because you re doing well doesn t mean that you can t do better We might start by having teams identify their strengths Perhaps these strengths allow them to ride over their problems, or perhaps having recognized their strengths they see opportunities to do even better, or maybe they can help
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