Change Is Inevitable: How It Happens toYou Is Not
by James Van Doren
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a methodology for making change happen in a way that promotes growth and excitement. Weatherhead’s AI Certificate shows the way.
You’ve been there; in fact, we all have. The announcement comes down from on high. Everyone starts scrambling to implement the next “new improvement” that will make all the old “new improvements” obsolete. There is a collective groan as the team resolves itself to yet another grinding series of projects that may just make everyone’s job harder. You wonder – “Why didn’t they just ask us how we could improve the operation and increase efficiencies?”
Good question. Why don’t executives and managers include people at all levels in the organization in discussions around change? Well, if you have a company of 3,000 people, it’s more than a little daunting to imagine managing such a large and diverse group of people (let alone opinions). Even with a department of 100 it seems an impossible task to keep everyone on track, on task, and moving towards the same goal. But Weatherhead researchers David Cooperrider, PhD, Fairmount Minerals Professor in Social Entrepreneurship and Professor of Organizational Behavior; and Ronald Fry, PhD, Chair and Professor of Organizational Behavior at Weatherhead, uncovered, and refined, a methodology for change that is, well – a huge change. Dr. Cooperrider and Dr. Fry are co-originators of the concept of Appreciative Inquiry, a truly revolutionary approach to change. It is based on several premises that have been proven in practice. The overarching theme is that positive change works better than traditional deficit-based “problem solving” that could come up with any myriad of possible solutions that don’t necessarily address what you actually want to have happen. AI begins by engaging in an exploration of an organization’s strengths (or a team’s, a department’s, a product’s, etc). This stage of the process is called the “Discovery” phase, and is part of AI’s unique 4-D cycle of change.
Next, through a serious of activities and exercises, the process moves to harnessing the energy, excitement, and imagination of multiple people in a constructive and focused way to co-creating a positive vision of the future. Dr. Cooperrider calls this the “Dream” phase. There’s an ideation process and there is a final planning and delivery phase – called “Design” and “Destiny” respectively.
Obviously, this is a huge simplification of the whole methodology. At CWRU’s Weatherhead School of Management we take three and a half days to teach practitioners the foundation of the tools. And for some who haven’t had the chance to engage in the process, it may even sound a little bit like hokem. But organizations like Wal-Mart, McDonalds, the United Nations, and even the City of Cleveland have utilized this game changing positive change and positive leadership methodology to experience tremendous results – results that haven’t left their employees and their customers groaning.
The Cleveland-based program, Appreciative Inquiry: Leveraging Strengths for Transformative, Lasting Change, takes place February 6-9, 2012.
For those who wish to continue their learning journey with faculty and peers, they can extend their participation with the Appreciative Inquiry Certificate in Positive Business and Society Change. Every year, more than 30 individuals around the country and the world complete this certificate, taking part in individual fieldwork, engaging in periodic conference calls, and returning to campus in August for the Advanced AI Workshop with Dr. Cooperrider and Dr. Fry.
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