What do you see when you look at your organization? Do you see a mountain of problems? A heap of challenges? A seemingly endless list of things that – if fixed – would bring the place to a level of normalcy or efficiency?

What if there were a different way to look at things?

If you used your powers of observation differently you might see different things. An approach pioneered by Dr. David Cooperrider turns organizational change theory on its head. Instead of seeking to “fix” an organization’s problems, he suggests looking for all that’s going well and building from there.

Appreciative Inquiry (or AI for short – yes, there’s another AI!), is a positive approach to focusing on the things that go well to find solutions to problems. It can form the foundation for future organizational development because it is appreciative, applicable, provocative (not everyone likes to focus on the positive), and collaborative. AI also helps you understand and describe your organization when it’s working at its best. You can then more easily see the gap between your ideal vision and the current reality, and develop potential solutions.

The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking. If we want to change the world we have to change our thinking…no problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew.

Albert Einstein

There are some key assumptions that make AI so powerful.

First, it’s based on the idea that in every organization, something works. Asking questions that evoke what works helps people see that success is possible – because they’ve already achieved at least some success. A more traditional and less effective approach is asking people to find out “what’s wrong.” This type of inquiry yields lists of problems but moreover can get people thinking the organization is beyond repair.

People tend to have more confidence to move towards the future (the unknown) when they carry parts of the past. But the negative past can be heavy and awkward. Carrying the best of the past makes the journey much easier. It also creates a more balanced and accurate picture of the situation your organization is facing so you can move into possibilities with greater clarity.

Looking at your organization through an Appreciative Inquiry lens gives you new powers of observation and a vast new toolset to mobilize the inert potential of your amazing people.

Do you have the sense that your team has untapped potential? AI can be the catalyst for positive momentum. Want to know how to get started? Reach out to us at hello@takebackwork.com.

It’s time to transform the experience of transformation.

About the author…

Paul Thallner is an organizational development expert, advisor, executive coach, and facilitator committed to helping teams make the world’s best workplaces.