Appreciative Inquiry-Getting to solutions by looking at what’s going right

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” ~ Voltaire

AWiB’s monthly program on an important topic which was also a great introduction to our grand vision–nurturing the culture of “Appreciation” in our community began with a room full of excited and exciting professionals mostly seeking for ways to focus on our strengths, on what we have instead of what we lack, on our assets as Bezawit, the facilitator reminded us all night. The session opened with an important ice breaker…assigning nicknames. Nick names? What has that got to do with anything? As everything starts in the labeling, in the wording, in the language we use, Bezawit wanted all of us to focus on what good we see in each other.  So, off we went circling the room looking for those to appreciate and be appreciated. Get your “post it” and post them away on their backs she said. The trick was as in any great concept at the beginning, how to stay stick. The “post it” keeps falling off…adding joy to our little ice breaker by exercising our backs by picking the notes from the floor instead of our backs where they should have stayed and to our delight discovering what others have nicknamed us. Dynamic, life force, confident, open, spontaneous, humorous, powerful, helpful, happy, beautiful, ???? ?? etc…etc…etc…

The question was how we felt with the validation we were afforded by those generous people who came to discover each other’s assets, perhaps not for the first time but always helps to be reminded. The feelings were: rejuvenated, motivated to do even better and lots of laughter as learning is done best in moments of fun.

Ms. Bezawit Bekele is PACT Capacity Development Manager and Appreciative Inquiry trainer who led the session and shared with us the practice of appreciative inquiry based leadership.

So, what is this AI as it is also called?

To understand the basis of Appreciative Inquiry it is useful to look at the meaning of the two words in context.

  • Appreciation means to recognize and value the contributions or attributes of things and people around us.
  • Inquiry means to explore and discover, in the spirit of seeking to better understand, and being open to new possibilities.

So, what this means is that by appreciating what is good and valuable in the present situation, we can discover and learn about ways to effect positive change for the future. (Excerpt from Mind Tools)

It is also about paradigm shift, looking at the glass as half empty or half full and the effects of our understanding in every situation.

So how does this AI help our organization do better, produce more and achieve our shared vision?

As we accomplish a mission through great leaders, the concept of AI focuses on leadership by which we all have the potential to become one and therefore relate to all.

What must leaders look for in those they lead? Leadership is a process by which members of a group are empowered to work towards a shared goal or a shared vision that will create change, hence a call for appreciative leadership. A leader must seek what each person has in him or in her that enables transformation. It is also about looking into one’s own paradigm as well as looking into others paradigm and appreciating what’s in all of us. Leadership is about affirming what each person brings to the table, to this shared goal.

The Appreciative Inquiry model is based on the assumption that the questions we ask will tend to focus our attention in a particular direction. Some other methods of assessing and evaluating a situation and then proposing solutions are based on a deficiency model. “What are the problems?”, “What’s wrong?” or “What needs to be fixed?”

“When we change the way we look at things, the things will look at change”. What we focus more gets bigger. And the morale of the story is to focus on what is best for us, what is best for our organizations and our businesses, and what works well for society at large that brings transformation. The way is by appreciating what we see in others, acknowledging and validating others for what they bring to the table—to the shared vision, by shifting paradigm,  by making use of powerful questions to change our perspectives that will help all of us be part of a solution. AI is also learning about us and our environments. As Voltaire, the ancient philosopher, reminds us Appreciation makes what is Excellent in others belong to US.

AWiB thanks all who participated in this wonderful Appreciative Leadership program. This is one aspect of our promise to our members to help develop true and courageous leaders as every change calls for courage. Those of you who chose to stay home or decided on other priorities, we also appreciate you because we know you will be seeking us and the information through our website: www.awib.org.et.

We look forward to seeing all of you at the gala dinner on October 21, 2012, at Sheraton Addis in celebration of “Women of Excellence”– those who are identified with their immense contribution to our society, those who are models to our youth. Please join us in upholding Appreciative Leadership.

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