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Focus on the Positive in Your Business Organization

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/20/2006 | Business and Finance
Do you believe that despite the complaints and problems encountered in your organization, there is nonetheless significant good work and results occurring? Do you want to find a way to fan the flames of these positives so that they engulf your entire organization? Lets admit it sometimes our problem-centered focus places too much attention on the negative. Perhaps its time for a new approach. We can seek to discover the excellence already present in our organizations just as Michelangelo is reported to have said that he saw an angel in the rock and carved to set it free.

Having a positive vision is the underlying premise of Appreciative Inquiry. Appreciative Inquiry is a philosophy but it is also practical since it suggests a particular method of changing social systems. In its most basic form, an appreciative inquiry is about asking questions about the best of what is and what has been. The information is like a discovery that lends itself to dreaming about the positive future and finally, designing the action plan to make it happen.

For example, a consultant or trainer is frequently in the position of needing to understand the training needs of a client company. Here are several potential questions that could be used in appreciative interviews:

Describe a time when you took part in professional development that was especially energizing and enlivening. Who was involved? What happened? Describe the event in detail.

If you could imagine or transform the professional development available in any way you wished, what one to three things would you like to see happen to enhance its vitality and effectiveness?

What do you imagine your own role might be in helping to make this happen? Who could work with you?

The resulting qualitative data would be most efficiently analyzed by computer software such as text retrievers, code and retrieve programs and conceptual network builders. Such software programs would help draw valid meaning from the data by reducing it, help to identify patterns through comparative analysis and go beyond the narrative text to display the data in matrices.

Consider asking one or more appreciative questions at your next staff meeting. Set it up properly by giving employees a little background and reasoning for the approach. Let them know what you plan to do with the information and invite interested parties to get involved in the resulting action plan. You might be surprised by the synergy that results!