We interpret our experiences and the things we encounter in our own way; what we make of the world is a result of our perceptions of our experiences. Transformative learning, then, is a process of examining, questioning, validating, and revising these perceptions.
Patricia Cranton, Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning, 1994
When I first encountered Appreciative Inquiry, my worldview was shaped through the lens of adult learning. For years I had been invested in and intrigued by the ways that new ideas entered the mind of the person, were adopted and impacted behavior. Somewhere in the magic of that process, I became the senior training director in a large organization. Creating a leadership curriculum, introducing new management practices, and leading executive development provided lots of insights about the extent to which individual learning changed the perceptions of the employees one at a time. There were some notable successes as I rolled out programs across multiple levels of management and everyone was “on the same page”, using the same language, and applying similar tools to increase performance.
As some of the most experienced and competent managers needed to collaborate on the critical products and services of the company, the skills they had learned in those programs often did not make an impact. They needed a facilitator to assist in the process and so my role expanded. And so did my notion of when and how learning could invigorate organizations. In the work of dialogue and co-creation at the group level, learning took place for individual members and took hold in the whole.
As Cranton explains, re-examination and reinterpretation of experience is an important launching pad for learning that transforms. Appreciative Inquiry invites and engages groups and populations in an organization to a simultaneous transformative learning opportunity. It amplifies the process of ratifying perceptions — not at the solo level – but in the larger context. At the same time, it allows contributors to align their new insights and make collective meaning from their incremental shifts of assumption and understanding.
Is it any wonder that AI is so powerful?