Design . . . is a Smart Investment

September 21, 2007

Those savvy folks at Fast Company have a very exciting October issue. The online articles and resources are rich with the nuanaces and controversies around Design.  And one lovely insight is that investing in it leads to financial returns that are tangible.The Design Dividend

Having just had a conversation with a CEO who bemoaned that his CFO wanted to go from AI project concepts into full blown project management, this quote made me want to send him an urgent email:

The real challenge  . . . is infusing design thinking throughout a large organization. “It’s not the senior executives–most of them get it,” Lawrence says. “It’s the middle management, which is charged with implementing the company’s strategy, that wants everything proven to them.”

Design is now an acknowledged bottom line advantage. Yippee!


Shifting gears to the appreciative

September 21, 2007

My friend Peter Durand of Alphachimp Studio posted the most intriguing story about Will Bowen, a Kansas City clergyman. Just as AI practioners have known, he recognized that positive language inspires positive action. By requiring participants to switch wrists for a plastic bracelet with each lapse to complaining, Rev. Bowen increased their awareness of their language. Of course, recognizing habits is a first step to altering them.

Words have meaning that we give to them. The ‘we’ being collective, as the community of co-creators adds the tags of life experience, culture, personal preference, intention and so on to make each syllable and phrase rich in texture and nuance. Tim Ferris wants us to stop using some words.  He believes the words are overused and have lost meaning.  His purpose is to lower our stress by lowering ambiguity. It’s an interesting idea. But I’m more in favor of adding more conversation around the words. The human connection leads to appreciative understanding  . . .  as long as the words don’t get in the way.

Soundbytes at the Third International AI Conference

September 20, 2007

Design resonated in many of the conversation and breakout sessions that I attended this year. Charlotte Dalsgaard in Denmark worked with Christian Binau Nielson to use AI for  Imaginative product design  for Oticon.  Dave Sherman and John Whalen shared their work with Walmart ,”Strength based  Organizational Change: A Walmart Case Study. Lee Scott  is engaging stakeholders and strength based change in his quest to make Walmart an environmentally sustainable company. You can view parts of  “Sustainability ”  a DVD that was used at . 

 Peter Coughlin with IDEO provide a playful keynote session in rapid  product protyping.

A designer at lunch was sharing her work with using AI to design a Cancer Wellness Center and garden.

It was wonderful to see artist, engineers, designers, R&D and marketing teams embracing AI as a design methodology.

Marcus Buckingham Gets Us Focused on Strengths

September 18, 2007

Author of First Break All the Rules, and Now Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham has lots to say about how we perceive and deal with the strenghts and weakenesses we believe we possess. Here’s a question to get your interest:
 Raise your hand if you have a sibling; think of them – characteristics and traits.  Buckingham’s memory of his brother and sister was that he recognized their different strengths and weaknesses,  and how aware he was of this early in life; beyond obvious differences, were the subtle ones. He knew he was not the same as they were.

 SLIDE : Build on your strengths and manage around your weaknesses

 Proof of this principle: organizations ask him to study their best <whatever> and he discovers  there is range where there shouldn’t be range; there are great teams in not so great companies and not  so great teams in great companies; a high performing company is a collection of great teams

Some examples:

Based on local economic potential, retailer place stores; what’s going on appears to be improving overall, but when individual stores are graphed there is a scattergram of very broad range of performance;
  luxury car company believes that the quality of the dealership experience is key to success; top 10%
 factory with various shifts which commits to employee safety; top 10% of shifts on number of accidents had none; bottom 10% had 25.26 of recordable incidents

Researching this at Gallup, they found that 12 questions really got at what’s going on (are in First Break All the Rules) – most important question was “At work,do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?”

Some people are delusional about their strengths, while most others are accurate.

 SLIDE: In 2000 “Which do you think will help you be most successful?”
 People in US replied:
 41% Strengths; 59% weaknesses
We think good is the opposite of bad and study bad to get more good; our balance is all off

Cooperrider’s Opening Keynote

September 17, 2007

As David Cooperrider launched the conference, he shared his thoughts in the first session entitled Special Coming Together: The Symphony of Strengths in This Room.

The impressive results of the UN Global Compact include:


A Medley of Expectations

September 15, 2007


I am filled with anticipation. It’s been 3 years since the AI community assembled in a major way. Tomorrow I head for Orlando, FL and the 2007 Appreciative Inquiry Conference: The Power of Positive Change. There are so many aspects of the conference that are igniting my imagination:

  • The expansion of generative approaches that has inspired collaborations with disciplines and ideas which share so much with AI
  • The new stories and cases that come from many sectors and corners of the world
  • The friends and colleagues, old ones I see too infrequently and newer ones who have forged online and phone relationships – what a lovely way to finally get together

Today there was a flurry of last minute details to take care of. I’m heaving a sigh of relief now that the handouts for the session I will give with Jack Ricchiuto are printed and the slides are all fine tuned. I’ve got some bells (Tibetan) and some color and a very engaging plan for Vital Networks:Engaging the Enterprise in Sustainable, Strengths-Based Design, which we are delivering on Monday afternoon. (more about that on Monday)

Some special equipment is in my luggage too. Extra batteries are packed for my digital camera, and a new Flip Video camcorder is ready. Those will be bringing images of the conference to you on this blog. There are hundreds of people who will be at the conference, and thousands who will be with us in spirit from around the world. Roberta Peirick, who will be blogging with me, and I hope to bridge that divide for you.

Stay tuned!