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.


Dancing in Design

June 22, 2007

Dancing in Design….. How I love design, the third D in the appreciative inquiry process. Much of the literature and case studies in AI focus on appreciative interviews , the principles of AI,  the scale of engagement(appreciative leadership, ai for teams, the ai summit) and more recent on sustainability.  The traditional4 D process of discovery, dream, design and destiny is the most  recognized framing for our work with AI.  As an  artist  and designer I love the possibilities of creating human energy in the design phase. I have experimented with Harris Owens” Open Space and Juanita Brown and David Isaacs’ World Cafe to lift communities into generative dialogues about design.  In my earlier years I utilzed the goose egg and Weisbords model for design… my practice evolves I use more emergent dialogue and tools where the stakeholders self organize.

 In my strategic work, I  am helping organizations move their vision, mission, values , goals to action. I have found the world cafe process to be a wonderful tool to take a snapshot of where the group is in implementing strategy.  The joy in watching a community reignite with energy on a strategy that was so fiercely identified in the previous phase of discovery and dream. 

As the AI facilitior,  I need to build the space and container for the group to move into generative design whether it be open space, world cafe, visual graphics or the traditional goose egg that Jane Watkins and Bernard Mohr have created. Time, energy, resources  and space are elements to consider when choreographing the dance of design.

I hope our next evolution of learning around appreciative inquiry is rich in design and destiny.

Schoolyard Behavior on the Web: Stop Cyberbullying

March 30, 2007

I sometimes take the ability to speak my mind in this blog for granted. AI Annotations is about generative ideas and most of the folks who find their way here as readers and commenters are like-minded. If you lived in my town, we’d go down to Slave to the Grind and have a cappuccino and share our thoughts together. I’d feel safe with you . . . my intellectual and social community.

March 30 is Stop Cyberbullying Day. The idea for the day came from some pretty nasty attacks on Kathy Sierra, a prominent writer, blogger and educator. The generative response was launched by Andy Carvin who writes the Learning Now blog for PBS where you will find his comments.

It really takes my breath away to think that decent people can be stalked publicly in cyberspace. The outrage from the folks who responsibly blog has been vocal and strong. Some decided to be silent this week and not to blog in protest of the abuse that Kathy Sierra experienced. Others have shared legislative information so our laws could be stronger. I am using my voice here . . . as I think an appreciative view may be helpful to re-center the underlying truth.

And so, I ask of you: Can you think of a time when you used your ability to communicate when faced with abuse and hurtful intentions . . . and you were able to bring a more wholesome, respectful and generative voice to the conversation and turned it around? What did you do? What made it so exceptional?

The Direction of Your Questions

March 13, 2007

“Answers reflect the past. Questions advise you about the future.”
– Margaret Somerville –

Asking high quality questions of yourself and others is an art. David Cooperrider says, “The first question you ask is fateful.” And further, that individuals and human systems tend to grow in the direction of the questions they ask on a regular basis.

Here’s question that’s swirling in my consciousness these days…I dreamed it up after spending a few days with David at a conference in January.

“How can I consistently engage my nervous system in an appreciative way of being and develop a neural fascination for what gives life, what creates hope and what supports genuine contact and connection with myself and with others?”

The theory and practice of Appreciative Inquiry has shown me that when strength connects to strength and hope is connected to hope, creativity and resources abound. Experience has also shown me that my habitual ways of thinking lean more towards the classic Highlights Magazine puzzles I loved as a kid…”What’s Wrong with This Picture?” Positive sustainable change and an appreciative view go hand in hand…what can you appreciate right here and now in your world?

To appreciate means to increase in value; to become sensitively aware of. Look around–find a friend, a co-worker, a teacher, a sibling, a parent, a child, your husband, your wife, your partner, a politician, a CEO, a clerk, a cashier, a blogger, an author, a musician, a colleague, a dentist, a doctor, a repair person…someone to appreciate–go on an appreciative rampage. Send emails, write a letter, make a phone call; develop and stretch your own capacity. By all means, stay alert to the quality of the questions you live in–as Marliee Adams puts it, “change your questions, change your life.”


Groking Sustainability–Part One

November 1, 2006

I spent some of my time last week attending the Business As An Agent of World Benefit (BAWB) conference in the comfort of my own home. I love virtual conferences! A peek into the buzz and hum of multiple presentations while sipping tea in my jammies late at night. What could be better?

I’ve gone back to the BAWB Site a number of times now. I have such a mix of feelings about all of what I’ve read and heard–what’s been most difficult is the corporate concept of “doing well by doing good” and developing a mental landscape and some kind of conceptional understanding of what true sustainability means.

When David Cooperrider made his opening remarks on Tuesday, he told a story about his son discovering that we are losing an average of three species per hour and his comment, “Daddy, what am I supposed to do with that?” I must admit that I often find myself in the same frame of mind–what am I supposed to do with what little I know and understand about what Peter Senge calls, “the change in the magnitude of change?”

Appreciative Inquiry calls upon us to use our capacity to dream up and imagine a future based on our strengths…and at the same time, the reality of our personal footprint on the earth is daunting. According to Peter Senge, it takes 1 TON of raw materials per day to support my individual daily lifestyle and that overlooks the amount of waste that is produced in the process! And further, that in the United States, the average pound of food travels 2,000 miles from where it is produced to where it is purchased.

For “virtual” attendees, the conference had a rich texture of online chats cafes and blogs where we mused with colleagues from Singapore, Israel, Canada…this question arose from Maria Humphies in New Zealand…

“How, and how soon, might we invent a process of caring for ourselves (the whole human family) and the earth who sustains us, that is not based on the ideological assumptions of capitalism?”

As I sit with this question, I want to stretch it in a different direction. I want to ask other questions:

Is there a new economic model that can draw on the resources (creative, innovative, leadership, stakeholder, shareholder, financial) of corporations to respond to the true interdependent nature of ecological and social concerns?

What knowledge, skills, and actions are required to shift sustainability theory to practical application?

What are the current initiatives and best practices locally and globally?

And, of course, what can I, personally, do?

Sustainability is a complex subject–at BAWB it was catagorized as Environment, Poverty and Peace. Last year, at the Clinton Global Initiative, the catagories were: Climate Change, Religion, Poverty and Governance.
Peter Senge offered: Food and Water, Energy and Transportation, and Materials (production, distribution and sales) with the thought that any business can locate where it sits within the global system using these categories.

I think we have a lot to think about in determining how to go from being conscious of the social-ecological challenges of our time and taking actions that are aligned with all of the complexity of what represents sustainability.

I’m actually reaching out to you, personally, and asking you to help me think about this…read this Oxfam report about Unilever available at the links below:

Report Summary

Actual Report

and share your response. Explore the sustainability link to the Earth Institute at the beginning of this blog or visit

and sit with your thoughts and feelings. Raise the conversation with your friends and children and grandchildren. Become informed. Appreciative Inquiry offers the unique opportunity to face what’s difficult and not turn away or collapse into despair. There are probably many answers to the question, “What can I do?” and one thing I know for sure is that I can begin conversations around making a difference…please join me and stayed tuned for Part Two!


October 26, 2006

I spent the last two days in an Action Learning session at the ODNetwork Conference. The Action Learn process felt very comfortable and effortless after practicing appreciative inquiry for six years. I was at ease holding the space for inquiry in its purest form, a basic, simple question. Our group dove into inquiry during three- one and half to two hour sessions over a two day window. I had the capacity to stay in inquiry without losing my sense of wonder or needing to move away from inquiry.

My AIC colleague, Roz Kay, encourages me to embody AI through practice if I want to make a shift in “self “as an AI consultant. I can celebrate that the “shift” has arrived. I am not sure when it showed up since this is the first time I have held the space in an inquiry for six hours. I’m confident I can use inquiry as a leader, as a consultant and/or a participant. I empathize with those who struggle with this new practice and want to quickly arrive at the driveway of action and impact. Yet I relish in the gentle curves of inquiry.

You could be questioning my association of traditional action learning with appreciative inquiry, some may wonder how I correlate this process within the umbrella of AI. In fact the question bubbled up after the third session. My immediate answer is no. The action learning process was missing the stories, the narrative component of AI.

Principles of Appreciative Inquiry

As I fly home, the question of action learning’s association with appreciative inquiry forces me to examine the two processes in relation to David Cooperriders five principles of AI:
Constructionism- our experiences are socially constructed
Simultaneity- Change happens the minute you ask the questions
Poetic- We can choose what we want to study
Anticipatory-Compelling images of the future create action
Positive –positive questions lead to positive amplification and positive affect

As a participant, I believe, we did socially construct meaning in an intense inquiry with only questions. I found that I was sense making with each and every question. After almost six hours there was this wonderful framing to work within. Simultaneity, every time someone presented a question, the system changed, our thoughts and collective knowledge shifted a little. It was ever so subtle as it is in AI. The inquiry aligned well with the Poetic principle, our inquiry allowed us to treat our topic as open books yet to be written. I struggle with the bridge to the anticipatory principle. Did our questions somehow create images of a future state ? Yes and no. Yes they created images of the future for each individual yet I question if it was a shared future. Our questions gave our conversations of questions, direction and flow in a rather popcorn fashion. I will continue to be open to a possible connection to the anticipatory principle. Social bonding was alive in our group. Once in a while a positive question presented themselves and new questions were generated from previous questions. I am just not sure if there was positive affect. It could be a great thesis question. The Action Learning inquiry was divergent in nature while an appreciative inquiry is convergent in nature.

Earlier I stated that the process was not narrative. Yet within the continuous stream of questions there is a story. A story of each person’s past, present and possible future desires embedded in their individual questions. We dove into a sidebar conversation about the role of verbal and non verbal communication. If three fourths of our communication is nonverbal then our bodies tell stories that are narrative in a primal, somatic or kinestic way.

I choose to muse about these two processes that were developed 40 years apart and try to embrace their similarities and differences with the principles and significance of my practice of AI. I encourage you to join me in this inquiry and dialogue.

BAWB: Nothing More Than Nothing

October 25, 2006

Nancy Adler takes the podium and encourages us that “global transparency lets us see the global heart.” She shares this story.

Field mouse and bird meet in the Canadian woods. The bird asks the mouse, “What is the weight of a snowflake?” “Nothing more than nothing,” the mouse replies. The bird tells of watching a gentle light snowfall, and counting the snowflakes. In a few short hours, 3, 741, 952 snowflakes fell. When the next one fell (recall that it weighed nothing more than nothing) and landed on the branch, there was a loud crash as the branch broke and fell to the ground.

It’s easy to question what one person can do. Panelists offer a new definition of hope from what they have done. The first panelist is Carolyn Woo – Dean of Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business – who addresses business as an agent of peace. Schooled by missionary nuns in Hong Kong, after an extraordinary journey of education, career in consulting, nonprofit and academia, Carolyn is an energetic and passionate speaker.

From 150 business schools around the world, 47 responded to a survey about initiatives the continuum of programs emerges:
1. Joint MBA programs in other countries with good will missions
2. Courses and curricula that focus on a specific countries with economic development programs
3. Micro finance and social entrepreneurship
4. Social programs focused on rebuilding

Schools are involving their students around the world in many countries, large and small schools, competencies for these programs grew from the 60s, the whole program design tends to be very experiential, efforts are the benefit of a more diverse business school faculty, student body, technology and travel costs being low help, the millennial generation are more engaged in volunteering and service.

Where do we need to go:
1. Start with small projects – micro finance
2. Incorporate a clearer idea of the student as an agent, as a consumer, as a citizen
3. Grow alliances: partnering to share teaching materials that are turn key; collaboration with NGOs and the business sector; watchdog groups; certification (similar to CPA, CFA) for social benefit skills.
4. Program from the vantage point of stages of learning: awarness, understanding and wisdom, engagement.