Belting Out a Chorus of Appreciations

November 25, 2007

I’m enjoying my ritual viewing of CBS Sunday Morning. Bill Geist has an interesting story to share about people who join in choral singing . . . of complaints.  They are part of a global movement, Complaints Choirs of the World.  You can hardly believe the story line:

It all got started during a winter day walk of Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen in Helsinki. Perhaps it was due to the coldness of the day that they ended up discussing the possibility of transforming the huge energy people put into complaining into something else. Perhaps not directly into heat – but into something powerful anyway.In the Finnish vocabulary there is an expression “Valituskuoro”. It means “Complaints Choir” and it is used to describe situations where a lot of people are complaining simultaneously.  Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen thought: “Wouldn´t it be fantastic to take this expression literally and organise a real Complaints Choir!”

 In 9 easy steps you can organize your choir! I like the clarity of directions that spurs on potential participants. Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen deserve credit for branding and putting some process into this endeavor.

 In the name of Positive Psychology, I want to counter their offer. How about belting out a chorus of trends in the Discovery phase?  Some 4-part harmony as we Dream of our collective future? An outburst of song as we commit to each Design project? And best of all, we could burst into song as we achieve Destiny! And just to be clear, I promise to appreciate your voice . . . as you appreciate my less tuneful contributions too.


Where AI Meets SN

April 19, 2007

CrossroadsLeave it to my good friend, Jay Cross, to hit the nail on the head regarding where the real returns on investments come from. His Internet Time Wiki posting on Metrics makes it clear: “Most of a company’s value resides in the know-how and relationships of its people. Traditional accounting assigns these intangibles a value of zero. Hence, traditional ROI has little credibility with enlightened executives.”

It is for similar reasons that I spent some time in the last year thinking about the value of interpersonal relationships that are so essential to Appreciative Inquiry. When we sit down face-to-face in the Discovery interviews of AI, there is a short distance between being strangers and having a relationship. The interview stories that rise to the surface with such excitement and depth of experience reveal know-how that is unique, powerful, and often bottom-line related.

Imagine for a moment that the person telling you the story is a hub, a center of gravity, and that she/he has ties to people who are part of the story being told. The core strengths of the AI participants have a lot to do with those ties – not their quantity, but their quality. In other words, they are forming a network with many connections and redundancies. The lines of communication and resource sharing, at the time of great achievement, are open and robust. We are at the crossroads of AI and Social Network Mapping.


Nexus . . . of technology

March 21, 2007

Before the conference kicks off this afternoon, some of us have gathered to mess around with the technology tools and their place in the change management process.  There is such a wide range of backgrounds in the group, that it makes you wonder what we have in common.  And some creative tensions ensue.  Some of what we want to explore includes:

  • Wikis and the processes for building them as workspaces
  • An array of templates from which the methods of change could operate online
  • Collaboration support
  • New ways of addressing issues
  • Getting the attention and buy-in of the movers and shakers

The passion of the group converges on bridging the networks of high-end technology users and non-users.  Thera are differences in communication (language that we use) and competencies (tools we use and skills we use) among these populations.  At the same time, we are focused on shaping the technical background to the context and intention of the work at hand.   One consideration is the place of the technology within the flow of process . . . . before, during and after . . . and as an concurrent to F2F, between F2F, or as the sole media for collaboration and collective participation.


Shaping the Future . . . of Change

March 20, 2007

I’m packing my luggage and laptop . . . I’m off to Bowling Green, Ohio today for the Nexus For Change Conference. This really falls into the category of a bus man’s holiday. Can you imagine what will happen as the advance press explains what we are up to:

Our focus will be on leveraging the power of over 60 approaches being used to transform whole organizations and communities as they tackle 21st Century Challenges. These approaches are broadly referred to as large-group methods/interventions, whole system change, or large-scale change. What make them unique are two foundation assumptions: high involvement and a systemic approach to improvement.

Over 300 people will gather starting today, coming from the US, Canada and abroad. We all share a passion for supporting the processes (Appreciative Inquiry among them) that shift the focus and shape the future. I’ve been fascinated by the introductions posted by nearly half of those who will attend. Their backgrounds are so diverse, rich, broad and deep. They speak of hopes and dreams for our few days together. Listen to their hearts . . .

Perhaps this can be a circumstance whereby each can let go of some tension in their own balloon, little or large, so as we ease into this we may discover that there is more air for all and for the whole…

We need to make sure we include people from around the world in these discussions. Then, we can consider things like shared principles, research possibilities, the role of technology, and our contribution to the challenges facing the world today.

Who would help me build a storybook that tells the journey of “ordinary people” who have made real difference – written for executives and managers?

I’d like to begin serious conversation that includes both practitioners and academic researchers about how to conduct significant academic research on the large group methods’ research that has the capacity both to contribute to academic theorizing and to the methods themselves.

How come the ideas and methods we know work in the best educations, companies, communities and research teams are not known to every single person in the world?

My own passion has long been about opening the dialogue across the organization. That openness encompassing the various people in roles that are diverse in expertise, authority and structure, and at the same time opening the media of expression and communication to include not just verbal and written language, but the arts, technology, and science. From that flows an aspiration for the Nexus conference, that the silos that separate and distinguish the change methodologies lose their significance as we reshape our understanding of models, language and tools. It would be my dream that, like sculptors, we retain the substance of the clay as we give it new shape and life for the work.


With a Little Help From My Friends

October 20, 2006

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?