The Spark, the Flame, and the Torch: The Positive Arc of Systemic Strengths in the Appreciative Inquiry Design Summit

Organizational Generativity: The Appreciative Inquiry Summit and a Scholarship of Transformation

ISBN: 9781848554887, eISBN: 978-1-78190-330-8

ISSN: 1475-9152

Publication date: 5 December 2013

Abstract

The emergence of strengths-based management may be the management innovation of our time. Nearly every organization has been introduced to its precepts – for example, the insight that a person or organization will excel only by amplifying strengths, never by simply fixing weaknesses. But in spite of impressive returns, organizations and managers have almost all stopped short of the breakthroughs that are possible. With micro tools largely in place, the future of strengths management is moving increasingly to the macro-management level, as witnessed in the rapid and far-reaching use of large group methods such as the Appreciative Inquiry Summit and its next generation design-thinking summit. Macro means whole and, by definition, unites many improbable opposites – for example, it embraces top down and bottom up simultaneously. It is a prime time source of organizational generativity. But the rules of macro-management are different than any other kind, most certainly micro-management. A decade of research and successful prototyping with single organizations, regions and cities, extended enterprises, industries, and UN-level world summits reveals five “X” factors – a specific set of mutually reinforcing elements of success and organizational generativity – and provides a clear set of guidelines for when and how you can deploy the “whole system in the room” design summit to bring out the best in system collaboration. By analyzing the performance and impacts of six case studies of the “whole system in the room” Appreciative Inquiry design summit, this chapter provides a bird’s eye view of the opportunities, challenges, and exciting new vistas opening up in this the collaborative age – a time when systemic action and macro-management skill are the primary leverage points for game-changing innovation, scalable solutions, and generative organizing. The chapter concludes with a call for more research into the stages of large group dynamics and advances a metaphor from the leadership literature – the spark, the flame, and the torch – to give imagery to the “positive contagion” and “the concentration effect of strengths” that happens during an Appreciative Inquiry Summit where 100s and sometimes 1000s come together interactively and collaboratively to design the future.

Citation

Cooperrider, D. (2013), "The Spark, the Flame, and the Torch: The Positive Arc of Systemic Strengths in the Appreciative Inquiry Design Summit", Organizational Generativity: The Appreciative Inquiry Summit and a Scholarship of Transformation (Advances in Appreciative Inquiry, Vol. 4), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 211-248. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1475-9152(2013)0000004008

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013 Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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