Organizational Generativity: The Appreciative Inquiry Summit and a Scholarship of Transformation: Volume 4
Table of contents(26 chapters)
List of Contributors
A Contemporary Commentary on Appreciative Inquiry in Organizational LifeAppreciative Inquiry in Organizational Life
Cooperrider, D. and Srivastva, S. (1987). Appreciative inquiry in organizational life. In R. Woodman and W. Pasmore (Eds.),
Research in organizational change and development, Vol. 1, pp. 129–169.
Cooperrider, D. and Srivastva, S. (1987). Appreciative inquiry in organizational life. In R. Woodman and W. Pasmore (Eds.),
It’s been nearly 30 years since the original articulation of Appreciative Inquiry in Organizational Life was written in collaboration with my remarkable mentor Suresh Srivastva (Cooperrider & Srivastva, 1987). That article generated more experimentation in the field, more academic excitement, and more innovation than anything we had ever written. As the passage of time has enabled me to look more closely at what was written, I feel both a deep satisfaction with the seed vision and scholarly logic offered for Appreciative Inquiry (AI), as well as well as the enormous impact and reverberation. Following the tradition of authors such as Carl Rogers who have re-issued their favorite works but have also added brief reflections on key points of emphasis, clarification, or editorial commentary we have decided to issue a reprint the early article by David L. Cooperrider and the late Suresh Srivastva in its entirety, but also with contemporary comments embedded. To be sure the comments offered are brief and serve principally to add points of emphasis to ideas we may have too hurriedly introduced. My comments – placed in indented format along the way – are focused on the content and themes of furthermost relevance to this volume on organizational generativity. In many ways I’ve begun to question today whether there can even be inquiry where there is no appreciation, valuing, or amazement – what the Greeks called thaumazein – the borderline between wonderment and admiration. One learning is that AI’s generativity is not about its methods or tools, but about our cooperative capacity to reunite seeming opposites such as theory as practice, the secular as sacred, and generativity as something beyond positivity or negativity. Appreciation is about valuing the life-giving in ways that serve to inspire our co-constructed future. Inquiry is the experience of mystery, moving beyond the edge of the known to the unknown, which then changes our lives. Taken together, where appreciation and inquiry are wonderfully entangled, we experience knowledge alive and an ever-expansive inauguration of our world to new possibilities.
This article presents a conceptual refiguration of action-research based on a “sociorationalist” view of science. The position that is developed can be summarized as follows: For action-research to reach its potential as a vehicle for social innovation it needs to begin advancing theoretical knowledge of consequence; that good theory may be one of the best means human beings have for affecting change in a postindustrial world; that the discipline's steadfast commitment to a problem solving view of the world acts as a primary constraint on its imagination and contribution to knowledge; that appreciative inquiry represents a viable complement to conventional forms of action-research; and finally, that through our assumptions and choice of method we largely create the world we later discover.
The Process of Generative Inquiry
Appreciative inquiry is an approach to action research that intends to create knowledge for social innovation. Such knowledge has the generative capacity to interrupt habitual practice and to create an inspiring sense of possibility that energizes novel action. How can appreciative inquiry live up to this promise? The premise of this chapter is that we need to better understand the generative qualities of inquiry in the appreciative/inquiry equation. What is the nature of inquiry that has generativity at its core? The chapter describes five distinct, yet interrelated approaches that enhance the generative process of inquiry. They depict generativity as a dynamic interplay of open-endedness and connectedness. How can the five dimensions of generativity advance appreciative inquiry as a scholarship of transformation? The last section of the chapter gives some suggestions for such possible enrichment. We need audacious forms of scholarship for the creation of a more just and sustainable global society. Appreciative inquiry as a generative process is well positioned to take on that role.
Generativity is defined in this chapter as the creation of new images, metaphors, physical representations, and so on that have two qualities: they change how people think so that new options for decisions and/or actions become available to them, and they are compelling images that people want to act on. Research and experiences that suggest “positivity,” particularly positive emotion, is not sufficient for transformational change, but that generativity is a key change lever in cases of transformational change, are reviewed. A model of different characteristics of generativity is offered and ways in which appreciative inquiry can be a generative process, increase generative capacity, and lead to generative outcomes, are discussed. Ways to increase the generativity of appreciative inquiry through generative topics, generative questions, generative conversations, and generative action are offered.
The Generative Archetypes of Idea Work
Anyone who engages with ideas in the context of everyday work is engaged in idea work. Building on Jung’s psychological theory of types, we theorize about the fundamental processes underlying one’s generative capacity, and in turn, one’s ability to generate ideas and engage effectively in idea work. Moreover, we provide further insights regarding creativity and innovation in everyday work practices as well as discuss considerations for the design of environments and tools that are conducive to idea work.
A common concern raised in opposition to Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is that a focus on life-giving images in organizations tends to suppress negative voices. It is supposed that AI sees little value in skeptical, cynical, or negative perspectives. However, when AI is properly understood, all voices – both positive and negative – are seen as essential to the life of organization. The challenge is to create an atmosphere in which the cynical voice, rather than perpetuating dysfunction, can be tapped to build generativity. This chapter describes how to accomplish this objective through the use of analogic inquiry, thus exploring the focus on generativity that is central to AI.
Organizing is mainly a conversational process in which people together construct an organizational reality out of a variety of different positions from a more general organizational discourse. Generative dialogue refers to the differences between those positions, to the hidden potential of the in-between, and to the effort of handling these differences meaningfully and productively. At split second bifurcation points in a dialogue, fear and expanding learning opportunities are in mutual competition. In this chapter, we propose seven levels of dialoguing, with increasing generative potential and increasing difficulty. We propose “The Language of Change” (a framework) as a sensitizing device to co-construct richer, more applicable, and more valuable approaches to complex, dynamic, and unique change processes. I will conclude with some key principles to increase the level of generative dialoguing and some examples from my own practice.
The literature surrounding appreciative inquiry (AI) has focused little on how the practitioner can work productively when negative emotions such as anger, shame, despair, cynicism, and fear emerge. The author reflects personally on her own process of coming to understand the life-giving tension of light and shadow at the heart of AI, offering insights gained by an AI into her practice, and possibility statements created to support her work. The chapter proposes that creative transcendence is not only possible but critical to the generative potential of AI, and invites the AI community to openly explore how we may work more holistically within this paradox.
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.
The very nature of organizational life is transforming as collaborative technologies erase the prerequisite of co-location for collaboration. Using three example cases of which we have been a part, World Vision, the American Society for Association Executives, and Healthy Kids Healthy Schools, we illustrate how such technology is also augmenting the generative capacity of the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) Summit methodology. We then use the five principles of wikinomics that Tapscott and Williams (2010) identify as keys for organizational thrival into today’s digitally connected world: collaboration, openness, sharing, integrity, and interdependence, as a lens for examining how the virtually connected AI Summit is a whole-system change methodology that helps to promote these principles. The chapter concludes with lessons on integrating collaborative technology into summit designs and opportunities for future experiments in this domain.
This chapter shares the experience of National Grid to orchestrate two Appreciative Inquiry Summits in Massachusetts. One was framed around sustainability for the City of Worcester, Massachusetts, and the other was an industry-wide effort on energy efficiency in Massachusetts. The chapter demonstrates the potential for generative impact and transformation in complex and highly contentious environments. It also presents possible implications for the highly regulated energy utility industry and for the energy utilities that choose to lead the way.
This chapter explores the transformation that occurs during an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) summit through the lens of Rogerian client-centered therapy. The client-centered approach stems from the work of Carl Rogers, who theorized that humans have a tendency toward self-actualization, or that they can be trusted to move constructively toward the fulfillment of their inherent potential. According to Rogers, a client-centered therapeutic approach enables an individual to radically alter the self-concept and achieve transformational change, but only when six specific conditions are met. When these conditions are met, the result is generativity at the individual level as the client’s world opens up with new possibilities. Starting from the assumption that individuals and higher-level human systems share common elements as open systems, the opening up of the self-structure at the individual level can be seen as similar to the system coming together in a generative way during an AI summit. Rogerian theory and AI share a common set of underlying principles, and these principles guide the similar approach to change at these different levels. Here, a community AI summit in Worcester, Massachusetts, is viewed through a Rogerian lens in an attempt to shed light on how these conditions might also operate in higher-level human systems aimed at enabling generativity.
The Appreciative Inquiry (AI) Summit methodology is a powerful organizational development tool for unleashing the generative capacity of human systems. When an AI Summit is executed seamlessly, the design and planning appears almost effortless. As we have learned, however, there are many nuances to this powerful tool and attention to detail is vital to delivering a successful Summit. This chapter offers a practical guide to designing and implementing an AI Summit in any organization. The chapter addresses many of the pragmatic issues that emerge when designing a summit and offers insight on how to best prepare an organization for what needs to happen during pre-summit preparations to ensure a strong focus on desired outcomes and advancing post-summit momentum.
Transformative innovation is a particular manifestation of generativity that emerges when organizations explore the intersection of business and society, embracing social, environmental, ethical, or similar initiatives as an integral part of their strategic missions. The chapter reports findings from the World Inquiry, a search for stories of transformative innovation. The stories illustrate how transformative innovation may (1) extend mutually beneficial outcomes of activity to business and society, (2) increase the scale of enacted human strengths, and (3) invoke a deep shift in values, assumptions, and behaviors that guide an organization. The exploration of transformative inquiry demonstrates how generativity emerges when business strategies integrate the interests of multiple stakeholders.
The Generative Diffusion of Innovation
Generative theory challenges assumptions of the status quo, opens the world to new possibilities, and is frequently associated developmentally with a deep and caring concern for establishing and guiding the next generation. With emphasis on “opening the world to new possibilities” and “intergenerational transmission” might there be a useful exploration between the domains of generativity and the vast interest and literature on “the diffusion of innovation?” In this chapter, we develop the concept of generative diffusion of organizational innovation – how extraordinary, even revolutionary, new business organizations can have generative impact around the world while at the same time never coming to be wholly replicated in exactly the same way.
Social movements can create profound change in social systems. These movements are often, however, based on grievances and use contentious strategies to achieve their objectives. This study examines two movements that were started using Appreciative Inquiry. These “appreciative movements” are contrasted with a typical, grievance-based social movement. Five attributes of appreciative social movements are proposed, and contrasted with contentious social movements. Appreciative movements are based on aspirations, not grievances; collective responsibility, not blame; use of instead of conflict with existing social structures; collaborative instead of contentious methods of change; and co-optation by the mobilized instead of by elites. These attributes show the possibility from positive forms of mass mobilization, and highlight the potential impact from integrating research and practice on social movements and Appreciative Inquiry.
This chapter is motivated by the author’s desire to show that appreciative inquiry (AI) has developed over the course of its history by responding to client needs, gradually enlarging the scope of its capabilities, tracing the evolution of AI from a strengths-based approach into a catalyst for flourishing and wholeness. The purpose is to share how AI has inspired the business community to embrace generative language and increase awareness of the larger system in which it operates. The chapter reviews a series of cases – including Rava Packaging (to incorporate sustainability), Nutrimental Foods (a whole system intervention), Telefonica (to increase employee commitment), and the São Paulo State Federation of Industries (to support Millennium Development Goals) – in which the author and others facilitated. The interventions involved positive dialogue and appreciative interviewing. Through its capacity for generativity, AI has created greater commitment to and engagement within organizations, stronger collaboration among multiple stakeholders that benefits business and society, and deeper and lasting commitment to profound transformation in service of flourishing. The chapter contributes to a better understanding of how, at each stage in its evolution, AI has supported business by helping to expand its positive narrative and helping organizations become agents for world benefit.
This chapter provides an in-depth analysis of the cleanup and closing of the nuclear weapons facility at Rocky Flats (RF), Colorado, United States, which was completed 60 years ahead of schedule and $30 billion under budget. We demonstrate how the events leading to the successful completion of the project was an instance of generativity made possible by the Appreciative Intelligence of the project leaders and participants. At the end of the Cold War, production at RF was terminated and experts considered cleaning up of the dangerous facility technically impossible, risky, and impractical. Yet, working in collaboration with contractors, local officials, and community leaders, the RF team achieved extraordinary results. After the unprecedented cleanup, 4,000 acres were transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and became a national wildlife refuge. Generativity is an approach to life that directs our actions toward positive outcomes. For generativity to happen, stakeholders in the RF project had to care about the environment around them for innovative solutions to emerge. Instead of stagnation or blind acceptance of circumstances, they chose to reframe and find new ways to perceive situations facing them. This case study shows that individuals with high Appreciative Intelligent acknowledge present circumstances, choose to reframe, see possibilities for the future, and take the necessary actions to achieve them. They also expand their Appreciative Intelligence beyond their personal lives. At RF, despite the imminent closing of the plant, stakeholders generated socially responsible solutions and transformed a public liability into a community asset.
We live in a time of great change. Community leaders around the world face dilemmas in every aspect of human living systems – social, economic, and environmental. We sit at a crossroads: do we try to fix what clearly is not working any longer or do we step up and design something new to achieve our desired outcomes? The leadership of Bibb County Schools (BCS) – faced with this very dilemma – stepped up to redesign their education system in a bold and exciting way. The road ahead was challenging and not at all guaranteed, but the conviction and strong leadership in the County was undaunted. This case study shares how BCS district, Macon, GA, is engaged the whole education system along with community leaders in a generative process to accelerate whole system positive change. Ultimately, their desired outcome was to generate a new educational system that would “ensure that all children receive a high-quality education that will prepare them to be competitive and successful in a global economy” (BCS, 2011). This chapter highlights key intervention strategies, including the important role that an Appreciative Inquiry summit played, in generating whole system change. We highlight the positive strides made to date and the challenges the County faces going forward. We conclude with recommendations leaders can use when considering a community-wide, whole system change effort.
Intergenerational appreciative inquiry is an approach that maximizes the generativity of all generations and the generative outcomes of intergenerational collaboration. While conversations about intergenerationalism have increased in recent decades, forums and strategies for intergenerational collaboration have emerged at a much slower rate. In this chapter we explore definitions of the concepts of intergenerational and multigenerational and discuss generativity in the context of intergenerationalism. We share how we have found the appreciative inquiry summit, and other appreciative-based processes, to possess a natural capacity for enabling intergenerational inquiry that can maximize generativity. We conclude by turning to the future and discussing generational changes that are taking place in society and why we expect intergenerational appreciative inquiry will only increase in importance as we continue caring for the future together.
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- Advances in Appreciative Inquiry
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- Emerald Publishing Limited
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