Learning Organisation and Appreciative Inquiry LO30135

From: Malcolm Burson (mburson@gwi.net)
Date: 04/22/03

Replying to LO30088 --

On April 11, Nick Heap wrote,

> After this, I was wondering if it would work to use appreciative inquiry
> methods and thinking to start the work with my client and in his
> organisation. For instance, would "Discovery" by asking people to share
> their best experiences of being in an organisation that solved a difficult
> problem or where people made a surprising leap forward help people get
> excites and motivated about becoming a "LO"?

Nick, as someone who has used the Appreciative Inquiry approach partnered
with LO for some time, I enthusiastically agree with Vana Prewitt's
similar endorsement in LO30013.

> I suppose we could ask questions that encourage people to reflect on good
> experiences of learning and development that flowed from improved
>"Systems Thinking", "Personal Mastery" etc though I would need to translate
>these into plain English.

I think you may be working unnecessarily hard here to create the synergies
that are there. After all, you don't really care in the long run about
improved systems thinking or personal mastery; you care about building the
organization and its people's capacity to do whatever it is that they do.
AI (with apologies for using the initialism henceforth) is powerful in
that it elicits people's awareness of "things that work" that otherwise
are implicit and unshared.

The fundamental premise of AI as I understand and have used it is that the
asking of the question, and the process of the resulting conversation, is
at LEAST as important as the content. That is, the conversation itself
constructs the reality of success and further good practice. So instead
of asking about ST or learning, listen for the examples of those that
emerge from the conversation, and build on whatever produced those

>From my experience, the greater the extent to which the participants in an
AI "discovery" process are already comfortable and confident in things
like balancing inquiry and advocacy, building shared meaning, suspending
assumptions, "ladder of inference," etc., the more powerful will be the
appreciative inquiry. Similarly, the movement to the "design" phase will
be complemented if people are becoming familiar with "shared vision".

Without a lot more detail, I'd guess I'd say, "let it flow and don't force
it." Become familiar yourself with both models, and then look for

What has been other people's experience in this area?

Malcolm Burson
Director of Special Projects
Maine Department of Environmental Protection



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