What gets you out of bed each morning? And what lights you up and makes you feel most alive? How often do you really ask yourself these questions? Or take the time to ask them of other? If your answer is “not often” you’re in good company, but what might start happening if you do?
“When we ask these types of questions something magical happens,” explained Jon Berghoff, from the Flourishing Leadership Institute, when I interviewed him recently. “You discover you have the capability and potential to positively shape your future in ways you never thought possible.”
Jon has been asking Appreciative Inquiry questions such as these to help others discover what causes the human systems they are part of (such as a team, company, or community) to come alive faster, to be at their best, to play to their strengths, to drive innovation from all levels within and from outside, and to naturally cultivate a deeper sense of purpose.
But why do these questions make this kind of magical change possible?
When it comes to creating changes, it can be easy to focus on what’s wrong, what’s missing, what’s not working and what needs fixing. And while it might be a helpful way to understand how you got to where you are, it’s not necessarily a great way to create the energy, buy-in, and momentum that you may need to get to where you want to go now.
However, when we ask Appreciative Inquiry questions they don’t ignore the problems but do use a different lens to work with them. So rather than getting stuck on what's broken, they reframe your questions to focus on what you value, want to grow and what you’re willing to take responsibility for making happen.
Appreciative Inquiry uses a simple 4D cycle to guide these questions - discover, dream design, deploy—and create changes that last. For example by:
You can ask these questions of yourself, a colleague, an entire team, or even a whole organization or community. For example, Appreciative Inquiry is what’s helping the City of Cleveland become a ‘thriving green city on a blue lake’. Their three day Appreciative Inquiry Summit brought together hundreds of people from all walks of life—local neighborhoods, business leaders, nonprofits, government, universities, religious leaders, and schools—to discover how they could leverage off their assets and overcome challenges to deliver economic, social and environmental wellbeing for all their citizens. As a result, they’re transforming their city through such things as energy efficiency measures, creating urban farms, and promoting healthier ways to get around.
“If you’re going to create change across an entire system, it’s important to bring in as many different voices as possible that are impacted by the system to be part of discussions,” advised Jon. “You’ll find that the level of commitment and desire to make the future happen is so much higher, faster, and more efficient than just sending out the vision and hoping people get it.”
How could Appreciative Inquiry approaches be used to transform your team or organization?
Jon offered three suggestions on how you can bring the principles of Appreciative Inquiry into your workplace by asking more of the following questions:
What appreciative questions can you start asking to shape your own and the wellbeing of others around you?