Yes, there are all kinds of challenges and problems we can invest our time attempting to solve. Some see themselves as ‘problem solvers’. Earlier in my career, I saw myself as a relatively good ‘problem solver’.
Today, I can still ‘solve problems’. More often now, I choose to frame the situations I encounter through an appreciative frame. I do this because I have come to know that ‘problem solving’ is linear, and thus somewhat limited, in nature. Approaching this same situation through a frame of Appreciative Inquiry will lead to a potentially difference and, in my mind, richer response.
To frame a situation (what some might call a problem) appreciatively can be seen as taking four steps.
First, think seriously about the situation and focus on what is right about the situation. Collect all of these thoughts about what is positive about the circumstance.
The second step is to dream big about the desired state that could be in the future given that fact that you are starting from the current situation. Really stretch your thinking – dreams are not small incremental next steps – dreams are bold! Dreams are compelling possibilities! Dreams excite people to invest in making them real!
Then get focused on designing plans to move toward making the dream a reality. The plans may, and likely will, be at the ‘first step’ or ‘second step’ level – obviously, those steps are important and worth taking – knowing that their may be a ‘sixteenth’ or ‘twenty sixth’ step to move toward and reach the desired goal. Let the ‘journey’ towards the goals begin!!!
And, then, as steps are taken toward the goal it is important to be willing to adjust and improvise along the journey. Destiny is achieved when we listen to our inner voices and respond.
Appreciative Inquiry can be practiced by individuals or by groups. The interdependent thinking that develops when group’s embrace this process is empowering. It is very exciting to be going through the appreciating, dreaming, designing and moving toward the collective destiny with others!
Appreciative Inquiry is a positive approach to framing ‘what is’ and ‘what might be’. And it remains positive in the design, implementation and adjustment of the plan to reach the dream.
Sometimes it is hard to commit, to become part of the brighter future. I think we want to be sure of ourselves. We want to avoid the messiness of any change (positive or negative) because there are no guarantees. I am thinking the time is now. Our kids and grand kids deserve a better world to inherit.
We need to appreciate what is good and forward focused about our present situations and create clear views of a preferred future. Then we need to act in ways that have the possibility of moving toward the preferred tomorrow.
One way that is unlikely to move us forward is to get stuck in the “quicksand” of our current problems. We can become immobilized, dispodent, and directionless without a dream to pursue. A better world for all of today’s children and their grandchildren inspires me.
There are many ways to help make that “better world”. We can put our energy into developing a system of a more equitable distribution of wealth, working toward clean air and water, ensuring a safe and plentiful food supply that can feed the world, creating and supporting an array of wonderful and effective educational opportunities for each and every child and young adult, creating good jobs with meaningful work and of course, much more. We each have something we can do today that can lead to that better tomorrow
I think the words of Marianne Williamson, from her book Return to Love (1992) help to get at the message I am sharing today.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us . . . Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you . . . As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
We all need to be players in the important work of building a better tomorrow! If you haven’t yet, get involved.