When it comes to improving an organization from the inside-out, hundreds of thousands of theories abound. Some are effective, and some not so much- and all these techniques tend to evolve with time.
So does this mean it’s time to pull put on the reading-glasses and spend the remainder of your day in the pursuit of excellence?
Not quite. In fact, about 2 minutes of your time is all I’ll need- such is the simplicity of the technique we’re studying today.
The most successful organizations in the world tend to make room for feedback in their operations- not just from customers, but from employees as well. Happy employees work better, reduce turnover rates, and contribute to a healthy work atmosphere. But feedback can be derisive if done wrong. Think of the difference between criticism and constructive criticism – one is easier to stomach, right? Only because it seeks not to find fault, but to improve. And everybody wants to improve.
Enter Appreciative Inquiry.
The name says it all. Appreciative Inquiry encourages a system of questions and valid criticism and suggestions- but is vitally different from base criticism in that people are encouraged to express themselves positively. To seek solutions to problems. To foster a healthy perspective, such as “How can we do better?”, versus “How could things we be worse?”.
For example, imagine a lunch queue that is much too long. Easily relatable, right? So how would we approach this problem?
While the common grouses heard are, “I’ve lost so much time just waiting in line!”, and “Lunch lines are a pain!”, neither of these very valid criticisms even attempt to find a solution.
Instead, imagine someone saying, “I wonder how we can reduce lunchtimes- there have to be studies done around it right?”. Suddenly, people are having a conversation about the problem, and discussing solutions. No one feels helpless here – there’s always a chance a solution will be found! And all because someone took a problem and attacked it with a positive mindset instead of giving in to his angst!
That’s Appreciative Inquiry in a nutshell. It is heavily based on a sense of positivity – because that’s how we humans tend to thrive! With positive people around us, and a mental approach that allows us to approach problems not as walls, but hurdles. The above example is the only way you can incorporate it into your everyday life, but the possibilities are endless.
The next time you hear someone complaining about a problem, try mentally rephrasing the complaint to be an appreciative inquiry – I am positive the results will speak for themselves.