"A few years ago I came across Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as an approach to organisational development and decided that this technique could be used successfully by mentors and applied to any mentoring/coaching practice."
Since then I have incorporated it in my mentoring training sessions and have used it in many different situations with great results. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a strategy for change based on the idea that focusing on what works within organisations, communities and individuals instead of what is not working, leads to a new and a better future. The knowledge base that supports AI comes from many different fields such as medicine, sport and anthropology. The words ‘Appreciative’ and ‘Inquiry’ are fundamental in the development process of individuals and organisations. The term appreciative has to do with valuing and recognizing the best in anything. By singling out those elements that have been essential for past and/or present successes, be they assets, strengths or indeed potential and by bearing in mind how they change over time and according to different circumstances, individuals and organisations can move forward as they become aware of the solid base they are working from. The second word is inextricably linked to the first in that fundamental to appreciating is the ability to explore and discover new possibilities stemming from those very successes or from new ones.
The AI process represents a very powerful way of making change happen, grounded as it is on reality rather than wishful thinking. The recalling and the understanding of real examples of past successes set the scene for visualizing what could be a possible future and for acting in order to achieve it. Through a guided process of appreciation and inquiry, individuals shift their attention from analysing problems to affirming their own strengths, successes and values, those of the organisations they work for and of the communities they belong to. Rather than assuming that the organisation is or has a problem that needs to be solved, individuals focus on their own strengths and ask themselves what works in what they do rather than finding faults in their performance. This accent on the individuals’ contribution goes a long way to increasing trust and alignment with the organisation’s goals and objectives.
Unfortunately, most of us came from the school that asserts that the first step in a development process is the awareness of how bad things are. This is because there is a wide held belief in our society that the way we improve ourselves is by eliminating defects and errors and by solving problems. AI may be perceived as a touch too idealistic an approach however, it certainly makes us think about the necessity to catch up with people’s more intuitive way of connecting and creating conditions for change. All I can say is that my mentoring style has undergone a radical transformation and I am finding that things happen quicker and that it generates more energy.
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Article by: Gaby Marcon Clarke