Co-owner of AIC Consulting, L.L.P. and Principal of Dynamic Communication
Most of us struggle with handling change. Our organizations are continually shifting, changing, and pulling us along with them. Both internal and external Consultants, and most executives, are trying to learn how to manage these changes. Many of us professional practioners are now using Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as a method of dealing with change. AI reframes our traditional problem-solving structure into identifying and celebrating our healthiest and most effective practices. We discover our cores, based on both individual and corporate values, which make our organization unique and powerful. AI also encourages us to bring our organization together to dream what is possible and collaboratively design what we must do to make that dream happen.
Now, Cooperidder, Whitney, and Stravros have written a handbook that includes a solid background about the theory, practice and effectiveness of AI, and sets the stage for launching one's own AI initiatives. They have crafted a guide, which has many specific worksheets and other materials to help us actually do our work using AI methodology and philosophy. They make Appreciative Inquiry look deceptively simple. The 4-D process includes:
1. Discover (and Define) what you are doing well that is working and you wish to study through an inquiry
2. Dream what is possible
3. Design a way to get there and
4. Destiny (implement) this process.
No book will replace the necessary experience a professional consultant needs to work in AI or any other methodology. AI allows the practioner and core team members to collaboratively probe deeply into the organizational systems. This action unleashes amazing excitement and power experienced by the entire organization, all members of which are invited to participate. We use this energy to move the organization forward toward a desired future. Like any other professionals, Organization Development Practioners must have a solid background of theory, practice, and professional experiences to be effective.
The value of this book is that anyone can look it over and gain an understanding of the whole AI process. This includes what needs to be considered at each step and others' experiences using AI. In addition to these marvelous case studies, which amplify exactly how experienced practioners of AI approached each of the 4-D cycle processes; the authors have included the materials they created for these client systems. The authors' stated intent is "to help people and their organizations take a long-term view of current activities and to achieve results by involving stakeholders".
AI has been in use since the mid-1980's when David Cooperidder explored the effectiveness of social constructivism at Case-Western Reserve University. You can learn about the development and progress made in AI over the years in the first section of this book. Many practioners have already experienced these effects mentioned by the authors such as:
· "AI is an engaging participative process that, once begun, moves quickly to remarkable results."
· .... "The outcome of an AI initiative is a long-term, positive change in the organization...
· AI has proven to be a positive experience of a new way of living and organizing at work.
· AI is applicable to any profit, non-profit or governmental organization."
The book has three major sections:
· Part 1: Essential Elements of Appreciative Inquiry - theory, process, how it works and beginning an AI initiative
· Part 2: Application of the 4-D cycle of AI - Discovery, Dream, Design, and Destiny
· Part 3: Learning Applications and Resources - interview guides, detailed project plans, overheads, worksheets and selected articles.
Perhaps what gives this book great additional value is the accompanying CD, which contains the specific case studies, beautifully designed slides, guidelines, questions, protocols, worksheets, and other documents which have been used with specific clients. After looking over these materials, the reader (assuming he/she is an experienced OD professional) can see how other professionals did it and perhaps will be able to design their own treatment of an AI initiative.
The true importance of this book is that it answers the questions, `what do I do next?' and `what does the whole process look like when being implemented with a client system?' This is a good book to have on your shelf when you need a ready source of ideas and ways of working.