The Distinctive Nature of Co-creative Change

How is it different, why is it better?

Co-creative approaches to organisational change such as Appreciative Inquiry, Open Space, and World Café have some very distinctive features that differentiate them from more familiar top-down planned approaches to change.


1. Change is a many-to-many rather than one-to-many process

In co-creative change a lot can happen in a short space of time as conversation (and change) takes place simultaneously amongst people in various groups rather than relying on a linear transmission from top to bottom. It can feel messier and less controlled but the benefits of active engagement, participation and commitment far outweigh these concerns.

2. They work on the understanding that the world is socially constructed

By allowing that we live in social worlds that are constructed by interactions in relationship, these approaches recognise that beliefs, and so the potential for action, can be affected by processes or events. The co-creative change processes allow people to experience each other, and the world, differently and so adjust their mental maps of their social world, creating the potential for change.

3. Conversation is a dynamic process

Co-creative approaches to organisational change recognize that conversations and events take place in a dynamic context of mutual and reflexive influence. I act and speak in the context of what you are doing and saying and vice versa. This means that conversation is not a passive process for conveying information but is rather an active process for creation, and so holds the potential to create change.

4. Organisations are about patterns so changing organizations is about changing patterns

All of the above culminates in the understanding that organisational habits, culture, ways of being are held in place by the habitual patterns of conversation and interaction. Change these and you change the organization.

5. Change can occur at many levels simultaneously

Rather than being focused on rolling out a pre-designed planned change, these approaches are much more focused on growing change from the ground up. A useful metaphor to convey this is that of by encouraging of lots of different plants to flourish on the forest floor by changing the bigger context, such as clearing part of the canopy to allow in more light.

6. They connect to values to gain commitment

These approaches connect to people’s values as well as their analytic abilities. Appreciative Inquiry discovery interviews, for instance, quickly reveal people’s deep values about their organization and allow people with divergent surface views to form a meaningful connection at a deeper level that aids the negotiation of difference.

7. They create hope and other positive emotions

Appreciative Inquiry by design, and the other approaches by intention, focus on creating positive emotional states in the participants, particularly hope. Hope is a tremendously motivating emotion and is key source of energy for engaging with the disruption of change. By building hope in the group that the situation can be improved, these processes create great energy for the journey ahead.

8. They encourage high-quality connections and the formation of high-energy networks

These are two concepts from positive psychology and increasingly research is demonstrating that they have a positive effect on creativity, problem-solving and performance. The co-creation change methodologies are highly relational and facilitate the development of meaningful relationships particularly across silo or functional boundaries, increasing the ability of the whole organization to change in synchronisation with itself.

9. They allow people to feel heard

The very essence of the co-creative approaches is the emphasis on voice and dialogue as key components of change. As people are engaged with and have an opportunity to input to discussions about the need for change from the very beginning, and are also able to influence the design of change, they feel their voices and needs are being heard by the organization as the change unfolds. This greatly lessens the challenges of overcoming resistance or getting buy-in.

Appreciating Change specialises in helping organizations achieve positive, rapid and sustainable change.


Other Resources

Much more about the features of co-creative change, guidance on how to do it, and practical information about on the key methodologies mentioned here can be found in Sarah’ new book Positive Psychology and Change

See more Thought Provoking articles in the Knowledge Warehouse.



Appreciating Change is skilled and experienced at supporting leaders in working in this challenging, exciting and productive way with their organizations. Find out more by looking at how we help with LeadershipCulture change and with employee Engagement.

For further information on these alternative approaches to change, please contact us or phone 07973 782 715