Co-created change differs in its process and effects from imposed change. Whole-system change methodologies such as Appreciative Inquiry and World Café facilitate co-created change.
This is an edited extract from my new book Positive Psychology and Change
1. Calls on the organization’s collective intelligence
Participative co-creation involves, from the very beginning, those affected by the change, allowing them to apply their ‘local knowledge’ intelligence at the point at which it can save the organisation both time and money.
2. Creates active participation
Being an active participant engaged in understanding the situation, making sense of what is happened and able to influence decision-making positively affects people’s motivation to put ideas into action. Early involvement effectively bypasses or greatly reduces resistance to change and the need to get ‘buy-in’ at a later date.
3. Involves people actively in the decision-making
When people feel their views have been genuinely sought, appreciated and considered, and they have been party to the evolving discussions, they are much more likely to accept the outcome and to be able to see their influence on it. Having been actively involved, they experience a sense of ownership and commitment to the outcome.
4. Builds social capital
These co-creative methods bring people together across the system and so create greater social capital. Social capital facilitates information-flow, lower level decision-making and trust around the organization, all of which lower organisational cost and increase co-ordination during the disruption of change.
5. Builds on past and present strengths to create sustainable change
Co-creative approaches focus on identifying past and present organisational and individual strengths as resources for the change. Using our strengths is energizing and easier than using areas of non-strength. Being able to construct the change in a way that calls on our strengths can be highly motivating.
6. Understands strengths as the key to a new organizational economy
With an awareness of strengths, we can reconfigure our understanding of the organization as an ‘economy of strengths’. At its simplest this suggests that people can spend most of their time doing what they love doing, within a structure that allows them to easily find people with complementary strengths to their own.
7. Understands social networks as the heart of organizations
Understanding the organization as a social network directs our attention to the importance of relationships in change. It sounds obvious but the language of the organization as a ‘well oiled machine’ or ‘ a bureaucracy’ or ‘an org. chart’ can easily obscure this essential reality. A continual focus on people and their patterns of interaction and communication is a key focus of these approaches.
8. Recognises the importance of dialogue as words create worlds
It matters both what people say to each other and how they say it. It is easy for people to fall into talking about change in a solely negative way. Creating an opportunity for those concerned to co-create more purposeful, forward oriented, positive accounts of what is happening and their role in the change and the future, and creating opportunities to broadcast this new narrative more widely, can be very beneficial.
9. Recognises the importance of narrative for sense making in action
The accounts we create of the world and what goes on it are our best guides to appropriate action. They are our reality. They aren’t immutable. A key factor in the success of these approaches in achieving change is that they facilitate connected, system-wide shifts in narrative, allowing the team or organization as a whole to create new accounts of ‘what is going on’ that allow new meanings to emerge, or sense to be made, which in turn liberates new possibilities for action.
10. Recognises the energizing and resilience boosting effects of positive emotions
Hope and courage are key to the process of change. It is easy for these to be damaged or reduced during change processes and a key focus of all these appreciative and positive methods is the re-ignition or re-generation of positive emotional states in general, and these in particular. Positive emotional states are a key component of resilience, also an attribute much in demand during times of change.
11. Utilises imagination as the pull for change
We can push people towards change or we can pull them towards change. The former can seem easier and quicker and leads to the desire to create, find or build ‘burning platforms’ for change. The latter is slower, and, since the imagined future is often less immediately available to the imagination than the all too real undesirable present, can be harder to access. However it creates a more sustainable energy for change. Appreciative Inquiry as a methodology is particularly alive to and focused on this.
12. Calls on the whole power of systems
Working with the whole system simultaneously is a key way to involve the power of the organization to achieve simultaneous, co-created change.
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 my new book Positive Psychology and Change
Much more about strengths and managerial techniques such as the ones mentioned here can be found in Sarah’s new book Positive Psychology and Change
Sarah Lewis is the owner and principal psychologist of Appreciating Change. She is author of ‘Positive Psychology at Work’ and ‘Positive Psychology for Change’ both published by Wiley. She is also the lead author of 'Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management', by Kogan Page, the second edition is out in September.
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