I have recently come across a great paper about human energy, it is referenced at the end of this piece. It set me thinking about what it was saying in relation to Appreciative Inquiry. These are my thoughts.
Brief account of the book
The book has noble, honourable and inspiring intentions: it offers holocracy as a ‘new operating system’ for organizations that will create a ‘peer-to-peer distributed authority system’. This operating system creates empowered people who are clear about the boundaries of their authority, about what they can expect from others, and are able to be highly effective in their roles.
How is it different, why is it better?
Co-creative approaches to organization 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.
Appreciative Inquiry and other co-creative methodologies are essentially divergent ways of working together; the emphasis is on the value of diversity and variety. Such ways of working can trigger a pressure to converge on a few key points very early in the process, indeed sometimes before the event has even begun. This pressure can be the expression of various different needs, for example:
Given this is it surprising the extent to which organizations struggle with the concept of change in organizations. Myths abound. Working with organizations I constantly hear the refrain ‘people don’t like change’ and ‘change is hard’. Neither of these statements are necessarily true, as we see below. What is true is that the way we understand organizations, understand change, and go about achieving change can make the job much harder than it need be.
Barack Obama famously crowd-sourced the finance for his election campaign, a powerful example of the ability of new technology to create a great aggregate result out of lots of small voluntary actions. But this process is not as new as it seems: Sir James Murray used a similar approach to creating the Oxford English Dictionary back in 1897.
So while crowd-sourcing is a new and sexy concept, it really refers to the age-old process of recruiting groups to complete tasks that it would be difficult if not impossible for one person to complete alone.
Planned change approaches inadvertently encourage people to give up trying to contribute to the change conversation or to influence how it happens. They can become passive, demotivated and demoralised, waiting to be told what to do. It is when the downsides of this approach become apparent that people find their way to me, presenting their challenge as a problem of dis-engagement, poor morale, people needing support during change.