Appreciative Thinking

There is nothing ???given??? about organisations. They are purely a social and human construct. The same kind of business process and outcome can be structured into a range of organisations, depending totally on the social milieu, social lifestyles and values. This is because people think in symbolic mental processes and social constructs such as organisations is simply the translation of those A different frame of reference will produce a totally different organisation.

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The fact there is nothing ???natural??? about any particular organisational structure is equally true of the actions of those organisations. Organisational actions are simply the accumulated effect of the actions of multiple individuals. Also you can read about american business machines corporation at this website. In turn, individual actions are the outward expression of social and/or value-based mental, emotional and physical stimuli.

Mental and emotional stimuli are both image-bound and often clearly create the physical stimuli leading to action. For example, well before a public speech, our physical state can be altered by thinking about the audience we are going to be facing. Showing someone a photograph of a person they dislike will immediately raise blood pressure. Between one third and two thirds of patients in a clinical trial can be expected to show a ???placebo effect??? ??“ a state triggered by a belief that the placebo is actually a real, known and effective treatment. The same effect has been known in organisational terms since the 1920s Hawthorne Works experiments where productivity improvement was triggered simply by someone viewing workers, regardless of what the viewers actually did.

Most importantly, mental imagery has a future time dimension, an ???anticipatory reality??? that feeds into self-fulfilment of expectations through changing actions, i.e. creating an image in the minds of people will affect their actions and the effects of those actions.

For example, there have been a number of studies based on dividing a set of pupils into three groups chosen at random but telling teachers that one group has been selected for its very high potential for improvement, one for its average potential and one for its poor or no potential. That anticipatory image quickly becomes reality. The correlation between teacher expectation and student achievement is higher than any other predictive element ranging from a correlation of 0.5 up to almost a perfect 1.0. Teachers who hold a positive image of their students based on their supposed potential provide clearly increased emotional support, clearer, more immediate and more positive feedback and better opportunities to perform and learn more challenging materials.

There is overwhelming evidence of a positive image ??“ positive action dynamic and that changing images can directly change actions and outcomes.

For example, there has been considerable work done in sports about the value of positive imagery building positive improvements as opposed to negative self-monitoring leading to the elimination of shortcomings. Sportspeople who are assisted to envisage their actions in positive images, e.g. ???I can see this ball hitting the middle stump??? as opposed to negative image, e.g. ???I??™m not going to bounce this outside the stumps??? show significant and sustained improvement as opposed to minimal improvement through elimination of problems.

That is an enormously powerful concept that we are still exploring. The most significant implication is that changes of image and mental process alone can be sufficient to totally change ???reality??? and to change an organisation and its outcomes.

So, let??™s apply that to change management, comparing traditional problem solving oriented development techniques to ???appreciative inquiry???, a methodology based on understanding and manipulation of collective imagery.

It should be understood that either methodology has a place. However, experience is that the use of problem solving is less effective in re-orienting a dysfunctional organisation or organisations with poor relationships between managers or between managers and staff. It is however a useful tool for change in organisations that are already performing well or where incremental rather than step change is all that is needed.

| | | | |
|Problem solving |Comment |Appreciative Inquiry |Comment |
| | | | |
|Determine ???felt need???, |Invokes a defensive and negative posture from|Appreciating and valuing the |Invokes a positive and creative posture. |
|analyse and identify |the start. |best of ???what is??? | |
|???problem??? | | | |
| | | | |
| | | | |
| | | | |
|Analysis of causes |Evidence shows that looking for ???reasons??? or |Envisioning ???what might be??? |Evidence shows that human beings create our own|
| |???causes??? can actually reinforce negative | |realities through symbolic and mental |
| |stereotypes and relationships. Evidence | |processes. Focusing people on an alternative |
| |contradictory to a held belief can perversely| |reality avoids issues based on existing |
| |strengthen that belief. | |inter-relationships and catalyses an |
| | | |affirmative and productive emotional |
| | | |environment of optimism and passion. |
| | | | |
|Analysis of possible |As with research around chaordic pathing, |Dialoguing ???what should be??? |The purpose (and general outcome) of this step |
|solutions |research suggests that looking for group | |is to create a genuine group commitment to a |
| |discovery of possible solutions based on | |preferred outcome that belongs to everyone |
| |analysis of existing causes limits openness | |rather than any sense of the solution being |
| |to change, pessimism about possible success | |imposed. As well, as indicated, research |
| |and can create problems in implementation | |suggests that adoption of a mental image |
| |caused by a lack of genuine commitment. | |automatically generates attitudes and actions |
| | | |likely to lead to success. |
| | | | |
| | | | |
|Action planning |As above. |Innovating ???what will be??? |As above. |
| | | | |

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