A few weeks ago, I received an email that included the following invitation:
“The Jewish Federation of Cleveland has enlisted CWRU’s Weatherhead School of Management to help design the future of women’s leadership in our community. We want your voice to be heard during this community-wide conversation.”
How could I say no? Women’s leadership. Community. Jewish. Hello?
I couldn’t – and didn’t.
And so tomorrow, for several hours, I will be in a room with more than 150 women doing this very thing called Appreciative Inquiry.
What is it, really, you wonder? I have to confess, just hearing and seeing the words “appreciative” and “inquiry” next to each other were enough for me to say, yes! Luckily, the Jewish Federation of Cleveland has a page for the Summit and on it, some explanation:
The Appreciative Inquiry Summit will explore new and bold possibilities for engagement by Jewish women in our community, and then mobilize toward specific initiatives and projects. The success of this summit hinges on the diversity of voices in the room. We want your voice to be heard!
The Jewish Federation of Cleveland has enlisted Ronald Fry, Ph.D., Chairman, Department of Organizational Behavior at CWRU’s Weatherhead School of Management, to lead this unique Summit. By uncovering the diverse voices in our community, the Appreciative Inquiry process will generate creative and innovative outcomes for women to have a positive impact and shape the future of our community.
Our aspiration for this Summit:
Strengthening our Jewish community, building meaningful connections, and creating valuable experiences through opportunities that utilize the unique strengths and resources of women and maximize our personal growth and leadership potential.
Also, more generally, from CWRU’s Appreciative Inquiry Commons website:
Appreciative Inquiry is about the coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives “life” to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves, in a central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential. It centrally involves the mobilization of inquiry through the crafting of the “unconditional positive question” often-involving hundreds or sometimes thousands of people. In AI the arduous task of intervention gives way to the speed of imagination and innovation; instead of negation, criticism, and spiraling diagnosis, there is discovery, dream, and design. AI seeks, fundamentally, to build a constructive union between a whole people and the massive entirety of what people talk about as past and present capacities: achievements, assets, unexplored potentials, innovations, strengths, elevated thoughts, opportunities, benchmarks, high point moments, lived values, traditions, strategic competencies, stories, expressions of wisdom, insights into the deeper corporate spirit or soul– and visions of valued and possible futures. Taking all of these together as a gestalt, AI deliberately, in everything it does, seeks to work from accounts of this “positive change core”—and it assumes that every living system has many untapped and rich and inspiring accounts of the positive. Link the energy of this core directly to any change agenda and changes never thought possible are suddenly and democratically mobilized.
And here is a great compendium of definitions of the same term. Anyone who knows me even a tiny bit can imagine why involvement in such a process would excite me, especially when it has to do with two passions of mine, women in leadership and being Jewish.
During the day tomorrow, I will be posting two or three entries that say more about what exactly AI is like as I go through it in this particular context.
Have you ever gone through an appreciative inquiry process? Again, just based on the phrase? I am quite confident that I’d love to have more of it in my life.