At OCTO Technologies, we have to accomodate two necessities: finding clients and opportunities to express ourselves on one hand, having adequate and experienced people to execute the missions we are requested to perform on the other hand. Fortunately, in 2008 our main limiting factor has been hiring people we were confident we could train into OCTO consultants. Thus we have taken measures, including hiring promising juniors we could train over time – for good effect in the long run.
A coach colleague of mine has recently initiated me to the power of appreciative inquiry as a tool for shaping teams and helping them get a common goal, and for positively investigating, learning about the best things in the past and the present, and preparing for the future – or still best: preparing the future! For instance, I have used it recently in a meeting with a potential client as a guide for learning more about their past projects. It helped understanding the way they are preparing for their future and finding opportunities for them to avoid living again some problems they had.
I am coming to like very much appreciative inquiry. Of course, its first effect is to make your meeting partners feel good – not so bad! But there is more: I like very much that appreciative inquiry is focused on “discovering, dreaming, designing and delivering”. The very last step, about implementing your dreams with help from your past experiences, is important. Could we say that appreciative inquiry has “a bias for action”?
Beyond this, it is a very powerful way for a consultant to avoid becoming another solution problemer. As consultants, we have many tools to help clients – the more, the better. Still, it is often too tempting to fit your latest trick and tool into the problem your client has – finding the problem for which your trick is a solution. Appreciative inquiry helps you find out what has worked in the past for the people you are interacting with and for yourself – thus helping finding in our collective arsenal which one can be used or transformed or evolved for the future, and shaping new tools from our common experience.
More recently, I began applying appreciative inquiry at home as well, first with my wife, then with my kids – as my coach collague was doing. My younger daughter usually does not say very much about what she is doing at school. “I don’t remember”, she answers to direct questions. So I asked “what has been your most pleasant experience today?” and, hoops, she talked and we learnt many many things she did, and liked, and we got many more details than we were used to.
The day after, when I came back home, she asked me: “Daddy, what is the most pleasant thing you have done today?” I was impressed. I answered my best, and felt better. You see, I am already training the next generation of consultants, but I did not know…