entheos Interview: The “Four D” Process of Appreciative Inquiry

entheos logoAn Interview with Shannon Polly, MAPP and Kathryn Britton, editor of Positive Psychology News Daily.

en*theos International Day of Happiness Virtual Conference

Kathryn: Tell us a little bit more about the process; you said the process is very organized so that makes it kind of keep things on track. So maybe you could lead us through what happened with the Cincinnati Summit.

canstockphoto18587804Shannon: Sure. So first you know there is a maybe 25 minutes of what is this principle, what’s the process of Appreciate Inquiry, what are we taking people through just to orient them, you don’t want to have more than about 30 minutes of it because then peoples energy tends to wane. What you want to do is immediately get them into one-on-one interviews. So you have people in tables of eight usually and you have them find a partner and you asked them they have a program guide in front of them and generally they are asking “you what is a high point moments you have involved in this organization? So what’s a high point moment living in Cincinnati in one of those cities?” Then a continuity question, “what’s something you want to keep?” So this city is going to change, what’s one thing special you want to keep? And then usually it’s a vision of the future question of “if anything was possible, what would you want to create?” And you have people talking and because they’re engaging with each other they are energized, they are enlivened, they are already feeling valued, they are discovering the strengths of each other and you’re also required to report back to the table for the person you’re interviewing, so you have a job to do.

Kathryn: So you’re listening?

cincinnatiShannon: Right, so then the table discusses what are the commonalities, what are the root causes success and they flipchart and someone is leading, someone is keeping time, someone is going to report out and you have the whole table talking. So you go from 2, to a table of eight, to each table, if there’s time, reporting back to the whole. And you realize when the whole room reports back that there is lots of variety in strengths and high-point moments and then there’s a lot of diversity as well and it really energizes the whole room and it’s a process that builds, so that’s the first part of how it works.

Kathryn: That’s the discovery step. Okay great.

Shannon: And then you get into a playful mode of dreaming of the future, so based on what these strengths are, Cincinnati has 52 neighborhoods and that’s one of their strengths, their strong character of their neighborhoods. And then it’s what is your vision of the future but not just let’s write it down, let’s flip chart it out, it’s let’s create a play, let’s do something performative. So people would get to tap their creativity and you can think “really? this is frightening”,  what are people actually going to do when you sit them down at a table, there’s balloons, silly putty, there’s flexible straws and what’s fascinating is that people really get into it, they get excited to get to play and so much positive emotions generated and then they get to perform it in front of a room and they get raucous applause. And their voices are heard and it’s much more memorable when you see someone singing opera about how Cincinnati has come together and united, so it’s is a really playful way to get out your vision of the future.

Kathryn: So I’m just going to risk a little question here, do you remember anything at all from the performance that you were involved in?

Shannon: I remember taking on an Irish accent and we wanted to convey a strength-based city and one of those strengths was the diversity of the city and so I was the Irish character, I am not sure where that came from.

Kathryn:  Okay alright, I can imagine you doing that. So that’s the dreaming part.

Shannon: Right. Then you get into the second two parts of it, and that’s design and delivery and I love the way that David explains this because he talks about this he calls the first two Ds the ecstasy and then next two are the laundry, ecstasy and the laundry.

Kathryn: Right, right after the ecstasy then the laundry I think that’s a book by John Kornfeld. That’s a great takeoff on that. Great so tell us about the first bit of the laundry.

Shannon:  The design is, he talks about rapid prototyping so organizations like Ideo that have created so many new products they instead of having a long process, they say, “let’s do it really quickly, let’s create a prototype of something physical and what would it look like”. And at this point you’re voting with your feet and you are voting on a topic area you are really interested in and people are getting to choose where they want to go. And each group, each topic group, gets to vote on within that what’s the one top idea, they brainstorm what ideas they can create first as far as what their vision is and then they pick one, and then they try to design a prototype that they are going to report out to the room about. So it’s another way of getting your voice in the room and actually creating something in the space.

Kathryn: So do you remember any of the designs, any of the rapid prototypes that came out of Cincinnati or Cleveland?

Shannon: I remember the Strengths Based City Initiative because the VIA survey that I mentioned before they’re actually housed in Cincinnati, they’re from Cincinnati Institute. The Strengths Based Cities Initiative created a whole vision, a map of the 52 neighborhoods in Cincinnati and created street signs like Strengths Way, all sorts of different ideas of how they could apply the strengths so they used some of the tools from the table in the dream portion to create that visual and it was a much more powerful way to convey something when they got up and reported back to the room than if they were just talking as a recorder.

Kathryn: Right okay so now we’ve gotten through the design part, how about the delivery part, the last, putting the laundry on the lines to dry.

Shannon: Exactly. Well that’s the challenging part, that’s where the rubber meets the road. This is where the practical people in the room really take off, they like the fact that you’re writing down who are the names of everybody in the group, what’s their email addresses, who’s going to take on which initiative,  what are you going to do in the next one month, three months, six months, one year in order to make these things happen. And what’s fascinating is that when I run an AI summit usually people think that someone else is going to do the work. The last moment of a two-day summit and everyone said well the board of this organizations, I am sure the board is going to do it, and I said “no, that’s the point of AI’s, you are going to take it on, you are part of this process and you have ownership.” So people do have ownership and you find the people who are really willing to engage and because the process has been engaging from the beginning, you have people who really step up and who say, “you know what, I’m going to organize a mini summit and we’re going to do it three months from now and I’m going to find a space, I will get some food donated” and it becomes really engaging process because people really step up to the plate and make things happen.

Kathryn:  Let me ask you, that’s the 4Ds now let’s just do a quick review. So there was dream, oh sorry, I skipped Discover, how terrible that would be, so there’s Discover where people learn about themselves and think about their strengths, there’s Dream where they lift the top off and just come up with anything, there is Design which is where they start prototyping and then Deliver which is where things start to happen. Ok alright what a great way of remembering and I can remember the 4Ds. Getting back to the personal of this, what’s the most interesting thing that you learned about yourself in the course of doing AI summits.

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