Appreciative Inquiry Strategic Planning: How to Dream Big

Hopes, dreams, and ideas for a better future are shared and nurtured through conversations that encourage stakeholders to Dream big. Boundaries are stretched; new perceptions of possibility are created; staff are inspired.

This is the third article in a five-part series on Appreciative Inquiry Strategic Planning. So far, we’ve established that:

  • Appreciative Inquiry Strategic Planning is a system-wide process for creating change that enables the organization and staff to flourish
  • Appreciative Inquiry is well-researched, and it has been used successfully by every type of organization and business sector around the world to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary
  • The questions we ask determine the types of answers we’ll get, so it’s important to ensure we’re asking questions about what we want to create more of instead of trying to remove things we don’t want (see my article on Defining Purpose).
  • When we inquire into previous exceptional moments, successes, strengths, and best practices we ignite a collective imagination that fuels transformative change, engagement, accountability, and buy-in from stakeholders (see my article on Core Strengths).

In this article, we focus on how to use the data we gathered through appreciative interviews in the Discovery phase to create a shared vision. Here are the next strategic planning process steps.

Envisioning What Might Be

Appreciative Inquiry Strategic Planning departs from traditional methods of planning by collectively creating a shared image of a preferred future.  Through sharing highlights of the interviews, stakeholders are invited to imagine what their organization would be like if they were fully mobilized around their strengths and the systems were in place to move beyond status quo.

Transformative questions are asked, such as:

  • “How do we make our extraordinary moments our every-day experiences?”
  • “What would it look like if we were fully engaged and using our core competencies?
  • “What do we aspire to become?

Hopes, dreams, and ideas for a better future are shared and nurtured through conversations that encourage stakeholders to Dream big! Boundaries are stretched; new perceptions of possibility are created; staff are inspired.

The Art of Dreaming

Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Taking time to imagine a shared, positive vision of the future is a critical component of Appreciative Inquiry Strategic Planning, and there are many activities to support collective dreaming. Some of the more popular include:

  • Storytelling: sharing highlights from interviews
  • Creating a visual image (metaphor, symbolism, picture)
  • Extending ideas through dances, skits, songs, poems, diagrams, collages, etc.
  • Developing a 5-word news headline
  • Sticky-note storyboards
  • Using energy-grams to identify interest and energy of the group around key ideas and themes
  • Using Wordle or I-Cloud to illustrate key themes

Putting it all Together

As the dreaming phase concludes, stakeholders are left with key themes that have emerged from the data and envisioning processes that enable them to bridge the best of what is with what could be.

Possibility statements are then generated to create the shared vision of a preferred future. These statements act as a beacon to guide them into the next phase where they will identify the road map for manifesting the vision. 

Let's Get Going

Still with me in this transformative journey of learning more about Appreciative Inquiry Strategic Planning? If so, lets move on to the next article on Designing where we’ll develop the plan.

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More Articles from Kimberley on Appreciative Inquiry Strategic Planning:

  1. An Innovative Alternative
  2. The 5-D Process  
  3. What the D?
  4. How to Define Purpose 
  5. How to Discover Core Strengths
  6. How to Dream Big
  7. Designing the Plan

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References:

  • The Essentials of Appreciative Inquiry: A Roadmap for Creating Positive Futures by Mohr & Watkins (2002)

 

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