I’d like to write a little about Destiny/Delivery – the last phase in the 5 D model of Appreciative Inquiry – because it’s the phase that’s taken me longest to understand. And it appears I’m not alone.
What makes this phase different to the others in the process? Up till this point we have been moving through a familiar pathway – we have defined a topic to inquire into, we have conducted a discovery into best experiences and we have created a dream, which has now been refined into a provocative proposition or possibility statement. All through this we have carefully put aside our knee jerk problem-solving habits and learnt to trust that locating sources of energy and life will be more than enough to deal with the problem we may have.
The pinnacle we have reached in this high-energy process is the possibility statement – we have finally captured in words a future that both inspires us and is rooted in the best experiences of the past. We are connected to our positive core and, driven by that energy, we can imagine a future that inspires us and calls us to action.
At this point the process has a clear shift. Or at least it appears to.
We see ourselves as having completed the vision, and now we are going to begin implementation. But we are stuck because we’re not sure of how to implement *appreciatively*. In fact the world view of problem-solving is so commonplace that we may not even notice that we have already subtly shifted out of an appreciative inquiry lens.
Analyse, Plan, Act. Repeat.
If we think in very broad terms about our normal way of doing change, we see three phases – analysing the issue/problem, planning the change and finally implementing. We may even add in feedback after this to create a kind of fourth stage where we again analyse the implementation, plan it better and implement it again. If we see Ai processes as being a version of this process where we Analyse in Discovery, Plan in Dream and Implement in Destiny, we miss out on some of the unique qualities of change as it is conceived of in Ai.
As a reminder, one of the core principles of AI is the constructivist principle, which says that we co-create our realities in language. In language. And another, the simultaneity principle say that inquiry creates change. Inquiry creates change.
If we remember those two principles, it is unnecessary to begin to wonder about implementation, because there is no implementation in the appreciative model. A radical statement, so let me explain. When we think of change broken into phases like planning and implementation, we are using a modernist conception of how change works. In this view of change the change can be planned and then carried out as two distinct phases. In this model actions are planned as a means to close the gap between where we are and where we want to be.
The post-modern view is different – it asks how can we reframe action planning to take into account that we’re not closing the ‘gap’ but rather we are creating, through dialogue and language, a new, inspiring future and generating actions from it? The answer lies in understanding the basic flow of the approach we have chosen to take.
The flow of the Appreciative Approach In the appreciative approach we can identify a constant, non-linear engagement with three inquiries:
1. The Best Experience inquiry asks things like:
“Where is this possibility already happening?”
So there is no pressure to invent only new actions – in fact there will always be some actions that already exist that are creating this new future. By treating the possibility as a microcosm of the whole process we tap into a huge source of energy and find the process continues to carry us. Immediately it should be clear that the subtle pressure to invent new actions is off – we start, as we always do in the appreciative approach with **where things are already working**.
2. The Values inquiry asks things like:
“What made this life-giving experience significant for you?”
At any time we need to we can begin to mine these actions for further refinement of, and connection to the positive core.
3. The Wishes inquiry asks things like:
“Where does this possibility have the biggest potential to impact you?”
Within cultivation of an authentic appreciation for self and others, we can ask the client to stretch themselves by looking at areas that benefit **most** from being brought into connection with the positive core they have identified for themselves. This inquiry will always keep the leverage high – minimal effort for maximal results. When things begin feeling like hard work, struggle and effort, it is a clue that there is a disconnect from the positive core. It’s not that there isn’t hard work, there certainly is, it is simply that this hard work is not resisted. When there’s no resistance the task is simply the task and is not felt as struggle and effort.
The most important lesson
Appreciative Coaching is the paradigm shift from a deficit-based paradigm to a strengths-based one and it is an ongoing process.
Appreciative Coaching is not a linear progress from discovery to dream to design to destiny – it is an appreciative process that is flexible and non-linear, and the D’s can be applied as and when, and in any order as appropriate in the moment. It is non-linear because the process is not *going somewhere*. We are not getting from the present problem to the future solution. We are not closing that gap. Since we are not closing the gap, and we are connected to our positive core of energy we act with a high degree of improvisation and creativity.
When we reflect on what has been done it is also in the mode of appreciative process, we want to know:
– “What worked best there?” “Where did your possibility shine through this week?” (best experience)
– “What made that success significant for you?” “How was that experience meaningful for you?” (values)
– “Where does your provocative proposition have the biggest potential impact now?” “What area do you think is ripe now?” (wishes)
Answering the final question in particular provokes improvisational actions which the client can commit to freely. When they’re complete we continue to engage the appreciative process, until such time as the possibility they have created is replaced improved or no longer called for.
Once a client connects with their positive core, and declares a new future possible as a provocative proposition, they are already influencing and creating that future. We keep that future alive by maintaining their connection to the core values that they find live-giving. And one way to do that is to ask questions that bring about the flow of appreciative inquiry.
Asking these questions is the action plan. Asking these questions is the expression of Destiny because Destiny is the continual engagement with the three aspects of the appreciative approach, adapted as is suitable to match the moment.
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