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Creating the Appreciative Organization

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Appreciative inquiry has arrived! This term and the underlying concepts and attitudes associated with this term are flourishing in the fields of organizational development and organizational consultation. The term appreciative inquiry has even been abbreviated as AI. There is much to appreciate in the progress made to date in the field of appreciative inquiry. Yet, more must be done if the full potential of AI is to be realized. This book is intended as one effort to expand the range of and deepen our understanding about the processes of appreciative inquiry.

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Specifically, this book concerns those organizational structures that hold the potential of supporting the attitudes and processes of appreciative inquiry. This is the next step in AI. We must identify the structural strategies of AI that will enhance powerful processes such as the four “D’s (discovery, dream, design and destiny) and the formulation of provocative propositions. These structural strategies also help to actualize the potential found in such AI attitudes as the valuing of alternative perspectives, acknowledging contributions and recognizing the value of cooperation.

Why are structural strategies needed to compliment the current process-oriented and attitude-oriented strategies of AI? Goodwin Watson, answered this question when he wrote about effective and enduring organizational change. Watson suggested that all organizations are constituted of three dynamics: process, structure and attitude. These are not priority steps in a systemic intervention strategy, but instead function as interdependent leverage points for systemic organizational change and/or improvement.  We can learn much from Goodwin Watson when considering ways in which the organizational benefits associated with appreciative inquiry can be sustained.

At the present time, appreciative inquiry primarily concerns organizational processes and attitudes. This focus on process and attitude is commendable, given the all too frequent focus in contemporary organizations on structural change. Structural strategies, however, must be identified if the practitioners of appreciative inquiry are to take the next step. In this book, William Bergquist introduces six distinctive ways in which to think about an organization that is fully appreciative in its structures. These six appreciative strategies are framed as the Appreciative Triangle and concern ways in which organizations generate and use information, clarify intentions, and elicit ideas that bring about movement to the identified intentions. Each of these strategies is directed toward the release of human capital in contemporary organization.

Throughout this appreciative journey, Bergquist turns not just to these six structural strategies but also to six ways in which the processes and attitudes of appreciation are engaged. At the interpersonal level, we appreciate other people through attempting to understand them. We also appreciate other people through valuing them and often seeing them in a new light. A third way of appreciating another person is by being thoughtful and considerate in acknowledging their contributions to the organization.  At an organizational level, one finds appreciative processes and attitudes in the organization’s positive image of the future. The organization is also appreciative if a concerted effort is being made to recognize the distinct strengths and potentials of people working within the organization. Finally, an organization is appreciative if its employees consistently value and seek to establish cooperative relationships and recognize the mutual benefits that can be derived from this cooperation.

This brief analysis clearly indicates that appreciation is a rich—and provocative—concept. Appreciative perspectives and practices are here to stay—and Creating the Appreciative Organization can make a significant contribution to this growing field.

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