Organizational Consultation XV Appreciative Consulting Within the Domain of Intentions
Intentions can be changed. One can inculcate intentions and shift the intentions that are held by members of an organization. Significant change in intentions is hard to induce, but it can happen with sufficient time, resources, power and control. We have only to witness the unethical, but effective, brainwashing techniques of concentration camps, cults and terrorist organizations. This form of inculcation requires absolute control of the inductee’s environment and a mixture of deprivation and reward. Others who seek to inculcate intentions suggest that some people can be changed through the long-term application of force. If someone is forced to state that they believe something enough times, and in many different settings, then eventually they may grow to believe that it is true. This technique is often described as cognitive dissonance reduction. Fortunately, very contemporary leaders (outside of despotic governments) ever become so desperate or discouraged that they resort to either of these inculcation strategies.
Unlike inculcation strategies, which focus on change in intentions, clarification strategies focus on the formation of intentions and on ways in which intentions come into being. Clarification rarely focuses, as does inculcation, on the nature of the specific intention being held. Since the growth and development of intentions is certainly not a process that stops with late adolescence, the methodology of intentions clarification can be of great benefit to the members of any organization.
Leaders, in particular, benefit from the clarification of their personal intentions, as well as the intentions of their organization. As leaders become clearer about their own intentions and become familiar with the process of intentions-clarification, they often begin to introduce this ingredient into their own management, planning and supervision. Typically, intentions must be individually clarified—suggesting that consulting and coaching often should be interwoven when addressing the challenge of values clarification.
We can influence the intentions held by organizational clients through a mode other than either inculcation or clarification. We can help clients expand their intentional horizons. This mode of influencing intentions is employed less frequently used than is either inculcation or clarification—but only because it usually involves an intensity and uniqueness of experience that few people can afford either financially or psychologically. Many of the highly adventurous experiences that are now being offered—for example, rafting a wild river, climbing cliffs, herding cattle or skydiving—involve intentions expansion. Participants in these adventures identify new intentions that often involve self-reliance, confrontation with fear, or the need to absolutely trust another person. Typically, these intentional areas previously have been outside the realm of experience for these participants.