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Appreciative inquiry: a mini-case study

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Applying positive organizational scholarship . . . with difficulty

Last week, I was lucky to attend Amplifed08 in London which I described here under BHAG for Britain! The post mortem of the meeting has illustrated, with quite delicious irony, how difficult it is to implement the ideas of positive organizational scholarship.

The day-after, the organizers, humble as they are, went on to the wiki, which is open as is the way of new organizations, and asked “What went wrong?”

A day or so later, I posted the appreciative alternative “What went right and what should we do more of?”

The two approaches

The “What went wrong?” question attracted at lot more traffic: it got in first, it was posed by the organizers, and we are used to that question.  People have lots to get off their chests!

The “What went right?” question has generated a third of the edits and at a rough glance, a tenth of volume.

Both questions have attracted information about props and stage directions (right down to the pips in the olives).

Under the appreciative question, we got a comment about something new happening and some information about social structures (A lister and B listers).

Better questions

I did a quick Google for better questions (appreciative inquiry questions). There are plenty of help sites on the web.

I also reflected on the event and the post mortem chatter.  I think people liked the clean white space of NESTA in the middle of London’s financial district.  It felt modern yet solid.

Did we feel that we crossed a Rubicon?  Have we taken the battle to Rome?  Have we gone from fringe to establishment?

And if so, what is next?

What other deep processes accounted for what is ‘true and good, better and possible‘?  I have a few ideas but I would prefer to stop and listen now.

Published in Business & Communities


  1. It’s a good question, how to move beyond the survivalist trait of finding discrepancies in the environment, that we have developed in millions of years, to looking at what’s best, what we are practicing for a decade.

    Fights a hopeless fight with the internal animal and our fear that the problems we know so well might not get noticed.

    An interesting appproach that counts with us, humans as a biological species while helping to concentrate on the exceptional is asking to: *search for positive deviants*

    Found on Whit Tice’s blog after 4 years of struggles how to overcome the human nature. Don’t 🙂 Use it with a twist and concentrate on the marvels.–-it’s-not-fluffy-stuff/

    Now looking for opportunities to organize such factfinding company journeys and see what happens 🙂

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