Appreciating and Amplifying the positive … Does it work for a Nation?

Appreciating and Amplifying the positive … Does it work for a Nation?

Reading Swamispeak in this morning’s The Economic Times provoked me to ask this question to myself: Does appreciating and amplifying the positive work for a nation as much as it works for individuals, groups and organisation?

To share my answer to this rhetorical question, I will need to take a short detour and talk about Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as a method and a fast emerging movement.

(David Cooperrider, Suresh Srivastava, Frank Barrett, John Carter and others developed the theory and AI method and approach at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio in the 70’s.)

AI as a methodology and philosophy works on the assumption that whatever you want more of, already exists in all organisations.

While traditional problem solving processes tend to look for what is broken, what is wrong, where decay is, AI looks for what is working, where is success, where are best practices, where are the great learnings and so on. AI really looks for what is giving life, what is at the very core. Most importantly, while traditional approaches lead us back to status quo, AI hold the promise of transformational change.

Some of the assumptions of AI are that:

  1. In every society, organisation or group something works. Discovering that is the starting point of change.
  2. What we focus on becomes our reality. We can focus on decay and failures, or we can focus on what is working.
  3. The truth is that there are multiple realities.
  4. People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (the unknown) when they carry forward parts of the past (the known), especially those parts of the past that are confidence inducing.
  5. Our language creates our reality.

 Now back to Swamispeak and what I read today.  It was in many ways a celebration of 25 years of liberalisation and what we have achieved in these 25 years.

It was so inspiring and energising for me personally.

This positive image of our nation and what I have been part of is what gives me hope, optimism about the future and fuels me to move forward.

Sure, there are ills, there is decay and there are things we can deplore but choosing to focus on what is working and then dreaming and envisioning an even greater future works far better. It has worked for me, it has worked for the scores of organisations where I have used the methodology and I have no reason to believe that it cannot work for a nation.

Only when we learn to appreciate “what is” and our language reflects that positive orientation will the world around also appreciate and respect us as a nation and as a race, I believe.

Positive Psychology as a science also says the same thing.  Our knowledge about psychology can be used to list and call out all that ails human beings – give them labels of being psychotic, neurotic and so on. We can also use the science and our knowledge to list out all that is good with human beings and ourselves – our virtues and character strengths and how we can use that goodness to actualise and be happy.

 I certainly believe that by amplifying what works and what is giving life and what our character strengths are, we can certainly create the future that we desire.  This is not some feel good stuff. This is science.

Finally, if volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity are the much talked about ingredients of the way the world is and will be, it is only by embracing and creating an appreciative and positive image can our employees walk with us into the future ahead. That is clearly the most important job of and competence for every leader today.