“Strengths perform, but also, strengths transform”

I am spending this week at the 5th World Appreciative Inquiry Conference in Ghent, Belgium. Appreciative Inquiry is a philosophy of change, based on the belief that the best way to enhance the capability of a system is to focus on what works well in that system currently; and to engage the whole system in the co-creation a new way of working.

David Cooperrider, father of the field gave the key note speech on the first day, offering a personal perspective on some of the most recent developments in the field.

A consistent theme in Cooperrider’s work over the last twenty five years has been the need to move away from a defecit-based view of change. Playing on Einstein’s truism that a problem has never been solved at the same level of consciousness that the problem was created, Cooperrider offered a corollary for organisations, suggesting that the greatest problems an organisation faces are never “solved”, rather, they are “eclipsed, made irrelevant, or saturated in strength”. Rather than identifying problems and proposing solutions to fix them, Cooperrider argues there is much greater value in identifying strengths and growing them to the point that the organisation evolves past the problems of yesterday.

Cooperrider drew on Peter Drucker’s definition of leadership, as “creating an alignment of strengths that renders a system’s weaknesses irrelevant.”

Inspirational, thoughtful, packed with practical examples, the session was a call-to-arms to scale up the generative power of AI to match the demands the world is facing today.

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