Appreciative Inquiry in Action: How to Get a Free New York City Cab Ride

The questions we ask determine the results we find. When we live in inquiry, we learn all sorts of weird and wonderful things. We learn what excites and motivates people; we learn what's important to them and what they care about; we learn about what they do well and are proud of; and we can learn what they desire and aspire to. Just think about kids – they don't stop asking questions. Their curiosity is unbridled. Furthermore, if we stay open to inquiry, through a framework that is appreciative or valuing, consciously looking for the good, we actually co-create it.

My New York City Cab Story:

I'm in New York City and when I get into a cab, after I put on my seat belt and settle into the backseat, I ask the driver casually. “What's the best thing that's happened to you today?” It could be any time of day. It could be snowing, sleeting, or sweltering with heat and humidity. The traffic is usually at a standstill and horns are honking and sirens screeching. And, every single time, I get an almost identical response …. the driver suspiciously raises his eyes and looks up into the rearview mirror to check out who is this kook in the back of his cab. Then slowly a smile comes across his face, his eyes twinkling as they make contact with mine and he repeats: “The best thing that's happened to me today?” And he begins to tell me. There is more. Through my appreciative inquiry I get to hear more of his story – where he comes from, who is family is, what he does in his spare time, what life is like back in his country of origin, and much more. Over these last years, I have connected with the most wonderful and extraordinary people simply by asking an unconditionally positive question.

Every person, whose story I've heard has touched me and I know I have touched them. Perhaps, most illustrative of the power of inquiry is the driver who was so moved by our generative conversation, driving me from Wall Street to Park Avenue said, when we reached my destination, “Ma'am you do such good work in the world, you don't pay me!” I thanked him and responded he also was doing such good work in the world. Then as I got out of the cab, I mentioned to the next passenger who was already impatiently holding the cab door, “He's a good guy”, flicking my head in the direction of the driver. Before the cab pulled away from the curb, I heard the driver laugh out loud when the new passenger said, “I hear you are a good guy.”

Appreciative inquiry, it works every time.

Five actions using appreciative inquiry to shape your experience

  1. Pay special attention to your first question, it determines what comes next.
  2. Ask what works, rather than what's wrong.
  3. Notice, the more positive the question, the more it will create the possible.
  4. Stay in the inquiry to help people think and feel.
  5. Believe in the goodness of people to see the goodness of people.

What are your positive stories about shaping your experience to bring out the best in you and others?

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