Appreciative Inquiry – Unintended Consequence of App Development

Polymash DesignIt's been 1.5 years now since Juergen Berkessel and I co-founded Polymash, a creative agency with a focus on strategy development, app design and marketing for the mobile world.  Juergen is an artist and a technologist.  He comes from a professional photography background, graphic design and a long stint in IT and product development.  My career has been in human and organization development.

In combining our talents, I am noticing the impact we are having on our clients as we work with them to help them make the shift to mobile devices.

Unintended Consequence

With our diverse backgrounds, we've created a big learning lab. We experiment with software, platforms, graphics, video and audio tools to design digital products. App users' experience is the #1 design criteria. We engage with clients from a very specific angle and are delighted by a pattern of unintended consequences on our business and theirs.  In our client engagements,  we are co-constructing innovations in products, and developing new insights about relationships, processes, values and more.

Our business practice is grounded in Appreciative Inquiry (AI), whose perspective seeks to discover the best in people, their organizations and the world around them. With this AI perspective then, we  discover we are having observable and sustainable impact in the following three areas.

1. Product Development

In responding to clients' aspirations and needs, we have combined technologies and mindsets in ways that have created innovative and new solutions. As an example, in working with the author Mimi Cross, our app, The Crankamacallit, an interactive children's story, stretched the bounds of the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite to the extent we had Adobe and others from around the world asking how we had done it.  Those experiments foster new innovations all the time.  We are continually challenging the status quo and hooking up things to see if they work and when they do, we take them to the next level and a new product is born.  It's iterative and amazingly energizing.

2. Human & Personal Development

We know that open exploration of mutually beneficial opportunities strengthens relationships. When you really want something to work you put your heart and soul into it and don't give up. Growth and ongoing learning result.  We use the Appreciative Inquiry interview to invite people to tell us their stories and articulate their aspirations.  Every single time, it shines the light on what they value about themselves, others and the world in which they live and work.   Our interview process becomes an enlivened conversation during which people experience a reconnection with their sense of purpose and they shift to focus on the best of who they are and what they dream to achieve.  We witness personal growth and transformation.  The FilmOneFest app produced beautiful examples, where AI interviews connected filmmakers with their purpose, their joy, inspirations and aspirations, allowing users a peek into their souls.

3. Organization Development

Dormant creativity lurks in the quiet spaces in all organizations. One of the unintended consequences of our engagements around app development has been the the shift in organization cultures from quiet disinterest to full-on engagement. Explosions of possibilities sparking imaginations and a plethora of talent and energy pours forth to create multi-media content. “People support what they create” is lived out over and over.  As an organization development professional, this is no surprise to me, yet thrills me every time.  We know that to be able to contribute and be appreciated are craved by organizational members.  We want to be valued for who we are and what we do.  The organization for whom we designed and created the The Wild Dolphins app is a fabulous example of  an organization putting aside differences to participate in an activity that had meaning and purpose for the whole community, and shine the light on their culture so that it was noticed by all.

The theme of this post in the content of the Poster, we're presenting at the 2012 World Appreciative Inquiry Conference @2012waic in Ghent, Belgium,  April 25 – 28.  Polymash is proud to have designed and developed the app for the 2010WAIC conference.