Highlights from an Appreciative Inquiry Summit
“Joy and pride grow from knowing you have just done something as well as you can do it” ~ Lloyd Dobens
I know that feeling. I have witnessed it in others.
Recently I completed an extremely satisfying 6 month project. The project was to lead the design and facilitation of an Appreciative Inquiry Summit for the Chief Diversity Officer of a very large global organization. The Summit, with over 300 people, was an appreciative inquiry into the affirmative topic, “Freedom to step outside our comfort zones”. There was much joy and pride in knowing we had all done something as well as we could do it.
Highlights of the Appreciative Inquiry Summit
Highlights from the summit, following the classic AI 4-D cycle, (Discovery, Dream, Design, Destiny) can be summed up in this quote from a participant:
“… this was the best collaboration experience ever, an unexpected feeling of acceptance and appreciation, came away with tangible actions, engagement, openness and real conversation, and more. Everyone agrees it was the change catalyst we needed!”
Specific Highlights Included:
The CEO, who had always attended the traditional diversity and inclusion conferences in the past, albeit standing at the podium with her notes in front of her, willingly took a seat on the small, low stage to be interviewed by employee who conducted the same Discovery interview protocol that all the participants had experienced earlier that morning.
A senior leader, male, white and middle-aged stood up to report out after the first discovery interviews and shared:
“I’ve had an a-ha moment. Up to now, I have been tolerating Diversity and Inclusion, but now I embrace it.”
“A-ha moments” become one of the key take-aways from the summit.
After high-energy enactments of Dreams of the future, groups were tasked to write up their future possibility statements (vision statements). As a cerebral and conventional task, I’ve come to expect less exuberance to share outputs. But not this time! When group members were invited to share their future possibility statements, there were lines of people across the ball room wanting to step up to the microphones to share their visions of a future they dream about – their future possibility statements.
At the conclusion of Day One, the planning team, who had been working together for 6 months to bring the Summit to a reality, gathered to make sense of all data – the stories, the insights and energy that had been circulating and compounding all day. Our job was to identify the opportunity areas from all the inputs to present back at the beginning of Day Two so the participants could chose an area they wanted to work on during the Design phase. Six clear opportunity areas stood out.
- Fostering “a-ha” moments.
- Reframing failure.
- Belonging and freedom to be myself.
- Journey from tolerating to embracing.
- Collaboration without boundaries.
- Amplify summit outcomes to ignite change.
Getting To Work
The morning of Day Two, after the Design phase had been described, the participants freely walked up to the area designated with the opportunity they had most interest in being part of. The entire 3 hour working session was tight, messy, high energy, and they did in the best way they could. We all witnessed some very relevant presentations, panel conversations and creativity on stage.
Conclusions and Destiny
By early afternoon, we approached Destiny, the last of the 4 Ds. The groups for each of the opportunity areas worked through an action planning template, came back into plenary and again lined up to report out some of the actions they were excited to make happen. The energy and commitment continued to soar, with individuals exchanging contact information right there and then in the room.
Our summit concluded with a reflective personal commitment of what this summit had meant to them personally and what they would individually take back to their workplace.
The summit exceeded expectations. The design and planning teams, and the participants all shared a sense that we had done the best we could do and it felt amazing. This feedback sums it up.
“We’ve hit the reset button and it’s hard to go back.”