Human Problems

Human Problems Are Not Fixable

Seeing the World Anew!

Why have I become an advocate of the life-affirming, change methodology Appreciative Inquiry? It's appropriate for our forever changing, complex world.  It offers a framework that is inquiry-based, rather than prescriptive or consultant-driven. It seeks to affirm, inspire and accelerate anticipatory learning to bring out the best in each of us, propelling us all to greater accomplishments, achievements at the individual and collective levels.  And, most importantly, it works!

Appreciative Inquiry  (AI) is a perspective on the world that invites you to see yourself and the world through an appreciative or valuing eye, instead of a self-critical way.  How you use words informs your beliefs about yourself;  and the stories you tell, the narratives you construct shape your own and our collective destinies.

Zero in on the Problems

In a nutshell, Appreciative Inquiry is a strength-based, generative approach to change and development, which starts, from what already works in a given context, and seeks to discover strengths, existing assets and positive potentialities. This differs from the traditional approach, which zeros straight in on the problem, so prevalent in our organizations, institutions, and families. Grounded in theories from the disciplines of organization behavior, and  the sciences of sociology and psychology, there's a good dose of metaphysics thrown in. Those of us who practice AI refer to it as both a way of being and doing.

Reframing Human Problems

Why is zeroing straight onto the problem not helpful in all cases?  It implies things don’t work, things are broken. If it’s a bike, a computer, window, a machine of any kind, that approach is fine. But when it comes to human beings who are incredibility complex with all kinds of influences and ideas and different biological makeup and emotions, it’s not helpful. All of you have unique character traits, attitudes, beliefs and traditions, so the problem solving approach doesn’t apply.  Human beings are not problems to be fixed.

Appreciative Inquiry Framework

As a change method, AI is equally effectively at the individual, organizational and societal levels.  It offers a structured framework and process to help you understand

1. how you tell stories and construct narratives, which addresses:

  • how you make meaning of our own stories and the stories of other people
  • how you make sense of your live, and by extension
  • how you make sense of your world
  • how you interpret things

2. AI helps with relationships, making you more aware of:

  • how you relate to yourself
  • how you relate to others
  • how you relate to the world itself

2. AI helps you become more conscious of:

  • how you use language
  • how you focus your attention
  • how you create the results you get
  • how you label things
  • how you deal with change
  • how you envision our future
  • how you choose to live your life

To summarize,

  • Appreciative Inquiry is the discovery of the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them.
  • It is an art and practice of asking unconditional, positive questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend anticipate and heighten positive potential.
  • Instead of negation, criticism, backward-looking problem solving through root cause analysis and spiraling diagnoses, there is discovery, dream, design and destiny.
  • Appreciative Inquiry is the art of asking unconditional, positive questions to strengthen the system’s capacity to anticipate and heighten positive potential. (Source the AI Handbook)

The Direction of Your Inquiries

I invite you to start focusing on the direction of your inquiries, your conversations, your stories. Before you even open your mouth to engage with another, your world view – starting with how you think, what your believe – will show up in the words you use that tells others how you see yourself and them, because how you see them is how you will describe them.

If you see your world as kind and forgiving, you will describe it that way. If you see it as tough and unfair, you will describe it that way.  Whichever way you see, you’ll live into that story.   

We can start shifting our focus from the problem view of human kind to the appreciative view.  To quote William James:

The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.