UPDATE: I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to have this conversation, with Wick van der Vaart. He is an inspiration to all of us in our Appreciative Inquiry community and beyond. At the time we were having fun doing this interview, Wick was on vacation in France. He didn't let me know, but I learnt very soon after that Wick was experiencing severe headaches. This recording went live at the end of July. It saddens me deeply to say that Wick passed away from a brain tumor on October 15th 2017. His story is beautiful. You will be inspired.
This interview is with an Appreciative Inquiry colleague from the Netherlands, Wick van der Vaart. Wick founded a learning institute in Amsterdam. His Institute offers, among many other courses, a two-year certified post master program in the Social Psychology of Interventionism which includes the teaching and practice of Appreciative Inquiry. In 2016, Wick became the editor-in-chief of AI Practitioner, International Journal of Appreciative Inquiry. These two major contributions he makes to the world came about because, as Wick tells us in this interview he has a habit to say yes to everything.
Say Yes to Everything
Wick's first story about his predisposition to say yes to everything came out when I asked him if he found Appreciative Inquiry, or if Appreciative Inquiry found him. Some years ago, he traveled to the USA from his homeland to enrol in a program at the National Training Laboratories (NTL) in Bethel, Maine. He had signed up for the Organization Development Program only to find that course had been cancelled. As a replacement, he was offered a place in the Appreciative Inquiry Program which was taking place next door. And, following his natural inclination, he said “yes.”
Wick summarizes this fortuitous happening as
I walked into the wrong room and Appreciative Inquiry found me.
Appreciative Inquiry as a Different Lens
As a lover of learning, and researcher at heart, Wick also went on to do the traditional Organization Development Program and when I asked about the difference between the two, he shared that Appreciative Inquiry was more fun and the relationships he established in that course have become some of his dearest colleagues and partners today. The lens of Appreciative Inquiry reflected a worldview his parents impressed on him – to do well in the world and for the world. Wick discovered that the approach of Appreciative Inquiry accomplishes all the expected goals of the traditional organization development approach – productivity, profit, and specific strategic imperatives – and so much more.
Over and above the traditional worldview that traditional organization development offers, where the dominant discourse is money and power, the Appreciative Inquiry worldview focuses on doing good by doing well. Profits are made as businesses need, but from a culture nurtured by a flourishing mindset where leadership is holistic, the workforce is thriving and the environment is respected. In such workplaces, the whole self is valued, and the relational space between people enables deliverables and productivity and profits to happen alongside the positive connections between people. Appreciative Inquiry produces high quality relationships very quickly.
The AI Practitioner – International Journal of Appreciative Inquiry
Here is another of Wick's “say yes to everything” stories. In 2016, he said yes to taking on the roles of editor-in-chief and co-publisher of the esteemed international journal of Appreciative Inquiry, the AI Practitioner (AIP). Anne Radford had founded in London about 20 years ago. Through Anne's leadership and shepherding, it remains the leading journal on current research and applications of Appreciative Inquiry in the world. The co-publisher is the David L. Cooperrider Center in the Stiller School of Business at Champlain College, Vermont. AIP is a peer-reviewed journal. Each issue has guest editors who prepare and widely distribute a “Call for Articles” for their issue. Nearly 300 people from around the world have contributed as guest editors and authors to AIP in recent years.
Favorite AI Principle
I like to ask my guests which of the AI Principles is their favorite. After thinking long and hard, Wick offered, the Anticipatory Principle, and you'll hear that it took my breath away as it also happens to be mine. I asked why, and Wick's story demonstrates this principle that states “image leads to action,” and, more powerfully, “we are pulled toward the images we hold of the future.”
Wick has participated in two ironman events. Training and participating are not easy. He has to work hard to continue the training. He applies the Anticipatory Principle to help him continue. As he trains, and during the event, he holds the image of crossing the finishing line. This is what propels him forward. This image of the future empowers him to keep going. This image of crossing the finishing line gives him the ability to find the will and strength within to help him achieve his dream.
In support of this Anticipatory Principle that inspires Wick and me, I quote these beautiful lines that I found on Wick's website:
“You must give birth to your images.
They are the future waiting to be born.
Fear not the strangeness you feel.
The future must enter you long before it happens.
Just wait for the birth,
for the the hour of the new clarity.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
Connect to Wick van der Vaart
Wick’s Institute: Institute for Intervention Studies
Wick's email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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