Synchronicity: An Exciting Emergent Principle in Appreciative Inquiry – PS56

Episode Introduction

Tom Myers is an entrepreneurial, Associate Professor at the Robert P. Stiller School of Business at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. He’s in the International Business and Management Faculty, teaching courses in entrepreneurship, international marketing, leadership and organizational development. Right from the get-go of this episode, you’ll find out why Tom is more than qualified to teach these subjects to students who seek to have impact in the world. He comes not only with real life, international business experience, but also from an inner knowing of the inherent interconnectedness of all matter that makes up the complexities of life.

Episode Overview – Synchronicity, an exciting emergent Appreciative Inquiry Principle

SynchronicityAt the time of our conversation, Tom was completing his doctoral research and Ph.D. on the topic of “Seeing the Connections: The Emergent Synchronicity Principle in Appreciative Inquiry.” Tom, as a scholar and practitioner of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) originally set out to research “Positive Employee Engagement” for his thesis.  

He wasn’t too far into his research before he opened up to his own family history.  As he learned about the positive workplace engagement that his own ancestors had created for their 5000 employee silk production company, he acknowledged the abundance of synchronicities that were unfolding, thereby, tugging at him to accept these synchronicities. He chose to act on them.  Seeing the connections, Tom shifted his research topic to the significance and value of synchronicity and how we make meaning and understand relationships throughout our life, while, at the same time, he was also seeing the connection with the Principles of Appreciative Inquiry.

Did You Discover Appreciative Inquiry or Did Appreciative Inquiry Discover You?

Following a Masters degree in Positive Psychology, Tom was first introduced to Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College, where he chose to complete his certification in the Positive Business and Society Change Program when Professor Lindsey Godwin joined the faculty.  He has been integrating AI into his work ever since, and, through his doctoral studies, is deepening his experience with AI in an academic and practical sense.

Constructing Your Own Life Story

Embarking on a PH.D. journey with the intention of focusing on the AI Principle of Social Construction to research the topic of Positive Employee Engagement, Tom started in a traditional way to look at what constituted employee engagement from an historical perspective.  Tom didn’t have to look very far, when he realized one of the best examples of a positively engaged workforce existed in his own family history.  Tom’s inquiry:

  • How might we look back at our personal ancestry history in order to create a source of intergenerational energy for today?
  • What might we discover if we explore our ancestry with an appreciative and generative approach?

Tom’s  ancestors were the Cheney Brothers who founded the Cheney Silk Manufacturing Company in Manchester, Connecticut which grew to be the largest producer of silk in the western hemisphere.  The Cheney brothers created a workplace culture that was ahead of some companies today and provided benefits to employees that most workers still do not receive even today.  It was deemed a workplace ‘utopia.’  

Listen in to Tom sharing his family story and read more in a moving and informative article Tom wrote for the Appreciative Inquiry Practitioner, entitled “Lessons from Ancestors: My Historical Intergenerational Appreciative Inquiry.

Meaningful Connections are Around Us All Time

Synchronicity is a concept, first explained by psychiatrist Carl Jung, which holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship, yet seem to be meaningfully related. (Wikipedia)

Listen in to learn more from Tom’s research through interviews and focus groups he's conducted over the course of his research. 

Appreciative Inquiry Interview Template

Tom has generously offered to share his Appreciative Interview template that he used in focus groups as part of  his research.  You might like to download and experience the questions yourself, or even better invite a small group to experience the questions.  Tom would be really grateful if you would share your findings with him.  His email is included in the template.  Open the Positivity Lens Reveal below to download the PDF.

positivity lens


Downloadable Resources and Tools

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Synchronicity TemplateAppreciative Inquiry Interview Template for Synchronicity

This is such an opportunity to experience an Appreciative Inquiry set of questions and inquire into your stories of synchronicity and the stories of others, if you so chose to do.

You will be moved by what you discover about yourself and others as you inquire into your own stories of  “seeing the connections” – how synchronicity shows up in your life.  It will help you acknowledge, become aware of and act on the synchronicities, as mentioned in the post below.



3 “A”s

As a result of the interviews and focus groups, Tom heard from participants that they could identify their experience of synchronicity as three main events, which he has named the 3 “A”s

  1. Acknowledgment – you start to acknowledge the “coincidences;” namely the connections that are meaningful to you.
  2. Awareness – next time you encounter this meaningful connection, you become more observant and conscious;  this has happened again, therefore, you are more open to the occurrences of these meaningful connections from a range of sources, e.g. whether it’s people coming into your life, symbols that have meaning for you or events that show up in your life
  3. Act on it – you recognize that it’s time to pay attention and act on the connections which are meaningful

Two keys psychological orientations come up regarding synchronicity:

  • Being open
  • Being vulnerable

In those two states of being, you are more likely to experience synchronicity.  It’s worth reflecting on the questions to see if those two states feel true for you.

How to Enhance Abilities to Embrace Synchronicity

Create Quiet – meditate, yoga, reflection allow us to be more open to see the synchronities

Allow for Space between – synchronicity occurs in the quiet spaces; journaling time; reflection on the unplanned event, the things that do crop up between the planned events.

Trust – trust the feeling; when you plan too much, you may not allow for intuition

Connect to Tom

Website:  Champlain College

Tom on Twitter

Tom on LinkedIn

Tom on Facebook

Article: Lessons from Ancestors: My Historical, Intergenerational Appreciative Inquiry

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