“One of the most important things when interacting with other human beings is good communication.” I say this so often and it never seems to lose relevance in my point of view.
But how do we improve our communication? Why do people object to your ideas even if they seem absolutely great to you? Who is just bashing you and who is trying to work together with you for a more optimal way to solve a problem? And how to be communicating constructively?
What is an Appreciative Inquiry?
One of the approaches I really liked was the “Appreciative Inquiry” (AI). It’s primary target is not designed around communication but for data analysis and decision-making. What can we make out of this?
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a model for analysis, decision-making and the creation of strategic change, particularly within companies and other organizations. It was developed at Case Western Reserve University’s department of organizational behavior, starting with a 1987 article by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva. They felt that the overuse of “problem solving” as a model often held back analysis and understanding, focusing on problems and limiting discussion of new organizational models.
Appreciative Inquiry in Communication
In communication the approach for AI practitioners is an emotionally neutral way to raise comments in a constructive and positive way. Accepting the idea and opinion of someone else and building on top of it rather than just replacing their method with your own.
Even when your experiences tell you that their statement is not valid or will not lead to the common goal and output, it is still important to accept it and carefully share your wisdom. Everybody has a different set of experiences on which also their emotion, ideas and methods are based on.
Yet you need to consider that you are the one who lacks experience in a certain area and they might be right afterall. The goal of such a communication is to find the best solution together based on the shared experiences of everybody who is involved, not just go your way at all cost.
For this particular collecting and matching of experiences it is very useful to have a variety of people involved into the discussion. For most efficient brainstorming, ideation or even decision making, make sure you involve people of different culture, gender, age and professional background to build a group that can build great results.
We have prepared a visual map for you with an emotional axis and a productivity axis and placed some examples in it. When you are having a conversation or a meeting the next time, try to map what everybody is saying and you will understand whether or not they are building a constructive dialogue or try to break your argument and force their opinion through.
- Teacher: No, because…
- AI Practitioner: Yes, and…
- Dictator: No!
- Troublemaker: Yes, but…
In which quadrant do you find yourself? Are you a dictator after all or do you think you collaborate with the others to reach a common goal?
The Appreciative Inquiry Model
If you would like to understand more on the AI methods and theory please refer to The Appreciative Inquiry Model PDF from The Encyclopedia of Management Theory (Sage Publications).
A great methodology for ideation and designing with a positive mindset is Design Thinking. It is one of the most popular ways to design new products, services or even whole businesses all focused on solving a particular problem that is defined at the beginning of each Design Thinking project. You can find more information around this in the process guide “An Introduction to Design Thinking” by the Stanford d.school.
Photo credit: David Hurt