The purpose of this note is to show how an appreciation mindset (also referred to as Appreciative Inquiry), which accentuates the positive, can have significant advantages over the traditional ‘cure the problem’ approach to challenging situations.
Let’s first of all look at the traditional approach, whether applied to a work situation or issues in our personal lives. This typically involves identify the elements of the ‘problem’ as a starting point for determining ‘what went wrong’, which then becomes the key focus of enquiry. From there causes are determined leading ultimately to a ‘fix’ to rectify the situation. I would argue that this approach, with which we are all familiar, while ok for mundane problems, has the following limitations when applied to bigger issues :
– solutions tend to be limited to incremental improvements to rectify what has gone wrong and ensuring that there will not be a recurrence.
– not always the most inspiring approach for those involved. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the scale and scope of the problem, and it can even turn into a ‘blame game’ which is damaging to relationships.
– generally because the narrow negative focus it is unlikely that any break through thinking will emerge.
The alternative is to focus on what works rather than what does not work as a starting point. It involves listing the best of what has been achieved and how, with a view to seeing how we can create more of the same. It is about building on strengths and identifying the factors that contributed to success.
The objective is to create a vision of what can be achieved which stems from the best of what has been achieved, however modest achievements may seem. Why appreciative thinking works is that it energizes us to develop an exciting future vision to which we become committed, and thereby achieve. Of course, because it is based on building on what has already been achieved we know that realisation of the new vision is possible. Problems will tend to melt away as they are outgrown by the new visionary approach.
An appreciation mindset requires discipline, as it will be all too easy to slip back into problem solving mode. For example, it requires a focus on the qualities and behaviours that you want to see more of (not the ones you want to eliminate)
It is no coincidence that successful people tend to have a positive disposition and seek out the best in any situation. They rise above and seek to be bigger than the problems and only use problems an a means of finding opportunities. Remember as well that what you focus on you tend create in your life, so better to create a bright positive future than one filled with problems !
Try it, the next time you are faced with a challenging situation.