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Words Create Worlds � 

February 2015

Company of Experts Consulting Services

People who are new to Appreciative Inquiry are extremely inquisitive - about problems, about conflict. How do we "handle" them with Appreciative Inquiry? How do we "manage" the interruptions? How do we find the "solutions"?

These questions resembled my own curiosity at the start of my Ai journey. As Director of Human Resources, much of my time was spend solving problems and resolving conflict. According to the Poetic Principle in Appreciative Inquiry, what we choose to concentrate on makes a difference. What aspects of a situation do we focus on?

Society, collectively, is taught to focus on the problem and only the problem. To forge ahead, we repeatedly make decisions to "do this or that" (referred to as either/or mentality). By viewing and operating in the world through an 'either/or' lens, we are limiting our view of reality to just two ways of seeing it; however, by adopting the Appreciative 'both/and' mentality - constantly asking ourselves and others 'what might be..." - we open our world to endless possibilities and opportunities.

With the barrage of negative media that surrounds us, it is easy to lose sight of the good that transpires around us on a daily basis. Making the paradigm shift from either/or to both/and is no easy feat and requires mindful, daily practice and intention.

We each have our own journey to walk. As change agents, our purpose is not to 'fix' problems; rather our work is to guide others to celebrate what's good, seek out opportunities, and dream of the possibilities.

Several years ago I saved a quote that, in this moment, reflects my thoughts and demonstrates the importance of remaining open, inquisitive and curious. "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." ~ Thomas Alva Edison

Have you made the shift? If so, how do you continue to practice a both/and mentality?


Kathy Becker,
Company of Experts/Center for Appreciative Inquiry 
Why Positive Education?
Interesting article written by Martin Seligman, guru of Positive Psychology

First, a quiz:

Question one: In one or two words, what do you most want for your children?
If you are like the thousands of parents I've asked, you responded, "Happiness," "Confidence," "Contentment," "Fulfillment," "Balance," "Good stuff," "Kindness," "Health", "Satisfaction," "Love," "Being civilized," "Meaning" and the like. In short well-being is your top priority for your children...and probably for your own life as well.

Question two: In one or two words, what do schools teach?
If you are like other parents, you responded, "Achievement," "Thinking Skills," "Success," "Conformity," "Literacy," "Math," "Work," "Test-taking," "Discipline" and the like. In short what schools teach is how to succeed in the workplace.

Notice that there is almost no overlap between the two lists. Imagine that schools could, without compromising either sets of goals, teach both the skills of well-being and the skills of achievement. Imagine Positive Education. Read Full Article>>
The Power of Story
Across time and culture, stories have been agents of personal transformation - in part because they change our brains


Back in the fall of 1999, Norman Conard, a history teacher at the Uniontown High School in Kansas, asked his students to come up with a project for National History Day. While brainstorming ideas, ninth-grader Elizabeth Cambers stumbled on an old clipping from US News and World Report. The story included the line, 'Irena Sendler saved 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942-43.'

Elizabeth asked her fellow ninth-grader Megan Stewart to help her with her project, and during her free time, Megan pored over the story of Irena Sendler. She learned about how this unassuming young Polish nurse had created thousands of false identity papers to smuggle Jewish children out of the ghetto. To sneak the children past Nazi guards, Sendler hid them under piles of potatoes and loaded them into gunny sacks. She also wrote out lists of the children's names and buried them in jars, intending to dig them up again after the war so she could tell them their real identities.

Imagining herself in the young nurse's position, Megan could appreciate just how difficult her life-threatening choices must have been. She was so moved by Sendler's gumption and selflessness that she, Elizabeth, and two other friends wrote a play about Sendler. They called it Life in a Jar and performed it at schools and theatres. As word got out, the students' quest to share what Sendler had done appeared on CNN, NPR, and the Today Show. The power of Sendler's story had turned the project into something much bigger than the girls expected. Read Full Article>> 
The Positive Psychology of Sustainability
When companies embark on designing sustainable value initiatives there is often an eruption of good will, energy and motivation, and heightened innovation. All of this "good stuff" can be accelerated. How? It's about leading via strengths.

Recent research on multiplier effects demonstrates that it is much easier to convene a whole system of stakeholders under the right conditions for joint design thinking-let's say 700 people for three days, using the design and strategy tools of Appreciative Inquiry-and address a big-league opportunity collaboratively, strategically and at higher velocity, than it would be to struggle with hundreds of committee or small group meetings that drag on across silos, specializations, sectors and subsystems. The key: knowing when and how to create what theorists call 'positive contagion' and what large group research is calling 'the concentration effect of strengths'. There is an unmistakable power in leading through strengths-like an electrical arc sparking across a gap-only today it is not the micro strengths of small silos, it is the macro management of systemic strengths.

We are entering the collaborative age. In eras past, the focus was on preparing for organizations to be change frontrunners capable of capturing strategic advantage through disruptive innovation and by creating their own organizational cultures capable of embracing relentless change. Today, however, executives are saying that organizational change is not enough. Read Full Article>>
The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations
Why do negative comments and conversations stick with us so much longer than positive ones?

A critique from a boss, a disagreement with a colleague, a fight with a friend - the sting from any of these can make you forget a month's worth of praise or accord. If you've been called lazy, careless, or a disappointment, you're likely to remember and internalize it. It's somehow easier to forget, or discount, all the times people have said you're talented or conscientious or that you make them proud.

Chemistry plays a big role in this phenomenon. When we face criticism, rejection or fear, when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists. And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying the impact it has on our future behavior. Read Full Article>>
"What If" Rather Than "Yes, But"
How can we adopt more of a "what if" rather than "yes, but" attitude?

In the realms of thinking about creativity and innovation, many experts believe that an individual's attitude is all important and in this regard there are two broad "types" -the person who generally tends to say "Yes, but..." when thoughts are put to them and the person who generally tends to say "What If?"  and build on people's suggestions. So let's look at these two types in a little more detail.

"Yes, But" people 
Our world has long been ruled by what we can broadly call "conventional wisdom" or acceptable standards of conduct and thinking. The conventional wisdom of our ancestors has often been passed on for decades in phrases such as "the world is flat", "man cannot break the 4 minute mile", "this is the war to end all wars" etc. All of these kinds of statements are often made dogmatically and tend to be closed to other alternatives (even though we now know that each of the beliefs stated here proved to be incorrect). Put another way, the people who make these types of statements are mentally thinking "yes, there may be other views but I believe I am right".

Although we are perhaps more wary of dogmatic beliefs today, too many of us still do not question conventional wisdom or question what is fed to us as so-called "truth". Instead we simply go along with the prevailing attitudes, accept the status quo to be better than changing things and even learn not to think for ourselves in many cases. We may even make matters worse by starting to adopt a fear of the new or to different ideas when they are put to us. It is in these situations that we can start to mentally say "yes, but, that must be wrong", or "yes, but that would never work" or even "Yes, but why fix things when they are not broken?" Read Full Article>> 
Change Management and the Power of Appreciative Inquiry
Change management continues to be the most wanted competence, not only for India Inc, but across the world, particularly in a tumultuous business environment that constantly puts this competence to test. In fact, an IBM Report indicated that over a two-year period, the percentage of CEOs expecting substantial change climbed from 65 percent in 2006 to 83 percent in 2008. But those reporting they have successfully changed raised only by 4 percent from 57 percent to 61 percent.

This disparity between expecting change and feeling able to manage it - 'The Change Gap' - nearly tripled between 2006 and 2008. In fact, a CCL study found that the four most important skills and capabilities needed by an organization in the future are: leading people, strategic planning, inspiring commitment, and managing change.

And these are among the top weakest competencies among leaders today! While there is a huge body of research done in the area of managing change effectively, - the most prominent one forefront is the work by John Kotter documented in the seminal book "Leading Change". The problem within most organization begins with the way change is understood, defined and managed to solve problems. Change is often perceived as strategic and therefore, in the domain of a few. Worse still is when change is perceived as "business as usual" and not even acknowledged as 'change' within organizations. Read Full Article>>
Four Ways to Challenge Employees to Reach Their Potential
Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric famously said, "Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others." Challenging your employees correctly to grow toward their potential is far easier said than done. We want to correct their deficits, but not demoralize them. We want to push them, but not so far that they go right out the door.

Further, managers have widely divergent ideas about what's actually motivating to others, with some managers ending up in avoidance mode. "Most performance problems aren't dealt with directly," says Joseph Weintraub, a professor of management and organizational behavior at Babson College and co-author of The Coaching Manager. "More often, instead of taking action, the manager will transfer the person somewhere else or let him stay put without doing anything."

In my experience, most leaders are trying to combine a mix of challenge and support to get the best out of their teams. Achieving this balance is never easy, and is specific to each individual. But in the end, growing others is a worthwhile effort for both noble and a self-interested reasons. It's personally rewarding to help others accomplish more than they'd thought possible. And high-performing employees reflect very well on their leader.

Here are some effective strategies that will help you push your team members so they can surpass their own expectations, and yours. Read Full Article>>
4 Pillars or Positive Leadership That Promise Results

Negativity costs our economy $500 billion dollars a year in lost productivity.  Disengaged workers lose customers, drive up healthcare costs, and contribute to absenteeism and turnover rates.


In contrast, positivity at work is associated with better organizational behavior, better relationships with colleagues, better customer evaluations, less absenteeism, and less turnover.  So happiness doesn't just feel good - it is good for you, your employees, customers, and the organization's bottom line.


The goal of positive leadership is to create workplaces that foster high satisfaction and high productivity.  How can you become a more positive leader?  These 4 strategies will help you transform your organization from the inside out... Read Full Article>>  

Three Steps to Change the Stories You Tell Yourself
The stories we tell ourselves influence how we act and feel.  Our stories can be self limiting because they prevent us from seeing and realizing our true potential. When we change our stories by incorporating language about our strengths we can knock down those self-limiting beliefs.

What do I mean by the stories we tell ourselves? It's the script that plays in our head without realizing it.

We tell ourselves a story about why we didn't get the promotion, why we got a bad grade, why we're not good enough and on and on and on. How do we change these stories?

Knowing and understanding the language of our individual strengths gives us new language to describe ourselves. It knocks down the self-limiting beliefs so that we see ourselves in a new, positive light and gain the confidence to tell ourselves a positive story.  Imagine if the script you played in your head everyday was positive.

There are three steps to learn your strength's language and incorporate it into your stories. Read Full Article>> 
Appreciative Inquiry and the Power of Questions

Questions are essential within the perspective of Appreciative Inquiry. The questions we ask ourselves - as a person or a system - determine the direction towards which we develop ourselves. What sort of questions can then help to facilitate a movement towards the desired direction?


The Craftsmanship of Designing Questions 

The other day I heard an anecdote about David Coopperrider, one of the main thinkers on Appreciative Inquiry, who spent three months on thinking up a question to open up a conversation between religious leaders from all over the world. The question he ended up giving them was: 'Can you tell me something about the moment you knew you wanted to live your life in service of religion?'. In an Appreciative Inquiry process it is typically not the facilitator - in this case Cooperrider - who asks this question to the group. Rather people are invited to talk about this question in pairs or small groups. The craftsmanship of the Appreciative Inquiry practitioner is exactly that of thinking of and crafting exactly that question that will hopefully create some sort of shift - and to let the people that are actually touched by the topic or change enter into a conversation about it. Read Full Article>> 

Introductory AI Workshop: Creating What Will Be
This two-day introduction Appreciative Inquiry (AI) workshops: "Creating What Will Be" focuses on gaining an appreciation of Appreciative Inquiry and its applications.  The objective of this course is to strengthen the capacity of your use in participatory approaches at work or at home through the use of appreciative and assets-based approaches that encourage greater self-reliance, identification of local assets, and promotion of improved decision-making within groups, teams, and organizations as a whole. By combining theory and practice, this experiential workshop provides participants with the skills to change their personal and professional relationships. Learn More>>
Appreciative Inquiry Coaching Training (AICT)
Infuse Appreciative Inquiry into your coaching/consulting practice to strengthen the positive core of both you and your clients.
Appreciative Inquiry Coaching Training ICF CCE
Discover how to use your existing coaching skills within the energizing and affirming framework of Appreciative Inquiry to deepen and enhance both your personal sense of yourself as well as your skills as a coach/consultant.  
The "Appreciative Inquiry Coaching Training (AICT)" is an intensive 5 day course and will comprise of a full Appreciative Inquiry into our collective experience of Appreciative Inquiry and Coaching. Together we will explore and experience each of the 5 D's as it relates to one-on-one relationships (between you and your client). The practicum, which participants will submit for certification, will embody "Destiny" as you apply the lessons taught during this course into your coaching work. Learn More>>
Become a Host for our Trainings
We offer incentives to hosting organizations for their hospitality

Company of Experts is seeking host organizations throughout the world to host any of our trainings (Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training (AIFT), Department Chair Institute (DCI), and Leadership Development Institute(LDI)). To show our gratitude, host organizations receive two complimentary registrations for a training held on their site when minimum enrollment is met.
Host organizations may limit the training to people at their organization or it can be open to others. If the training is open, Company of Experts partner with the host organization to help promote the training.

Please contact
Kathy for more information.
In This Issue
Why Positive Education?
The Power of Story
The Positive Psychology of Sustainability
The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations
"What If" Rather Than "Yes, But"
Change Management and the Power of Appreciative Inquiry
Four Ways to Challenge Employees to Reach Their Potential
4 Pillars of Positive Leadership That Promise Results
Three Steps to Change the Stories You Tell Yourself
Appreciative Inquiry and the Power of Questions
Introductory AI Workshop: Creating What Will Be
Appreciative Inquiry Coaching Training (AICT)
Hosting Opportunities
Free Downloads
Upcoming Events
Videos Worth Watching
LinkedIn Conversations
Webinar Recordings Available
Visit Our Websites
Free Downloads:
Exceeding Expectations: Appreciative Inquiry Stories in Education
By: Various Authors

Leadership Excellence (March 2012) - Highligh
ting Appreciative Inquiry
By: Various Authors 

The Neuroscience of Leadership
By: David Rock & Jeffrey Schwartz

Aligning Strengths Through Appreciative Inquiry
By: Nancy Stetson

Managing with the Brain in Mind
By: David Rock
Upcoming Events:
Appreciative Inquiry Coaching Training (AICT) 
Where: Cape Town, South Africa 
Dates: March 16-20, 2015    

Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training (AIFT) 
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada  
Dates: April 13-16, 2015   
View Event Page >> 

Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training (AIFT) 
Where: Johannesburg, So. Africa 
Dates: May 11-14, 2015    
View Event Page>>  

Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry: Creating What Will Be
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada 
Dates: May 21-22, 2015    
View Event Page>> 
Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry: Creating What Will Be
Where: Atmore, Alabama 
Dates: June 8-9, 2015    
View Event Page>>  

Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training (AIFT) 
Where: Haverhill, Massachusetts  
Dates: June 22-25, 2015    
2015 World Appreciative Inquiry Conference (WAIC) 
Where: Johannesburg, So. Africa 
Dates: July 6-10, 2015    
View Company of Experts' Entire Event Calendar
here >>
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 Videos Worth Watching

Playful Inquiry   

Description: Robin Stratton- Berkessel shares how a simple, intentionally appreciative inquiry can result in a playful state that fosters creativity, openness and togetherness. 


Be an Opportunity Maker 
We all want to use our talents to create something meaningful with our lives. But how to get started? Kare Anderson shares how she opened up her world by helping other people use their own talents and passions.


Appreciative Inquiry in the Working Place 

Description: Prof. John Hayes discusses Appreciative Inquiry and its use in the workplace.  


Description: In this fast-moving & entertaining talk, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that actually happiness inspires productivity
LinkedIn Conversations:
Best Book on SOAR?
I'd like a book on SOAR. What are other books apart from the "Thin Book on SOAR"?

As AI practitioners we spend a lot of time helping others discover their positive core (i.e. their strengths, best practices, positive attitudes, knowledge, skills, capabilities, etc.), but we don't always get the opportunity to discover our discuss our own. I'm curious to know how you discovered your own positive core and what you'd say is one of your greatest strengths.

How Do You Deal with Resistance?
Have any of you gone into an organization who resisted using AI? If so, how did you overcome the resistance? Also, I am curious how you were able to get your foot in the door to discuss the benefits of using AI.


We invite you to join our LinkedIn Group called "Center for Appreciative Inquiry". It is an open group that allows participants to ask questions and share stories in regards to AI. All are welcome!

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Company of Experts' webinar recordings provide you with the opportunity to learn at a time and place that is most convenient. Gather a group in a conference room or listen at your desktop when it works with your schedule. Company of Experts' webinar recordings are available for download which can be replayed as often as you wish and can be shared with with your colleagues and friends.


To view a list of our webinar recordings, please click here.   

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