What about the benefits/ideal outcome for any organization willing to adopt AI?
The benefits for any organization or system that adopts Appreciative Inquiry is the ability for the whole system to move together through change in a fast cycle, innovation-producing, and high-engagement way. Outcomes we often see include increases in shared value, increased profitability, decreased absenteeism, creation of workgroups for collective action, reduced conflict, innovation, accelerating growth and market share, the building of great cultures, organizational learning, and our clients winning awards for being top places to work.
Other outcomes that are often overlooked are the sense of hope and belonging people have when they are part of creating the plan and future story when people feel heard and have the opportunity to listen and connect with others in the organization. The Appreciative Inquiry process allows connections to form that may never have been available through traditional methods and they allow the entire system to come together in ways that will spark unity, creativity, and positive energy and elevate the direction of the conversation into what’s possible. There are hundreds of case studies that document the results yet it is still hard to put into words the feelings of unity and collective confidence an Appreciative Inquiry Summit creates.
Describe your typical client organization and any “readiness” requirements.
The United Nations Global Compact held a world summit—the largest of its kind—between 500 business leaders and the UN, and they selected Appreciative Inquiry as the summit methodology. The summit ignited a long-term strategy alignment and momentum for growth: within a year the organization doubled in size. Then doubled again. What started with 1,000 companies grew to nearly 12,000 of the world’s largest corporations and today the UN Global Compact is the world’s largest and arguably most impactful business sustainability network in the world. UN Secretary-General and Nobel Laureate Kofi Annan praised the AI process and said it would not have been possible to achieve the results or the large-scale impact without AI. Dozens of working groups were born and are still growing—companies coming together to advance, for example, sustainable water, or microenterprise loans for the poor, or public-private partnerships to advance the goals of 100% renewable energy—all of these were imagined and took root at the AI Summit.
The Secretary-General wrote;
I would like to commend you more particularly for your methodology of Appreciative Inquiry and to thank you for introducing it to the United Nations. Without this, it would have been very difficult, perhaps even impossible, to constructively engage so many leaders of business, civil society, and government.
From that first AI summit with the UNGC led to a lasting Case Western Reserve and UN partnership called the Global Forum Series. The 4th AI Summit titled “The Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit” was hosted in Cleveland in June of 2017.
Appreciative Inquiry as a framework allows clients to move past their readiness requirements and discover what is possible. As you will see from the variety of companies, organizations, and systems we’ve worked with, we don’t have a typical client, which I believe is because AI is a framework, not a solution.
Tell us about the implementation process, including key steps & timelines.
The implementation process does not follow a specific time frame. I’ve done it in as few as a few days to over a year. It depends on who is convening the summit, the outcomes, and needs they have, and who is available. If I were talking about a city summit like Tampa, that’s about a year because it is grassroots and led by a group of citizens. The key steps are to first define the task – what is it you want to accomplish? – and to make sure that the task is rich enough to sustain a summit. For example, I would not do a summit on how to improve morale in a business, but I would do a summit on how to increase profitability by 30% with engaged talent. Next, a steering group is formed to start to frame out the work and build momentum. Workgroups are formed in the Steering Committee meeting, which typically includes: Guiding Values, Task/Logo, Stakeholder, Pre-summit Momentum, Post-summit Momentum, and a Rapid Advancement Group. The workgroups begin the work to create the summit, convene a summit and begin the post-summit work. The work continues until the task or goal of the workgroup is accomplished.
Typical challenges/hurdles encountered as AI is implemented?
One of the biggest challenges implementing an AI summit is the commitment of time. Summits typically range from 2-3 days and it is important that everyone go through the process from beginning to end. When individuals have to step out or miss a portion of the summit, the work loses momentum and the individuals voice isn’t fully brought into the outcomes. The process builds as it grows and everyone is needed for the entire summit to produce the best results.