Changing the Game – with Appreciative Inquiry

How can the impact/results of AI be measured?

I talked above about some of the measurements that have been done for stakeholder value, financial gains, employee assessments such as turnover and retention, surveys and awards. Outcomes are measured based on the task, which states the results the summit aims to achieve.

The CEO was so passionate and grateful for what Appreciative Inquiry did for the company—in terms of innovation, leadership from every level, and the reality of one unified firm—that he donated $10 million dollars to create a new business school and also the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry.

One example is from a cover story in Forbes that traces the revenue growth and tells the early story of one of America’s fastest-growing premium coffee roasters, and the CEO speaks about the unifying power of Appreciative Inquiry. When the company began using the AI Summit as its strategic planning and organization development approach, stock prices hovered around $18 dollars per share— five years later, the stock prices soared to over $100 (NASDAQ). When we (David Cooperrider and associates) began our work with the company its sales were about $150 million annually. The first Appreciative Inquiry Summit—with some 500 employees and external stakeholders, including customers and B2B partners—was titled “Preparing for an Era of Phenomenal Growth and Positive Business and Society Contribution.” The strategy summit was prophetic: the company almost single-handedly created the US fair Trade organization, and grew, over the next decade to over $20 billion dollars in market cap. Each year the company used the “whole system in the room” concept to refresh the strategy and design extraordinary execution. The CEO was so passionate and grateful for what Appreciative Inquiry did for the company—in terms of innovation, leadership from every level, and the reality of one unified firm—that he donated $10 million dollars to create a new business school and also the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry. His goal: to bring AI to every management school student, early in their young careers as leaders, to understand the power of positive approaches, strengths-based leadership, and how to bring out the best in human systems in inclusive, collaborative ways.

Notable success stories/outcomes?

A major food company used an AI approach for its strategic planning—bringing over 2,000 company associates together in a series of 3-day summits to design the growth plan and a differentiation niche market strategy. A year later—with a turned-on workforce– the company reported a 300% increase profitability, a 75% decrease in absenteeism, and was later recognized as one of the top 100 best places to work in the nation. The CEO is now part of the World Business Academy and speaks all over the world about Appreciative Inquiry.

In 2007, the board of directors for Dairy Management Inc. brought together more than 250 stakeholders from farms, academia, governmental and non-governmental organisations, and food retailers to focus on opportunities to build consensus for a ‘constitution for sustainable dairy’ and to find ways to spark sustainability innovations that would strengthen farm businesses, reduce GHG emissions for fluid milk by 25%, and increase business value. That first AI summit—a nation-wide and industry-wide summit– created consensus for action around 15 major projects and working groups that would attract US$238 million to support the action initiatives from enriched soil, to bio-digesters, to renewable energy, to educational packages, and new measurement systems. At the climate summit in Copenhagen, USDA Secretary Vilsack held out dairy’s AI work as a template for innovation in agriculture, and signed memorandum of understanding with the Innovation Centre for U.S. Dairy to work together to support and accelerate his innovation agenda, promising to provide government funding to support capital investment and research for GHG-related innovation (Whalen, 2010).

In April 2013 representatives from the effort, including the AI teams from Case Western Reserve University, were hosted and celebrated at the White House, not only in recognition of their achievements—everything from bio-digesters and the clean-up of rivers to the record drawdown of climate contaminants- but to recognise the innovative collaboration process and how it built trust with stakeholders from across the whole life-cycle value chain, from dairy farms at source to transportation systems, retailers, and the waste industry. Ten years later, this effort continues to grow and the Dairy Innovation Centre has become a model of AI Summit follow-up and action. How has it helped the industry? The Dairy Innovation Centre’s follow up study estimates that the sustainability initiatives added some $4.5 billion dollars to the dairy farmer’s economy.

How does the number one energy efficiency state in the US do its state-wide energy planning with a focus on capturing radical energy efficiencies and ‘paying it forward’ to build a future of renewable and advanced energy?

They design collaboratively: with 300 energy institutions in the room, leaders from business, government, and civil society used the strengths-based AI Summit. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick opened the meeting sharing why it’s so critical to do planning face to face with the whole system in the room—especially in contentious domains such as energy. In May 2012, National Grid, the Governor, and the state’s other utilities co-convened an unprecedented macro collaboration entitled ‘Massachusetts: Leading the Nation in the Energy Savings Revolution—Building a Better Tomorrow through Energy Efficiency Today’. Following the Summit, working groups created the official state-wide energy plans, and the collaboration unveiled a new three-year plan to deliver energy efficiency services that resulted in nearly US$9 billion in benefits to residents and businesses across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The whole system collaboration was soon recognised as a major innovation—receiving the prestigious award of ASEP in 2013—and Edward White, VP at National Grid, when receiving the award said: ‘The Appreciative Inquiry Summit was a great forum for us to connect directly with customers and others concerned with how energy affects our lives. Efforts like this exemplify why Massachusetts leads the nation in energy efficiency’.

Dennis J. Pitocco
Dennis J. Pitocco
Dennis is the Founder, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of our award-winning life, culture, and business new media digest, With an emphasis on action, our amazing writers empower people to transcend from knowing what to do to actually doing it. We are fueled by extraordinary thought leadership authored by some of the best and brightest minds from around the world. Today and every day, we simply deliver the very best Insights, Intelligence & Inspiration available anywhere. Period. More ABOUT US. He is also Founder & Chief Encouragement Officer of GoodWorks 360°, our affiliated global nonprofit social impact enterprise, dedicated to providing mission-critical pro bono services to good nonprofits worldwide. Connect with him on Linkedin to learn more about his background. Dennis is a contributing author to the Best-Selling Book Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational Change.


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