Instead of asking, “what’s new?” ask, “what’s working?”
Instead of asking, “who failed?” ask, “what are our strengths?”
Instead of asking, “how do I feel?” ask, “how are others reacting?”
Instead of asking, “what went wrong?” ask, “what does ‘high functioning’ look like?”
Instead of asking, “why did we make that choice?” ask, “what do we value?”
Conventional wisdom regarding how an individual or group can get better (at anything) is to identify faults, weaknesses, and gaps in past performance, find solutions, and fix them. But when we ask questions that focus on problems, we tend to reap answers that uncover even more complications. Or, we might hope that we can get better by focusing on the next new thing. Perhaps we just need more technology. Or the new case for support. “This,” we tell ourselves, “will make us successful.”
Sustained success, though, is rather simple to understand. When we authentically and consistently seek answers to questions that are future-oriented, positive, and focused on others as whole people, we will get more helpful responses. And when we persistently apply these responses to our practice, our work, and our life, we get better.
Playing to our strengths, living into our values, and seeking the best in people and in the institutions we serve helps remind us of our many gifts and graces and energizes us to become better.
Appreciative inquiry works.