Organizations that would be learning organizations develop
from a solid understanding of twin concepts: appreciative
inquiry and the community
On a long road trip back from one capital city in the Middle
East to another, a consultant and his client considered
how to deliver a ethics/compliance program assessment document
to a major institution. The draft language had been rejected
by its management as unduly negativeculturally offensive.
The problem was not with the recommendations; they recognized
their value. Management was just opposed to the formal surfacing
of the negative findings that supported the conclusions
that were the basis of the recommendations.
On the face of it, the ethics of consulting seemed to require
withdrawal from the project. In recognizing and respecting
the values of the client, it is nonetheless important to
recognize and respect one's own. Though recognizing and
respecting cultural differences, the organizational norm
for the consultant was communicating the "unvarnished
truth" to management.
As the sun set and the night deepened, the consultant mused
to the client: "It's really an issue of whether the
glass is half-empty or half-full, isn't it? If we surface
where they want to go as an institution, and 'find'
what they are doing right, we can reach the same recommendations
as to what they need to do next, without being negative."
Thus was born, in my mind, the notion of "constructive
ethics." Making recommendations for more effective
ethics/compliance program based upon a firm sense ("findings")
of where the organization wants to go and what it is doing
right as it strives to get there. Conclusions and recommendations
relate to what needs to be done to go further.
It was years later that I learned of the philosophical
approach to knowledge known as appreciative inquiry
and integrated it with the much older notion of the community
of inquiry. Organizations that would be "learning
organizations" develop from a solid understanding
of these twin concepts.
Here are some favorite online resources for appreciative
The Taos Institute
Assistance Program: Appreciative Inquiry
Inquiry Resource Centre Newsletter
Inquiry in Organizational Life, David L. Cooperrider
and Suresh Srivastva
the energy for change: An introduction to appreciative inquiry
Inquiry Project Beyond problem analysis: Using appreciative
inquiry to design and deliver environmental, gender equity
and private sector development projects