“I came to Jane’s session at NTL and she rocked my life with film clips of Kenya helping people to find their voice.” David Cooperrider‘s description of his first meeting with Jane Magruder Watkins back in the mid 1980s.
After that fateful meeting at NTL, Jane became David’s mentor (he was still a graduate student at Case Western Reserve University). She saw in the Appreciative Inquiry research methodology the opportunity to use it in the organizational development field. She began to explore this new approach to organizational development by and she began by taking David to work with her in Africa on the GEM project. In that moment a life-long relationship began, one that has grown stronger over the years. Jane and David began the process of co-creating the field of Appreciative Inquiry and in their generous and heartfelt way, have invited others into the co-creation process.
A special moment
I just came back from a magical weekend in Williamsburg, Virginia. Dawn Dole, Jackie Stavros, Megan Tschannen-Moran and I designed and hosted the Appreciative Inquiry – Past, Present, Future conference (February 2016). Our goal was to bring our Appreciative Inquiry colleagues and friends together to celebrate the wonderful contributions that my / our mentor Jane Magruder Watkins has made to the field of Appreciative Inquiry over the last 30+ years.
Jane has ‘cognitive aging’ and while she may not always immediately recall someone’s name or where they met, she is so present in the moment. As she likes to say “my brain is not working as well as it has in the past” but you can truly feel her heartfelt presence. She is present to me in the moment – whether I am with her or we are apart. People commented how much they felt her presence and positive energy, she was truly engaged with each of us in the moment.
At the conference a colleague mentioned that he felt that you cannot do transformational change unless people attended our traditional 4 or 5 day Appreciative Inquiry training program. Now the course is great and I invite you to get in touch with me if you want to learn more about it .. however, as David describes in the quote about – in a moment as he listened to Jane talk about her work, she ‘rocked’/changed his life. Jane was challenging the traditional NGO format of ‘telling’ people what to do rather than the transformational change process of inviting them into dialogue to talk about and imagine what they can do. That meeting was a marriage of wisdom and experience (Jane) and insight and transformational thinking (David). In a moment that has lasted a lifetime, their energy and ideas collided, sparking the start of what some of us fondly call the Appreciative Inquiry Movement.
This weekend with Jane and David and about 50 other friends and colleagues was a gift that I will always treasure and savour. I felt that time stood still and I had the luxury of being in the moment for two days with those I love.
Axiom News article on the conference: Savouring the Gifts in the Appreciative Inquiry Community.
Tips from Jane Magruder Watkins:
How we can be in the ‘moment’ and seize that opportunity to reframe from the negative to seeing the possibility:
- Ask yourself (aloud or quietly) “Isn’t that interesting” – a chance to pause and reflect upon how you are responding to the moment.
- Another way to use the “isn’t that interesting” is when you are in conversation and you find yourself having a reaction or judgment to someone or something they said – stop and say “isn’t that interesting, tell me more …”
- Remember “It’s not about you” – try to not take it personally. Learn to move to the balcony from the dance floor and observe the situation. This can help us to reduce the anxiety that we may be feeling.
- “Plan tight and hang loose.” Take the time to do the research, engage others, create a good plan AND be in the moment to recognize that some new information or insight has been uncovered and be prepared to ‘redesign in the moment’.
- “Up until now” is a way to accept what is now or in the past and try replacing the words “I always, you never, I can’t” etc. with this phrase is a way of letting our brains know that what we may have perceived in the past as undoable is now a possibility. David Rock of NeuroLeadership uses the phrase ‘yet‘.
- “Just start spreading a positive virus and watch it grow.” What we focus on we get more of and so if we start to help others reframe to find, even in the most dire of circumstances that which gives life – we create a shift.
- When someone would press Jane to give a definitive answer to ‘how to do Appreciative Inquiry’, she would often respond with “It just depends.” and as people became more experienced and again ask about how to “do” Appreciative Inquiry, she would laugh and say “It just doesn’t matter.”
Call to action:
How can we in the ‘moment’ ask a generative and curious question that will engage everyone in the exploration and creation of a new way of seeing and being in the world?
What will you do to help yourself (and others) slow down and be in the moment?
My passion is helping clients achieve a high ROE (Return On Energy through positive engagement). That positive engagement can be nurtured through Innovation Works series of “Change Conversations” where in the ‘moment’ we can generate the positive human energy that will fuel innovation and help ourselves, our teams, our departments, our organizations and communities and ultimately the universe to flourish. Contact me if you would like to learn more about our Change Conversation series. (firstname.lastname@example.org)