Note: This is part two of coverage of the 2007 Appreciative Inquiry Conference (Sept 16-19, Orlando, FL). Today was Tuesday, September 18, 2007, and the main events were a panel on how to run an AI Summit, a keynote by Peter Coughlan of IDEO, and many companies presenting their results in using AI and strengths.
How to Run an AI Summit
What is an AI Summit? An AI Summit is an event at which an organization gathers many people to learn how to reach its best potential. An AI Summit can be run with ten people or a thousand people.
Ron Fry, Professor and Chair of Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve University School of Management, ran the panel. Fry invited each panelist to answer the question of what new understandings for each panelist – if they were formulated – would increase human potential.
Jim Ludema, Professor of Organization Development at Benedictine University, built on yesterday’s speech by Martin Seligman, and Seligman’s division of the word happiness into the three lives – the Pleasant Life, the Engaged Life and the Meaningful Life. Ludema added to Seligman’s statement that Productivity, Growth, and Health follow the same path as happiness by formulating this question: “Could it be that fundamentally AI Summits are Centers of Human Happiness … and therefore incubators of Productivity, Growth, and Health?” Ludema went further by dividing the 4D’s of Appreciative Inquiry into the three lives that Seligman introduced:
- Discovery – using core strengths, i.e. engagement
- Dream – meaning … something bigger
- Design – engagement
- Destiny – engagement and meaning
Jane Watkins, organizational consultant and author of many books about AI, focused on three topics: Imagination, Wholeness, and Sustainability. Calling wholeness the “overarching principle of AI,” Watkins gave several examples of how wholeness works, including example in team sports. Suppose that two high school teams will compete at football. Then the entire vibe appears to be all about the competition, but it you think about the two teams, they agreed when to meet to play, they agreed on the rules of football. They even agreed on the uniforms to wear. Thus, argues Watkins, cooperation and competition are in the same area of wholeness.
Frank Barrett, Professor at the Naval Post-Graduate School, conveyed three main points about AI:
- Doing precedes understanding (Barrett spoke of the “full body engagement” following Seligman’s use of engagement)
- Believed-in imagining becomes an “as if” skill
- Taking risks and making commitments in front of others
Furthermore, Barrett continued in describing the AI process as “play” and specifically as a “gigantic safe soapbox.” Barrett described the healthiness of play, and showed several of his own naval examples as videos of the AI summits of those days.
This morning panel’s thoughts were sharp and crisp enough for the audience that throughout the day, the audience discussed the morning’s references. For example, in many conversations, the same language appears: Ludema’s reference to Seligman’s three pathways to happiness, Jane Watkin’s wholeness and Frank Barrett’s “play.”
Peter Coughlan of IDEO and David Cooperrider
David Cooperrider introduced Peter Coughlan of IDEO. Peter Coughlan presented the IDEO model of innovation and design to the audience of about 500. Sitting in groups of eight or nine at round tables, members of the audience went through a design exercise with Coughlan’s guidance. Coughlan went through the main brainstorming rules, including “Defer Judgment,” “Be Visual,” and “Encourage Wild Ideas.” Coughlan also took the audience through a less structured brainstorming approach, describing that this is what most people do when they describe brainstorming, and then he took the audience through a more structured approach, including three specific questions that we were aiming to answer to make life easier for our one extreme particular user. Coughlan suggested that the goal in design is to choose an extreme user, and to build to that specific person.
Then he gave the audience a detailed description of the real person that needed help, and the audience got to work, initially with just brainstorming, and then after slight instruction, with prototype creation. Using tape, wrappers, candy, pens, stickers, large paper, pens, and other household supplies, each team created a prototype of the invention for the particular user.
What struck people that commented on the activity was how easy it was to create a prototype from paper and a few other items. And how difficult it is to come up with many many brainstormed ideas.
Companies That Have Used the AI Process
Companies that have presented on using AI and strengths during Monday or Tuesday sessions:
- Wal-Mart and sustainability
- HP Imaging and Printing Group and market share
- Yahoo! and leadership
- Austrian Bank and call center productivity
- BP Castrol Marine and business results
- Hospitals and public health centers in Mumbai, India and valuation of the AI process
- Japanese companies, including electric power company and digital camera manufacturer and training
- U.S. Cellular and leadership
- Tom’s of Maine and sustainability
- American Dietetic Association and leadership
- and others
Great report from the AI Summit. What were the real people examples for building the prototypes? Sounds like a useful exercise with groups.
Our example was “Suppose you want to help this 31-year-old guy who finds it hard to recycle and be sustainable. How can you make his work life make it easier for him to be sustainable?”
People came up with cool ideas. Reward systems, cup holders, robotic recycling cans. My group can up with a Mike’s Wheel of Fortune. When he does three environmental things in one day, he spins the wheel and gets whatever the prize points to. 🙂 It was fun to play.