Feature: A Positive Approach to Team Development

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Smiling crowd When looking at team development do you focus on the problems or the things that are going well? If it's the latter, then you're taking an Appreciative Inquiry approach. It's a positive, optimistic philosophy, that Barry Bailey, Director of Programmes for Mobile Team Challenge, says gets to the core of team beliefs and performance.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an approach, a methodology, a way of perceiving and interacting that transforms the way we experience human systems and organisations. Basically, it is an approach that seeks to discover what gives life to organisations and individuals, to uncover the positive core at work when a person or group is at its best. AI is grounded in extensive research across diverse fields (from medicine to education to cultural anthropology). This research underscores the concept that what we believe in and focus on determines our outcome and how we reach it. AI proposes we focus on assets and positive, desired outcomes in order to facilitate change and success.

The AI process can be used to identify when individuals and organisations are at their best, identify assets, and engage in the process of dreaming—where does the group want to go? Instead of needs and problems, individuals and organisations identify personal capabilities and the organisation's "positive core". They also develop visions for the organisation based upon this positive core, a means for achieving that vision, and the enthusiasm and motivation to bring it into reality.

Definition
In applying the AI process, the initial step is the Definition, where the guiding principles are identified; here we clarify goals or the desired outcome. AI then proposes four additional steps toward achieving the desired outcome:
1. Discovery - where stories of past successes are shared in a carefully designed interview process.
2. Dream - where visions of the ideal future are imagined and shared.
3. Design - where bold statements are developed that support movement toward the dream based upon the positive core identified during Discovery.
4. Destiny/Delivery - where actual steps are taken toward making the dream reality.

Facilitator
Ultimately these are the same goals a facilitator has for a group. A facilitator starts with the definition guiding inspiration—what outcome does the group desire?

The ultimate goal of the facilitator is to:
* Enable the group to develop an awareness of their inherent skills and abilities.
* Learn new and valuable skills and insights.
* Recognize how things "could work in the best of all possible worlds.
* Design a plan for how to actually make it happen.

The experiential facilitator does this through activities designed specifically to draw out the desired skills and abilities within the context of "working" on challenges.

Appreciative debriefing will lead the group through the four AI phases:

1. Discovery: How did you succeed at this event? What group skills did you use? When was the group at its best? What did you value about one another in this process? What did you value about yourself?

2. Dream: Imagine you return to work and overnight something incredible has occurred. When you arrive at work, you know that everything that was learned today will be continued in the workplace. As you look around, interact, and begin work you are convinced this is the case. What changes do you see/hear/feel that enable you to conclude this? What is different about the people? About you? About the atmosphere? About interactions? What role do yon play in bringing this about?

3. Design: Specifically what have you learned from this activity that will support the vision just described? What does everyone have to agree to and commit to? What specifically will you do?

4. Destiny/Delivery: Well, you will have the chance to carry out that design in the next event. It will be a great opportunity to practice and to see if there are additional concepts or skills you will want to add.

Experiential Learning
There is a perfect fit between the AI Process and the Experiential Learning model. The goals are similar, the phases of AI match the phases of the Experiential Learning Model, and the AI principles (below) are a perfect guide for the Appreciative Facilitator's practice:
* The way we know is fateful. Groups will become aware, understand and know what they did on activities by the questions that are asked. The way they understand what they experienced is fateful; it will effect their future actions. Therefore, appreciative facilitators take to heart the importance of their language, attitude, style, and focus of attention.
* Change begins the moment you ask the first question. The group will move in the direction the facilitator directs. Appreciative facilitators craft their questions carefully in order to support positive change for the group.
* We are open books. Appreciative facilitators choose to look for and focus on the group at its best, where they are successful, and where they are developing and changing in relation to the desired outcome. Deep change results from active images of the future. Questions and language create images for listeners; change results when images of the future are active. Since facilitators ask lots of questions, appreciative facilitators pay attention to the questions they ask. They find ways to help groups develop strong, active future images of how they will apply the lessons they have learned. In addition to discussion, they may use poetry, journaling, sculpting, drawing, or photography.
* The more positive the question, the greater and longer lasting the change. Appreciative facilitators craft unconditionally positive questions, making sure that all aspects of their communication convey the question in unconditionally positive terms (body language verbiage, tone, etc.)

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