Appreciative Awareness

In every system in nature, something works. Even if there are inefficiencies, or problems, there are always parts of the system that gets the job done. The same can be said for every society, organization, and group in the world today.

Even our own political system, which many people consider “broken”, still works properly in many ways. When people try to solve the problems and inefficiencies of these systems, they often go at it from a negative point of view. What is “wrong” and how they can “fix” it. I want to introduce another way of looking at things, a new way of problem solving: appreciative awareness.

Appreciative awareness is a problem-solving method where you assume that the solution to a problem is already there, you just need to find it. It completely reverses the usual way we think about fixing our issues. With traditional problem-solving, you essentially take apart a system, isolate the parts that aren’t working as you would like, and then focus entirely on them.

With appreciative awareness, you look at the entire system and all of the things that give it life and energy. You then build on those positive qualities. It is a positive method of problem-solving rather than a negative one.

By asking positive questions of people, you can build their enthusiasm and energy to enact positive change. When you do this with an entire workforce, you can unleash the positive core of your organization. This kind of viewpoint can magnify the good and automatically solve many problems in an organization. People will naturally gravitate towards what “works”.

Appreciative awareness isn’t easy, in fact, it can take quite a bit of work just to wrap your mind around it. We are so focused on looking for what is wrong that we have trouble seeing what is right. Here is how you can start to utilize your own positive energy to solve problematic situations:

1) Find the Positive Aspects of the Current Situation

You have to increase your positive awareness by figuring out what is working, both now and in the past. This includes personal strengths and characteristics of employees, managers, and your entire workforce.

Ask questions like “What aspects of the situation are working well at the moment?” Or “What strengths can you draw on to help you through this situation? What factors are in your favor rather than working against you?” Even in the worst situation, you can find positive things to focus on. By doing so, you will have a more positive outlook, and that can lead to a more positive outcome.

2) Apply Past Experience to Current Problems

One of the most valuable resources that we have is our past. Everyone has different experiences, different ways of looking at the world, all informed by their past. By identifying the key strengths, characteristics, and external resources that have helped you in your life, you can apply these same attributes to your current problem. Instead of looking upon past mistakes as regrettable, see them as lessons that will help you navigate your problems now.

Ask questions such as “What was the silver lining in the last problem that you faced?” and “Can you think of a similar situation in your past that you successfully navigated?” Finding these parallels and identifying these positives will help you put the issue into perspective and allow you to utilize your past experiences to help solve the problem.

3) Apply These Positive Attributes to the Situation

Now that you have identified some positive factors about yourself and your experience that could help you deal with the current situation, you should apply them! Utilize these strengths to help you address the problem.

Do you have support staff that can help you? Once you’ve developed a plan based on everything that you have going for you, you can enlist their help putting it into action. Capitalize on everything you have going for you, come at the problem from a positive and appreciative place, and you may be able to find a solution that you wouldn’t have if you focused on the negative aspects alone.

Contact Kathleen Joy, CEO of Lumiere Work to learn more