Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to members of New Canaan Cats, a career transition group. The topic of my workshop was “Color Your Mind to a New Way of Thinking About Your Job Search”. (Long title but fun and informative night, not just for them, but for me as well.)
Everyone in the room found a partner and shared with that person an Aha! Moment (could be either personal or professional) for 7 minutes. After each person described their experience, they had to color with crayons the image that appeared to them when they were speaking. I had done this Appreciative Inquiry (AI) exercise with small business owners before and it was amazing how this group really got into it including requesting different color crayons, etc. I asked some to share their pictures with the entire group. Some of the pictures shared were pictures of Maine and one of a butterfly. The stories behind the pictures were truly memorable and ones I will never forget.
The concept of AI is to solve a problem “in the right way”. Many people, organizations, and managers focus on what we do wrong versus trying to identify what we do right, capitalize on it, and achieve even greater success. What I was looking for from the Cats group was to look at their job search in a different way, hopefully resulting in new ideas and avenues they had not tried before being implemented and that they would ultimately succeed in finding employment.
According to several resources including MindTools.com, AI is a 5 step approach which includes:
- Define the problem
- Discover what has happened well in the past
- Dream about the possibilities, reinforce what you learned in the discovery phase, and reinforce them as your strengths
- Design by looking at the practicalities needed to support the vision and figure out what strategies you need to implement
- Deliver (also known as Destiny) by implementing after you are confident you have focused enough attention on the first four steps.
The best part in my mind about AI is that it makes people feel good. The room was full of energy, laughs, and smiling faces which are important in trying to create new ideas. Many told me that they had planned on putting their artistic creations in a place that they could see it every day to remind them that anything can happen as long as they are open to the possibilities.
This exercise is so powerful that it can be used in many different settings – for job seekers, business owners, high potentials and for organizations looking for team building exercises. I would be interested to know if you have ever participated in an AI exercise and what the outcome was.