Nailing Down The Art of Appreciative Inquiry

Discover, Dream, Design and Destiny

The process of “appreciative inquiry” gives your company a boost by leveraging what you already do well.

  • Discover the “best of what is”—they identified where the company’s processes worked perfectly.
  • Dream “what might be” —they envisioned processes that would work perfectly all the time.
  • Design “what should be”—they defined and prioritized the elements of perfect processes.
  • Create a Destiny based on “what will be”—they participated in the creation of the design.

Source: The Art of Appreciative Inquiry

Message: Focus and build on what works.

Result: What you focus on grows.

Appreciative Inquiry is commonly applied to organizational & community development, but it can also be applied to individual growth and development–as well as those ‘one man shows’ a lot of us are building online.

“When you focus on what works and you dream of the possibilities, it’s very inspiring to people,” says GMCR’s Stiller. “It was very neat for me to see the energy it created.”

What kind of energy are you creating for yourself and your online business? I realize that can sound a bit “Voodoo Babble”, but think about it this way:

When we look at what we’re “doing right” and “what’s working for us” and “what’s producing results”, we get motivated–and that builds momentum (energy). And every movement forward is a step closer to our goal which then feeds on itself and produces more motivation and more momentum. So => What you’re focusing on is growing or building.

Sometimes though we get stuck on looking at “what’s not right” or “what I can’t do” or “what I don’t have” or “what’s not working”. And when we focus on that–that’s the kind of energy that’s growing and soon we find ourselves stuck or dissatisfied or lost or hands in the air discouraged. And we haven’t moved a single step closer to the goal–which then feeds on itself and produces more discouragement. So => What you’re focusing on is growing or building.

Got it? ;).

In Organizational development (OD), Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a process for engaging people across the system in renewal, change and focused performance.

Source: Appreciative Inquiry – Wikipedia

Discover: Write down all the things that are working for you online. What are the things you are doing right? What actions are producing the results that you want? What are you happy with and find fulfilling?

Dream: What would you like to achieve online? Give yourself permission to get Darn Good & Crazy!

Design: Define each step it will take to make your Dream reality. Prioritize them.

Create Destiny: For each of the steps you outlined above, implement them. Act on them. Execute them. Outsource or hire help if you have to.

Oversimplified? You tell me. Ultimately it all comes down to individual choice and action. You choose what to focus on and you choose the actions you’re making. The results you produce are directly related to your focus and actions.

Nice way to start the week I think ;).

More Reading:

Locating the Energy for Change: An Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry (pdf file)

Observing Remembrance Day In Canada

In Flanders' FieldsLiving in Canada we’re raised with a healthy respect for our Veterans. Our system isn’t perfect I’m sure, but we provide well for our Veterans in terms of pensions, health benefits and take care of their spouses. AFAIK we’ve never allowed our vets to suffer from poor health care or substandard long term care. As they’ve grown older we have veterans homes established to take care of them as well as provide in-home support as needed (nurses and home care aids visit homes). Sometimes even light housekeeping is provided. After WWII the city I live in carved out a nice section of land for our vets and sold them the property for cheap to build homes for their families. The area today is high value since the lot sizes are huge, much bigger than anywhere else in our city.

On one side of my family (paternal) the boys all lined up to fight during WWII. The youngest didn’t meet the age requirement–but off he went. Today he’d never get away with it, but back then he flat out lied about how old he was. I don’t know if it was because the boys believed so strongly in the war, or if they were just trying to escape the farm ;). My great-uncles never really talked about the war and what their experience was, and the nosey kids (mainly me) were never allowed to ask them about it–but they all returned home whole. My Great-Grandmother was never without her rosary beads and I have no doubt she prayed night and day. I can’t imagine what it would be like for a woman to have all her sons fighting in a war so far from home.

One uncle never did seem to recover psychologically–he never married and prefers to keep to himself (he’s in his 80’s now). We’re not sure what happened to him or what he saw/did, but the war did seem to break something in him–another consequence of war. He’s a lovely man and we all shelter and protect him in our own way.

My husband’s side of the family wasn’t as fortunate and his uncle lost his life somewhere over the Netherlands after serving three years (he was in the air force). Looking at pictures of him you see a strong, vibrant, healthy, handsome man who was proud to serve his country. His mother was devastated and never fully recovered.

Recently the city I live in had a memorial for a soldier who was killed in Afghanistan. Yes, Canadians are sacrificing and dying in the middle east too. He was only a few years older than my son, and I can’t help but realize that being a soldier really is a calling from within. Not everyone has such a strong desire to serve, or believes that their efforts will help, or has the courage to do so. But thankfully the rest of us can enjoy the freedoms that others believe so strongly in fighting for.

I don’t think there are many families in Canada who haven’t had at least one family member serve during one of the wars, or even somewhere in the middle east or around the world today serving as peace keepers. Today we Canadians from coast to coast will be wearing poppies:

Wikipedia – Remembrance Day

The poppy’s significance to Remembrance Day is a result of Canadian military physician John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields. The poppy emblem was chosen because of the poppies that bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their red colour an appropriate symbol for the bloodshed of trench warfare. A Frenchwoman by the name of Madame E. Guérin introduced the widely used artificial poppies given out today. Some people choose to wear white poppies, which emphasises a desire for peaceful alternatives to military action. The sale of red poppies raises funds to help ex-servicemen – the sale of white poppies does not.

I love being a Canadian, and I’m proud that our country remembers and is supportive of its vets. I hope I see a lot of poppy wearing people out and about today ;).

On The Prowl For A Forum For Women

Here’s what I’m looking for:

  • A forum for women who are savvy online and involved with various online projects
  • Isn’t focused on ‘moms’ or ‘kids’ or ‘huggles’ or ‘cutsey’ and dollz characters for avatars or big glitter sigs
  • Isn’t too hardcore with main features being interviews of CEOs, Fortune 500 companies and all that jazz

Basically I’m looking for a place that’s geared towards women doing different things online.

I’m a mom, have a hubby, and I hug people (no really I do!), but I’m not interested in bringing that online or surrounding myself with grown women that sweety baby talk or where the focus is on being a mom, working at home as a mom, or juggling business as a mom. Anything with “WAHM” in the domain or folder area is automatically out.

Not looking for a place filled with posters that need a lot of hand holding and “how do I upload a picture online” or “what’s an ftp client” stuff. Savvy online women.

I’m looking for drama-free. No fights online, and no folders devoted to crying about hubby, kids, jobs, money, PMS, whatever. Also forum folders for shoe shopping and makeup tips is *NOT* what I’m looking for.

Isn’t focused on real world business people. I just find that too boring and dry–hence the “no CEO/Fortune 500 interview features” type thing.

Main focus: Quietly discuss online activities and brainstorm with women that know what they’re doing. Preferably not involved with the internet marketing scene (building lists/namesqueeze pages/clickbank promotions) or the ever popular–Adsense mania.

Is there such a place? You can post a link here in the comments or zap me a note privately.

ETA: I removed ‘blog’ from the equation. I realize that it’s just a forum I’m looking for. Also added “WAHM” as a signal for “no”.

So forums only please ;).

Herding The Herd

The value is determined by the market.

The market is the herd.

The herd can be manipulated.

Is your blog or website hardcore kick butt? Awesome resources, excellent content, but the traffic (or market) isn’t pushing things along (providing inbound links, comments, net chatter)? Do you even have traffic?

Does your blog or website have a competitor with substandard content, or at least not as good as yours? And yet the market (herd) responds to it in high gear?

Rule #1:

You don’t determine what’s valuable and what isn’t–the market does. Give the market what it wants or what it’s ready for.

Rule #2:

The market (herd) can be manipulated.

If you think a particular market is too savvy to be manipulated–you’re probably wrong-o. Watch competitors who are successfully manipulating chatter and achieving results. You’re bound to recognize herd signals (things that manipulate the market to act and respond in ways that keep the momentum moving).

Ask yourself:

If someone I look up to says “Blog ABC is great”, do I accept that without question? If what I consider an authority blog steadily points to “Blog ABC”, do I readily transfer internally that same authority to “Blog ABC”?

If I see a lot of action on a blog post (inbound links, digg counts, comments, outside blog chatter), do I accept that post as high value and participate in the ‘word spread’ or buzz myself? Even if initially (before seeing all the response) my reaction to the blog post was: So What/Old News/Light Piece?

Chances are you have found yourself running with the herd a time or two and not even know how it happened or why.

The market typically isn’t mainly comprised of Critical Thinkers, but more Group Thinkers. And Group Thinkers only need a few triggers to keep the momentum going and the herd running.

Herding:

Herding is the act of bringing individual animals together into a group (herd), maintaining the group and moving the group from place to place—or any combination of those.

Herd

When an association of animals (or, by extension, people) is described as a “herd”, the implication is that the group tends to act together (for example, all moving in the same direction at a given time), but that this does not occur as a result of planning or co-ordination. Rather, each individual is choosing behaviour that corresponds to that of the majority of other members, possibly through imitation or possibly because all are responding to the same external circumstances.

Once you recognize how valuable Group Thinkers can be and how manipulating the herd effectively can create a force and momentum that propels you forward (traffic, authority, net chatter, sales, etc.) remember: Do No Evil ;).

Dealing With Customers Fresh Off The Crazy Train

The frontlines: I’ve done everything from serve fries, cut fabric, collect money, answer phones, outbound calling (ick), counter sales, sales cold calling, to whatever there is to do when dealing with clients and customers. And I’ll tell you right now: There are crazy people out there. And they can make things extremely *difficult* if you don’t deal with them appropriately.

Tone is everything. It can diffuse a customer time bomb immediately and effortlessly.

Voice tone is easy to manage when you’re dealing with customers over the phone or in person, but how to set the tone online when communication by email? They can’t hear your voice, can’t hear the sincerity or the concern or the willingness to help.

Scenario:

  • Customer buys a downloadable report/ebook/script/template or whatever.
  • PayPal payment goes through effortlessly.
  • Hosting burps just at that moment and the download page reads: Page Not Found.
  • Customer immediately bombs your email with “You Scam”, “You Stole My Money”, “I’m Reporting You To PayPal”, “Where Is My Report You Asshole”, “I’ll Make Sure You Never Sell Online Again”, “I’m Reporting You To the FTC and the FBI”, “GIVE ME MY MONEY BACK”, “You Messed With The Wrong Person” and so on.

A dozen screaming emails from one customer within an hour–due to a simple hosting burp that you had no control over. And you’re instantly tagged as an online terrorist in this customer’s mind.

You know you’re not a scam, you know you have full intentions of fulfilling the transaction, but they don’t know that. All they know is that they paid and they got jack.

Every person’s fear when buying online just became real to them: Pay Cash, Get Jack.

What do you do? At this point you don’t know the hosting burped, you just know you had a sale and now the customer has gone off the deep end. Do you reply:

  • WTF is your problem you I-D-I-O-T, give me a chance at least to fix this before you call me a scam.
  • You must have done something wrong, the download page loads as soon as you make your payment. I checked it, it’s fine. Here’s the download link again: [insert link].
  • Huh, that’s weird. The download page works just fine for me. Here it is again: [insert link].
  • Here’s your refund, don’t ever buy anything from me ever again.

The first three will kick the crazy train into warp speed and you’ve just drastically bumped up the reality of a refund being insisted on. Guaranteed. You’ve laid the faulty sales transaction at the feet of the customer. He/she doesn’t know what happened or what went wrong, all they know is that they paid you money and you didn’t deliver. You told them it was their fault. Wrong answer. They will either take it and not be happy about it, or they’ll fire off one support request after another. And then ask for a refund.

The fourth response may shed you of Mr. Crazy, but it’s also an invite for the especially pizzed off to now stalk you and scream like a lunatic on every forum and blog for miles around about how crappy your product is and what a scam you are :roll:.

How to diffuse the situation?

  • [Insert Name] I am so sorry you didn’t receive your download immediately, here’s the link for the item you purchased [insert link here]. Can you tell me what happened once you made your payment? Did you receive an error page or did PayPal forward you anywhere or did everything just freeze?

You’ve now sliced the chance of a refund request down to a minimum threat level. And you’ll have a good chance of finding out just what happened, chances are they’ll respond to you.

Customers who are unreasonable and madder than all hell can push your buttons with their nonsense, but the biggest problem that you want to avoid is that they’ll eat up huge, huge chunks of your time. Diffuse the situation immediately, set the “I’m going to make this right for you” tone right off the bat, clear up the prob immediately, and you’re in the clear.

Most times ;).