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The Upside of Change

If one thing has become certain across organisational landscapes, it's the unrelenting pace of change. Many companies are responding to the ever-changing market dynamics and artificial intelligence, whilst others are merely attempting to maintain their footing.

Unfortunately, the ambiguity and uncertainty that accompany change are taking their toll on individuals and teams. Decision fatigue through change is also affecting our leaders. However, if we aren't constantly changing ~ as individuals and organisations ~we're simply not growing. The question is how do we establish change as a positive process rather than something to be feared?

We all respond to change differently, and historically models have been developed to identify these differences. Change response has been likened with our response to grief in that we go through multiple phases from shock to acceptance and ultimately integration. Kubler-Ross identify these phases through the change curve (below) and emphasises that it's not always a fluid process. Often we take one step forward and then, unknowingly, two steps back.

The behaviours that accompany the phases of change can be both debilitating and empowering, and by focusing on the positive, the potential and possibility, you can ensure that you (& your team) feel empowered.

The Appreciative Inquiry approach to change and transition is a positive framework that focuses on organisational strengths and the possibilities rather than weaknesses and restrictions. Developed by world renowned sociologist Professor David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva (1980) AI has been described as:

".....the search for the best in people, their organisations, and the strengths-filled, opportunity-rich world around them. AI is not so much a shift in the methods and models of organisational change, but AI is a fundamental shift in the overall perspective taken throughout the entire change process to ‘see’ the wholeness of the human system and to “inquire” into that system’s strengths, possibilities, and successes."

Stavros, Jacqueline, Godwin, Lindsey, & Cooperrider, David. (2015).

We possess a traditional, deficit-based problem-solving mind set ~ it's sometimes easier for us to initially identify an important gap, issue, or problem (what we want less of) instead of reframing it into what we want more of. The approach of AI is that, regardless of what an organisation is going through, there is positive at it’s core: peak experiences, best practices, success stories, strengths and key learnings. Focusing on the positive creates momentum and an upward spiral of innovation and agility.

4-D Cycle of Appreciative Inquiry

Discovery - utilise interviews to elicit stories of what is working well, highlight successes, identify strengths. Identify elements common to the moments of greatest success and fulfilment.

Dream - what does your ideal world/system look like? Note behaviours, processes, people.

Design - combines the first two stages and starts the build phase. It's about ongoing improvisation and tweaking.

Destiny (or Delivery) - is where the rubber meets the road. Launch a pilot team and if working on a large-scale program, definitely stage the process.

People keep talking about the 'future of work' when in reality the future is here and we need to accept that change will not only be inevitable, but enduring.

Our approach to change matters to both our adaptation and to the adaptation of the collective and let's face it, change is necessary for both our personal and professional growth. Focus on the upside and the possibilities and you'll develop the agility and flexibility needed for today and tomorrow.

Kirsten works with individuals, teams and organisations through initiatives in leadership, well-being & change. Contact her today to tap into your change potential.


Stavros, J. M., Godwin, L. N., & Cooperrider, D. L. (2015). Appreciative inquiry: Organization development and the strengths revolution. Practicing organization development: Leading transformation and change, 96-116.

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