Appreciating the fine art of envisioning beyond the acorn

From Canada’s Leading Daily, Globe and Mail
POSTED ON 05/07/06 

Some people look at an acorn and see an acorn. Others look at an acorn and can see the mighty oak that will exist some day in the future. 

Those who can envision the oak are likely to be successful. They have what academics Tojo Thatchenkery and Carol Metzker call appreciative intelligence -- a positive, creative, entrepreneurial ability that will help them to excel.

"By using appreciative intelligence at work, organizations can build a culture that increases and perpetuates the incidence of success and innovation," the authors write.



Appreciative Intelligence®
Seeing the Mighty Oak in the Acorn

By Tojo Thatchenkery and Carol Metzker
Appeared in ExecuBooks

Appreciative Intelligence is the ability to perceive the positive inherent generative potential within the present. Put in a simple way, Appreciative Intelligence is the ability to see the mighty oak in the acorn. Charles Pellerin, the former director of NASA’s astrophysics division, displayed Appreciative Intelligence when a flawed mirror sent blurred images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Instead of viewing that as a failed mission, he reframed the situation as a project that wasn’t yet completed. He found a solution and gained the funding to implement it.

In 1979, Rotarians, led by their president, Clem Renouf, decided to devote themselves to eradicating polio in the world. Instead of viewing it as a medical problem, they reframed it as an organizational challenge. They focused on Rotarians’ organizational skills, leadership, talents and resources as the key to a solution. They saw a positive solution — a world without polio — and envisioned a string of managerial decisions and organizational operations to achieve it. Appreciative Intelligence is the ability that allows people like those to take new or challenging circumstances and turn them into golden opportunities and enriching experiences. Appreciative Intelligence has three components:
• Reframing.
• Appreciating the positive.
• Seeing how the future unfolds from the present.



The secret to highly successful people
Tojo Thatchenkery and Carol Metzker
From Ode issue 34 

Appreciative intelligence allows us to see what’s possible and make it happen.

When the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, the general public and scientists in the aerospace field both held high hopes. The world waited expectantly for answers to riddles of the universe that would be revealed by the telescope’s views of space.

But blurry images caused by a flawed mirror sent those hopes crashing to Earth. The U.S. Congress demanded an explanation for the failure. The project and its creators became the butt of jokes on late-night television. Stress and health problems afflicted many NASA engineers.

“It was traumatic,” says the former director of NASA’s astrophysics division, Charles Pellerin, who oversaw the launch of the Hubble. Nobody could see how to fix the problem.

Well, nobody except Pellerin.



Seeing the Future Unfold from the Present
By Tojo Thatchenkery & Carol Metzker

There are thousands of talented artists, business people, and creative individuals in the world. Many of them are able to reframe reality and appreciate the positive. But many of their projects or products do not succeed or survive in the marketplace because the crucial last component of Appreciative Intelligence is not present.

People with high Appreciative Intelligence are able to realize that unfolding the future from the present is a critical final step. They are able to recognize the role of environment or external factors in this process, and they have a unique ability to see how the generative potential of the present connects directly to the future. They can see how positive aspects of the current state could be directly applied to achieve goals.



Developing Your Appreciative Intelligence
By Tojo Thatchenkery & Carol Metzker

Appreciative Intelligence is the ability to see the generative potential in any situation—the oak within the acorn—and to actualize it. It is the subject of a new book of the same name by Prof. Tojo Thatchenkery (who studied under Academy Fellow David Cooperrider at Case Western) and Carol Metzker, published by Berrett-Koehler.

Through extensive research the authors have found that individuals with this ability can reframe situations, appreciate the positive, and see how the future unfolds from the present. They show four consistent traits: persistence, conviction that one’s actions matter, tolerance for uncertainty, and irrepressible resilience.


Articles Available on the Internet

David Cooperrider’s Preface for the Book:
Appreciative Inquiry Articles at AI Commons:
Appreciative Intelligence in the Law Firm: