Appreciative Inquiry Summit, 1 Week Out: Riding the Purpose Train

Summit Heroic Spirit StageOne week after this organization left an appreciative inquiry summit with burning passion, I’ve checked on the status of Fathom’s many visions for the future that came out of it. I’m pleased to report things are in full swing. Groups have been reassembling. Tasks and responsibilities are being assigned. Emails and prototypes are flying around. Purpose is in the air.

Another exciting development is that NE Ohio is jumping on the purpose train. By sheer coincidence, on Wednesday of this week, many area leaders (Fathom CEO Scot Lowry among them) convened at Case Western Reserve’s BVU Center for Nonprofit Excellence to listen to Imperative CEO Aaron Hurst and talk about their own blueprints for creating more purpose within their organizations, both at the individual and corporate levels. All this focus on purpose has me thinking …

What can appreciative inquiry and increased employee engagement mean for your organization?

#1: Rallying around a common plan for the future can enhance a group’s sense of purpose and boost long-term value … if it’s courageous enough to do the work itself. Therein lies the rub: Great rewards require great risks. The kind of sustainable organizational transformation preached by David Cooperrider and advocates of “systems thinking” and “design thinking” (schools of thought that examine group dynamics, interdisciplinary communication and principles of productivity) starts with getting everybody into one room. Then you need to make the time to do what you said you were going to do.

So far, Fathom is moving right along the path to achieving its collective goals. Most notably, the energy is still palpable. 9 days out, people still have a noticeable excitement when talking about what their respective groups are doing, and they are eager to contact other groups across the company for related skills, initiatives and “people power.” This kind of momentum feeds upon itself, and this same energy is available to your organization as long as you’re starting with the right people (i.e., those open to embracing it).

#2: If you’re working with Fathom, you’re going to be benefiting from the coming innovations … and from interacting with people who have great élan. To elaborate more on the energy, you’re going to be collaborating with people who are genuinely excited about growing your organization and want to help transform it in the exact same way they’re inspired to transform Fathom itself. This highly motivated group will be extra-creative and productive, leaving powerful influences on your sales, marketing and overall branding. If you weren’t already excited, knowledge of this reality should get your gears cranking.

It’s still early in this game, but what I see as a few of the lasting legacies of an appreciative inquiry summit (or explicitly purpose-driven workplace) are:

  • It keeps walls down.
  • Barriers to authentic communication are weakened.
  • People are more willing to step outside of their department, work area or business unit.

(This destruction of boundaries is crucial when you consider the size of Fathom’s corporate HQ, a 2nd office being situated in another city and the general prevalence of telecommuting … a.k.a., remote working). If communication is as powerful a force in human relationships as history says it is, then I’d bet any phenomenon that increases both the frequency and quality of true communication is worth the investment.

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