Thursday, June 23, 2005

Appreciative Inquiry and Data

Dr. Roni Horowitz works with a technique called ASIT for creative problem solving and frequently poses interesting scenarios. While admitting that I don't always understand the solutions and am somewhat mathematically challenged, sometimes I do "get it" and appreciate the approach. The latest newsletters are about the theories of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, the human need to categorize information and the difficulty of transferring learning from one category to another. One of the outcomes of this tendency is that when "problem solving" we naturally look at that information categorized as "related to the problem". As Dr. Horowitz says
The problem is that some information may not seem relevant to the PROBLEM, but may be highly relevant to the SOLUTION.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons for the successes of the appreciative inquiry approach? AI examines information in the context of the solution and causes us to accesses that data set that we have categorized, consciously or not, as related to solutions. In this process we look at problem related data, but presumably only data that also relates to solutions plus solution related data that we would not access in the problem category.

Maybe in our information overloaded world, this is one of the reasons that AI seems to generate energy and movement. It gets us past that "analysis paralysis" of trying to figure out what data might mean and moves to an inquiry into how to get more of what we want. Asking "what do we need to know" in the context of the solution, guides what we need to measure and what numbers are important. Hopefully (funny how it always comes to that leap of faith) this broader data set, supports the possibilities of generating multiple solutions across different disciplines. And to emphasise for the "Yeah Butters" who still say that AI ignores tough problems - problem related data is synthesized/analysed in context of the potential solutions or desired outcome, it is not ignored.

There's more. For the full quote from Dr. Horowitz...

" We need categories to be able to handle the huge amount of information we use and control. That's why we have a hierarchy of folders and files in our computer, and that's why universities are categorized into faculties and departments. I remember seeing a quote mentioning that it's a pity
nature isn't divided into the same categories as universities. Categorization helps us, but can also prevent us from using what we know about one field in another. There is a well known problem in education called the transference problem. If you teach something in one context, students most likely will not be able to use that knowledge in another. Have you ever had the experience of having met someone regularly in a particular place but found it difficult to recognize him in another?

A rigid budget system is also organized hierarchically according to categories. Even individuals unconsciously create a budget system. In one of their experiments K&T found that if a person purchases theater tickets at say, $100 and accidentally loses them, he will NOT buy new tickets. But if that person lost $100 he would still go and buy the theater tickets on the same day. The explanation is that after purchasing the tickets, the money already "belongs" to the theater budget. When lost, new tickets are not purchased because the "theater budget" has been spent. When losing $100, the money had not yet been "assigned" to a certain budget category, so the theater budget is still available.

When solving problems we also use a categorization system to help us deal with the vast amount of data involved. For example, we make an almost automatic distinction between what's relevant to the problem and what's not.

The problem is that some information may not seem relevant to the PROBLEM, but may be highly relevant to the SOLUTION. ASIT, by forcing us to consider ALL elements of the problem's closed world helps us loosen up this rigid distinction.

Sign up for Dr. Roni Horowitz's ASIT TECHNIQUE FOR A WEEK - Creativity and Inventive Thinking Number 230
June 23, 2005

If there's more, read it here...

Saturday, June 11, 2005

HBS Working Knowledge: Leadership: Don't Listen to "Yes"

If people smile, nod, and say 'yes' at your company, maybe it's time to start an argument. According to HBS professor Michael Roberto, the lack of good, constructive conflict within an organization makes it that much harder to accurately evaluate business ideas and make important decisions.

"Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer: Managing for Conflict and Consensus (Wharton School Publishing)" looks at the results of not creating an atmosphere where disagreement is encouraged and explored. On the premise that constructive conflict, when leveraged well, surfaces more information, Roberto outlines steps to spark positive conflict (emphasis always on "positive"), hear all views and then make decisions. 'Keeping conflict constructive helps to build decision commitment, and therefore facilitates implementation,' says Roberto.

Hmmm...we know that inclusion, encourages participation and participation builds commitment. Exclusion creates resistance and unconstructive criticism - imagine all those left out people standing on the side lines, arms folded and yelling at the referee.

In the context of the "Wisdom of the Crowd", maybe there is a role for a caring devils advocate who's sole job is to make sure that "group think" means that the group is really thinking? Maybe uncontested concensus is a slippery slope to complacency and on to entropy...hmmm.

If there's more, read it here...