Pioneered by David Cooperrider and the late Suresh Srivastva of Case Western Reserve University in the late 1980s, AI has been attracting a growing following and its principles have been successfully applied to a diverse range of organisations including Nutrimental, Hunter Douglas, GTE, Red Cross, British Airways, the United Religions Initiative and the US Navy. Appreciative Living is a programme that has adapted AI principles to personal development. Pioneered by Jackie Kelm, Appreciative Living now has registered practitioners in twelve countries.
One of the biggest criticism of AI is that it doesn't address the negatives; that it, is a form of problem-avoidance and denial. This notion can be illustrated by the following scenario: a participant returns from an AI meeting full of energy and enthusiasm only to encounter the unchanged negative “realities” of office politics, budget cuts, delays in programme implementation, and so on. The rose tinted specs are yanked off and AI is filed away as “nice but not for the real world”. In such a case either AI has been poorly facilitated or the participant was sleeping during some vital segments of the workshop. Because AI IS designed to address the negatives, but not in a way that negates the positive aspects that exist in every situation. AI cannot afford to ignore negatives because if a burning issue is not attended to it will inevitably come back to bite you!
Jackie Kelm paints the picture of our lives as a movie that constantly plays in front of us on an imaginary screen. This screen has a line going through the middle. On one side of the line are the positive things – talents, dreams, and creative ideas, to name a few. On the other side of the line are the negative things – fears, failures, weaknesses and so on.
The opposite is actually true. It may seem ironic, but spending time on the positive side gives you the courage, inspiration, and motivation to deal with the “bad stuff.”
A well-facilitated AI workshop can help to start you off on this positive path but ultimately it takes persistent, purposeful practice to sustain the change.