Appreciative inquiry and brand building

Rebranding a firm is a tall order for you are dealing with people. Real human beings… And you are trying to change the way they behave. People would resist change for many reasons. Yet, your job is to convince them to embrace the change.

At the start of every project, long before you begin to talk to stakeholders, you have two options: You can do probably what 90% of consultants do (i.e.  Identify the problem, determine areas for improvement, set objectives, empower people and measure success) or you can do it the unorthodox way. (i.e. Focus on what is already working and build on it). I choose the latter. Here is why…

The universally accepted consulting methodology focuses on the problem and places most of the effort to righting what is wrong. The problem with this approach is that from the get go you anchor yourself into the negative territory. You assume the role of a doctor who is trying to treat a patient. I would like to believe that employees don’t want to be treated as diseased people. Personally, I wouldn’t. Maybe this flawed logic is responsible for the following two mind-boggling stats:  75% of M&A’s fail. 86% of place branding projects fail within a year of introduction. I think the main reason is consultants’ failure to factor in the human aspect of business.

Here is an alternative approach… Focus on what is common and try to enlarge that foundation! This is the method I recommend. I never look at my clients’ brands as “things to be fixed.” People do things in certain ways and they get used to it. As long as everybody buys into the overall vision and know that their individual behaviour contributes to the big picture, letting them do what they have been doing is the smartest thing. My experience tells me that companies that do the opposite suffer from above-industry turnover rates, unhappy employees and low productivity.

You can use appreciative inquiry in all stages of a project. But keep in mind that the way you start a project will dictate how you will go forward. Therefore, I highly recommend you to adopt appreciative inquiry during stakeholder consultation phase. Ask them positive questions, get positive answers, make them feel engaged and motivated. Last thing you want is a pissed off stakeholder who will sabotage the entire project.

Today’s actionable insight: The questions you ask impacts the answers you get. Keep in mind that the interviewees will receive signals from the questions you ask. You want the interviewees to feel positive and engaged. Don’t treat your clients as patients. If you do so, you will perceive everything as things to be fixed.

12 Replies to “Appreciative inquiry and brand building”

  1. I really enjoyed this post. It puts emphasis on positive thinking – focusing on a can do attitude. A lot of culture here. I write from a Danish perspective. Danes are generally brought up to be critical and sceptical. So they won´t embrace change easily.
    So any consultant working in a Danish setting will have to find this balance between critical attitudes and then the energy and drive of positive enthusiasm.
    The issues are global of course – however, I think culture plays a part in how you handle the term “appreciative inquiry”

    1. Thank you for your kind message. I agree with you that culture plays a big role. That said, appreciative inquiry is more than positive thinking. It is about making a conscientious Decision to focus on your strengths not your weaknesses. Of course it does not mean that you’re going to disregard your weaknesses. However, AI teaches us that if you agree to build on your strenghts then you can achieve what you want to achieve faster. I believe you can be skeptical and still apply the appreciate the inquiry.

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