Appreciating Factory Work

I could not in my most vivid imagination think I would find working in a factory such a joyful experience. In all fairness, it should be said that this was not an ordinary factory and the work did not last that long, but while it lasted - boy was it fun!

I attended the pre-conference workshop "Designing Strength Based Organizations: An Emerging Practice" skillfully put together by Bernard J Mohr and Bob Laliberte from Innovation Partners International, Nancy Shendell-Falik and Bob Belanger at The Power of Positive Change conference in Orlando, September 2007. The program was a delightful mix of presentations of real cases from both a company and a hospital, theory and excercises.

In The Flying Starship excercise, we were divided into groups making up the various units in the factory. There were paper cutters, assemblers, decorators, material managers, a quality assurance department, general managers and, of course, a concerned customer. Our task was to provide hand-made bright-coloured paper flying starships. We had five minutes (!) of training and then we went to work. I worked in one of the assembly departments and we were asked to put som love and care in our work. We found this a real challenge since it was really difficult to get the corners sharp and precise, but we did our best and started to sing while we were toiling.

As could be expected, our little factory ran into all sorts of trouble. Materials were missing, quality was lacking, people did not know what to do and so on. However, when we did the appreciative interviews in pairs and presented the results in groups and to the whole workshop we also got a wonderful demonstration of the strenghts of strenght-based work. We discovered lots of good things about the way we had conducted our work, and heaps of new ideas for improvement emerged (see photo).

This exercise was my absolute highlight during the workshop. I will use it as an introduction to strenght-based development, especially when working with companies. Using the Flying Starship Factory simulation as an analogy, will make it easier for the co-workers to view their own organisation in a new manner.

Thank you for this useful excersise!

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