Appreciating the Creative Tension

When Robert Fritz started his workshop in Stockholm in September, I was filled with anticipation. This was my second encounter with him and his wife Rosalind and much had happened since I first came in contact with his change management ideas. I was very interested in finding out whether his concepts could be used in combination with Appreciative Inquiry.

Immediately I started to look for similarities between the two approaches. Both are constructivistic in character and emphasize the careful use of language. Interviews are used early in the process and visualization is used as a tool for creating images of what is and can be. Storytelling is central, as is retelling others’ stories as a means for extracting the fundamentals. Both take departure in the notion that what you want is often part of current reality, and spend more time talking about possibilities rather than problems. The conceptual frameworks can and have been applied in various settings: for individuals, couples, groups and organizations. The clients are considered to be the experts and the consultant’s role is to support them in coming up with the solutions or decisions themselves. Change and identifying underlying structures are in focus, where both problems and opportunities can be used as points of departure. Similar to many people working with AI, such as Frank Barrett, Robert Fritz make extensive use of music and art in combination with more traditional business development methods.

I see lots of opportunities to combine many of the tools and concepts from the two schools of thought. The Fritz way to do clarification interviews is perfect when trying to extract a client’s real challenge, using it as input in an AI process. Fritz’ creative tension chart is an excellent tool during the Destiny phase, when deciding what to do in more precise terms. Also, Digital Decision-Making can be used when deciding on what steps or design elements are more important than others.

The one really big difference lies in the different approaches towards intellectual property rights. David Cooperrider has always emphasized openness and sharing, resulting in making the AI Commons a globally accessible well of knowledge. Robert Fritz has also published books and videos, and you can find lots of information at his website but he also keeps a much tighter control of his material, for example through certification processes.

This mirrors a more general debate concerning the pros and cons of open innovation and open source. The key question is how to achieve the perfect blend of openness and ownership, in order to make you, your organization and society in general prosper. Do you have the answer?

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