Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Thinking

River Street Consultant

Before someone can begin to utilize appreciative inquiry, they must first know what it is and what it means. There are many techniques and practices that can be used with appreciative inquiry that anyone can use in their lives. Learning about appreciative inquiry not only benefits the employee, but the entire company. It helps address ways to encourage positive ways of thinking instead of using negativity or even criticism.
What is Appreciative Inquiry?
The definition of appreciative inquiry is the ability to recognize the best in people and utilizing those strengths to discover new possibilities and results. Appreciative inquiry focuses on positive thinking and expresses ideas and opinions to reach an end result. What does that mean for you or your business? Appreciative inquiry in the workplace encourages employees to think positively, which in turn helps them to overcome their own negative thoughts to work harder and reach their own goals for better productivity.

Generating a Better Future
Appreciative inquiry helps build a vision for a better future by using questions to turn the person’s attention to their past, present and future successes. These questions generally focus on what the person enjoys about their surroundings and their current situations. Once these ideas have been identified, the individual can take these positive thoughts to turn toward the future and build a path to success. Since we, as people, learn from our past mistakes and choices, we can use questions and insights to decide what we can use to make the right choices later. The key is identifying what works for you, and how you can use them to your advantage to create a better future.
Ways to create your future today:
• Determine your goals
• Make a plan for them
• Identify how appreciative inquiry can affect these goals and plans

Engaging People in Positive Thought
One of the age-old ways of determining how a person views a situation is asking them if the glass is half full or half empty. Many pessimists will reply that the glass is half empty while opportunists will see the glass as half full. Even one pessimist in the group can hinder everyone else’s positive attitude, so it is important to engage every employee in positive thinking. When everyone avoids criticism and implements the ‘can do attitude’, it not only creates a pleasant work environment for everyone, but employees begin to feel better about themselves and take pride to finish any job with ease.
Engaging others to think positive:
• Encourage group discussions
• Invite others to share their ideas and opinions
• Make them focus on the positive side of things and avoid negative phrasings

Change the Person, Change the Organization
When employees take pride in themselves, they also take pride in their company. But if they have negative feelings about where they work, it can show in their productivity. When you change how a person views or thinks about the company and their roles in it, you in turn change how the company is perceived as a whole. This is why it is always important to meet with employees and listen to what they have to say; value their ideas and opinions.
If the employee feels as though they are making a contribution to the company and are a part of the master plan, they will feel more inclined to think positively and alter the overall view of the organization. With positive and reflective employees the organization should then become a positive entity and provide a better environment for everyone.

Changing the Way You Think
One of the simplest ways to relieve stress and feel better about ourselves is to change the way we think about things in our lives. Having a positive attitude allows a person to change their own lives because it shows that they have an understanding of their surroundings and feel confident enough to use them to their advantage. But if we hide behind negative thoughts and allow our environment to make us sad or depressed, we may never have the drive to reach for our goals and ambitions.

Shifting from “What’s Wrong?” to “What’s Right?”
One of the first things that can ruin a positive attitude is looking at a situation and only noticing the negative aspects, or the “What’s Wrong” side. Since the main focus of appreciative inquiry is being positive and aiming towards goals, a pessimistic attitude won’t get anyone very far. When presented with a problem, take a few minutes and look at both sides of the problem. Make a mental list of everything that is positive about the situation before touching on the negative aspects. You’ll find that any situation won’t appear as bad as we think when we notice the positive first.
Keys to shifting our thoughts:
• Avoid the “all or nothing” thinking – deciding a situation only has two sides.
• Realize the difference between being right and being happy.
• Avoid over-generalizing a situation – focus on details.

It’s Not Eliminating Mistakes-It’s Holding up Successes
A common misconception that people make is that being positive or progressive means they cannot make mistakes nor have faults. This, of course, is untrue. Mistakes happen all the time, and although they can sometimes be prevented, they cannot be stopped altogether. The key is to learn from your mistakes and then focus on the successes that follow them.
When a child falls off their bike before learning to ride, we do not focus on how many times they fell, but celebrate when they ride down the sidewalk on their own. Being positive doesn’t mean we eliminate mistakes or problems, we just learn to focus on the achievements we reach. Success leads to more success when we are focused on the positive.

Positive Language Will Affect People’s Thinking
From a young age we have learned that positive language has more effect on us than negativity. When we tell ourselves “I can’t do that” or “I’ll never finish this”, we normally find ourselves to be right. But if we use more positive and influential phrases and language, we find ourselves feeling more confident and ready to handle any situation. Positive words encourage positive thinking, so add some “I can…” and “I’m great” phrases to your vocabulary! Positivity is contagious, so don’t be afraid to share it with others and encourage them to think positive too.
Using positive language:
• Avoid negatives, such as “can’t” or “won’t”
• Reassure yourself and remind yourself of your abilities
• Compliment yourself – “Good job” and “Well done”

Limit or Remove Negative Phrasing
As we’ve said before, positive words encourage positive thinking. The same goes for negative phrasing – when we allow ourselves to use negative language, our thoughts become negative. Studies have shown that there are five key phrases that any person should remove from their vocabulary in order to ban negative language.
• Just – This word limits our accomplishments and devalues our skills. By saying phrases such as “I’m just an accountant” or “I just work in customer service” can make anyone feel happy in their job.
• Try – This word can often give us an excuse to fail. We will ‘try’ to accomplish something, but if we don’t succeed then it’s not our fault. We either do something or we don’t.
• Can’t – This word is often used when a person does not want to take the effort to reach a goal or accomplishment. Replace this word with a mental action plan on how you can act on your goals.
• Impossible – This word is normally used when we are faced with something big and overwhelming. However, anything can seem possible if broken down into smaller, more attainable jobs. Anything can be accomplished when we take things one step at a time.
• Someday- This word can have the same problem as ‘try’ – it sets us up to allow failure. When we plan to reach our goals “someday”, we are giving ourselves permission to procrastinate. Set a timeline for your goals and stick to them.

Source: Appreciative Inquiry Workshop

River Street Consultant

Business Writing Software Aids

The post will examine some software aids that can help you with your business writing. Probably the two most important aspects of business writing is spelling and the proper use of grammar. If either of these are faulty your organization will appear unprofessional and it could have a drastic effect on your brand.
Spelling
The use of correctly spelled words is important in all business writing because you are presenting a professional document. A misspelled word can reflect negatively on your image. It may also result in confusion in meaning.
Here are some tips to improve spelling issues when writing:
1. Familiarize yourself with commonly misused words, particularly sets of words often mistaken for each other.

Example: Affect vs. Effect
Affect is to influence or change. (Our income has been affected by the global recession.)
Effect is the impression, result. It can also mean ‘to cause’. (The global recession has a dramatic effect on our income.)
This problem also happens with pronouns or pronoun-linking verb contractions which sound alike. Examples: who’s vs. whose, their vs. they’re and your vs. you’re.
2. Make sure you pronounce words properly. Colloquial pronunciations can cause people to omit certain letters in writing.

Example: writing ‘diffrence’ instead of ‘difference’ because one pronounces this word with a silent first e.
3. Note some friendly rules on spelling. Example: i before e, except after c (e.g. receive, belief)
4. If you’re writing for an international audience, note that there are acceptable spelling variations in the different kinds of English. For example, American and British English tend to have many differences in the spelling of the same words. Notable are the use of -ou instead of –o, as in colour vs. color; -re instead of –er, as in centre vs. center; -ise instead of –ize, as in realise vs. realize.
5. Lastly, use spelling resources! These days, spell checking is as easy as running a spell check command on your word processing software. If you’re still uncertain after an electronic spell check, consult a dictionary.

Grammar
Grammar details rules of language syntax. Like spelling issues, grammar violations in a business document can reflect negatively on a professional or a company. Care should be given that all business documents are grammatically correct.
Here are two grammar issues most business writers have trouble with.
NOTE: All grammatical rules discussed here have exceptions and complex forms.
1. Subject-verb agreement: Singular subjects go with singular verbs, and plural subjects go with plural verbs. The singular form of most subjects contains the suffix –s or –es. The opposite is true for verbs; it’s the singular verbs that end with –s.
Note though that some subjects have unusual plural forms (e.g. medium- media, man-men, etc.)
2. Verb tenses: Modern English has six tenses, each of which has a corresponding continuous tense. The first three: present, past and future are less problematic.
The other three tenses, perfect, past perfect, and future perfect, are formed with the helping verbs have, has, and had.
Perfect tense is used to express an event that happened in the past, but still has an effect on the present.

Example: Mr. Michael Johnson has managed this company for the past 5 years.
Past perfect tense is used to express an event that took place before another action, also in the past.

Example: Mr. Myers had been sitting on a meeting when the client called.
Future perfect tense is used to express an event that will have taken place at some time in the future.

Example: I will have finished by 10pm.
In business writing, there are standard tenses used depending on the type of document you are writing. Business cases (to be discussed in a later module) may be written in past or future tense depending on whether the purpose is to discuss how a project was executed, or propose how it would be executed.
Verb tenses can also vary within the same business document.

The Organization Overview section of a proposal may be written in perfect tense, while the Financial Projection Section written in present tense.

Creating a Cheat Sheet
The number of spelling and grammar rules can feel daunting, but you don’t have to memorize everything. What you can do is create a cheat sheet.
A cheat sheet is a ready reference of rules you need to remember, written in a brief, simple and easy to understand fashion. Tables and bullet points can make a cheat sheet more effective. Some cheat sheets are poems, alliterations, and songs.
For best results, make your cheat sheets personalized, targeted to spelling and grammar issues that you often have problems with.

Grammarly.com
Your cheat sheet could become quite cumbersome. An alternative software resource can be found at Grammarly.com. It’s a grammar checker and it’s free.

 

 

River Street Consultant

The Importance of Knowledge Management

The words knowledge and management are two very broad concepts when separated. When the two words come together, it speaks of a concept that strives to organize information in a way that produces an advantage for an organization. While anyone would think that harnessing the knowledge of an organization is a positive thing to do, there are many who do not see the value of knowledge management. They may see this as a waste of time. This is true of many other disciplines like project management. Many see planning and assessing risk as time consuming. Therefore, they do not support initiatives that bring this change. In all honesty, change is the real issue.
This course will give you the tools to present knowledge management to your organization in the most positive way in order to gain the right support for it to thrive in your organization. The more information you can share with your organization about knowledge management the more apt they are in accepting it. This module explains the principles, history, and application of knowledge management in the workplace. This will be the base on which we will build upon throughout the entire workshop.

What is Knowledge
The word knowledge is often confused for information or data. The online version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines knowledge as the following: Fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association.
Later in this workshop, there will be a discussion on what data and information is. Both of these terms are a part of knowledge. Data is raw content, which by itself has no meaning or value.
When data is grouped together, it becomes information. For example, getting a temperature reading of the climate outside on one day is meaningless without other information to make a comparison.
Once a database is created, it becomes information because comparisons can be made. In terms of knowledge management, knowledge is information that is in context, producing an actionable understanding.
Back to our temperature scenario, when the temperature information is placed in context with say agriculture, then knowledge is created. For example, knowing that if temperatures fall below a certain point in January they tend to last for about a week. Orange farmers in Florida must determine if they are going to harvest early or take other precautions like heating the orchard. The decision will be based on how long oranges can withstand cold conditions at a certain temperature.
Organizations and companies hold and transfer data and information that can be placed into context allowing an actionable event or an understanding to occur.

What is Knowledge Management
Knowledge management is a program or system designed to create, capture, share and leverage knowledge towards the success of the organization. This is easier said than done because instituting a knowledge management program requires many changes and support at all levels of the organization. Furthermore, there are different forms of knowledge to contend with and understand.
Knowledge can be tacit or explicit, which requires different strategies to capture each type. Another challenge is to distill the practice of knowledge management into one neat concept.
This course will provide you with the specific understanding you need to take away a good conceptual framework of knowledge management. This way you can communicate and manage a knowledge management project with the tools for success.

A Brief History
The origins of knowledge management can be traced back to the late 1970s. Everett Rogers and Thomas Allen’s work in information transfer laid the foundation to the concept of how knowledge is created, implemented, and integrated throughout an organization.
In the 1980s, knowledge became a focal point to increasing the competitive edge for companies. People like Senge and Sakaiya discussed the advantages of creating learning and knowledge based organization. The primary object during this time was improving business in general.
In the 1990s, knowledge management was introduced into mainstream business management publications. Authors like Tom Stewart, Ikujiro Nonaka, and Hirotaka Takeuchi brought formality to the managing of knowledge. In the mid 1990’s, the Internet became the channel where knowledge management expanded greatly.
The history of knowledge management has many prominent theorists like Karl Wiig, Peter Drucker, and Paul Strassmann. From information technology to improving how an organization learns, knowledge management started in many areas of business. There is no one source of its history. Nonetheless, knowledge management has a history of producing the kind of change businesses desire in terms of improving the communication of knowledge in order to achieve successful outcomes.
Today, knowledge management has many applications and is useful in most any discipline in an organization.

Applications in the Workplace
Knowledge management can be applied to many areas of the organization. Remember that knowledge management is not only storing knowledge. The larger focus is on sharing. With this in mind, applying knowledge management in the workplace is nearly unlimited. Areas that can benefit from knowledge management are as follows:
• Corporate governance
• Staff training
• Operations
• Human resources
• Marketing
• Information technology
• Research and development
Applying knowledge management in any one of these areas will lead to improved communication and responsiveness to change. Here are some potential benefits to implementing knowledge management:
• Encourage innovation by allowing ideas to flow throughout the organization
• Improve customer experience by becoming more efficient in service
• Increase profits by capitalizing on opportunities because of faster product-to-market time
• Increase retention rate of employees because of recognition and reward for their valuable knowledge input
• Reduce cost through improved internal efficiencies

The Different Modes of Knowledge Management
There are many ways to implement knowledge management. The information available to you may be overwhelming. Understanding the types of knowledge and places to acquire it will reduce errors and increase efficiency in implementing your knowledge management project. In this module, you will learn about data, information, tacit and explicit modes of knowledge, and categories where knowledge converges.

Data, Information, and Knowledge
Earlier when we discussed the definition of knowledge, we learned that knowledge was composed of data and information. Here is a brief summary of each component:
• Data is bits of content in either text or numerical format. By itself, data has no meaning.
o A finance company could collect credit scores from all their approved applications. The individual credit score does not mean much by itself. Let see what information does.
• Information is data that is accumulated to allow comparison, grouping, and categorizing which enables the content viewer to determine what to do with the data group.
o The credit scores collected in the last example is accumulated and categorized into high, medium, and low risk according to the credit score number.
• Knowledge is taking the information and putting context around it, making it actionable.
o If the finance company is trying to meet a regulation on how many risky loans are permitted in the loan portfolio, they may calculate the percentage of high-risk loan to the total loans on the books. The results could guide the company on new strategies to reduce the number of risky loans or help them maximize the risk because the risky loans are more profitable.
Now that you have a basic idea of what data, information, and knowledge is, here is something to avoid. Do not try to categorize items into data, information, and knowledge. The context of the information is in the eye of the beholder. Trying to do this could end your project early. Instead, focus on the type of knowledge the content represents.

The Tacit Mode
Tacit knowledge is knowledge that is not easily documented. It is transferred silently through behaviors and experience. Here are some examples of tacit knowledge:
• Know-how
• Judgment
• Experience
• Insight
• Rules of thumb
• Skills
Tacit knowledge is difficult to communicate because it is very personal and subjective. The knowledge resides deep within the person who holds it. Tacit knowledge is influenced by beliefs, ideals, values, and mental modes.
This mode of knowledge is easily overlooked because capturing it requires unconventional methods. These methods will be discussed in a later module. In the meantime, when planning your knowledge management project, remember that there is knowledge floating around that is being transferred through on-the-job experience.

The Explicit Mode
Explicit knowledge is easier to recognize and document. It is easily communicated, written down, transferred, stored and retrieved. Explicit knowledge could be the steps on how to drive a car. The explicit knowledge is outlined in a manual and easily followed because of its structure. This is the most common form of knowledge found in most organizations. You may find this information in the following areas:
• Databases
• Manuals
• Training content
However, having only explicit knowledge is not always desirable. For example, would you feel comfortable with some who only knew how to drive a car by studying a manual as opposed to someone who has been driving for 10 years? The choice is easy because there is value in the experience acquired in 10 years of driving experience. The experienced driver cannot explain all the details, but there is knowledge that the careful observer may pick up.
Understanding where these transfers of knowledge happen is essential to designing your knowledge management system.

Identifying Conversion Categories
Conversion categories are areas where knowledge is converted or exchanged. The best way to think of these conversion categories is using the tacit and explicit modes for both the type of knowledge and the type of behavior. Here are some examples:
• On-the-job training allows people to exchange tacit knowledge through tacit behaviors because it is transferred from one individual to another through observation. In this situation, norms are reinforced and new knowledge could be created depending on the person being trained.
• Another category is when someone expresses his or her ideas and thoughts. This is still tacit knowledge but it is coupled with explicit behavior like talking about it aloud to others.
• Explicit knowledge and explicit methods form more common conversion points like databases, e-mails, and manuals.
• Another conversion point occurs when someone takes explicit knowledge from a database or manual and creates new knowledge that they internalize (tacit).
Understanding conversion categories enables you to determine where these categories exist in your organization. Overlooking conversion categories could lead to gaps in your knowledge management system.
Source: Knowledge Management Workshop

River Street Consultant