Appreciative Inquiry and George Mason University’s Strategic Vision

This morning I was fortunate to be part of an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) event at George Mason University. If you’re not familiar with AI, from Wiki: “Appreciative Inquiry is primarily an organizational development method which focuses on increasing what an organization does well rather than on eliminating what it does badly.” The whole purpose of today’s AI was, “to help shape aspects of the new Vision related to Mason’s mission, values and the Mason Graduate (the attributes we wish all of our students have in common by the time they graduate).” Currently, George Mason University is creating a new strategic vision.

During my time as the student body president of Saginaw Valley State University, I contributed to the university’s strategic planning process. I was fortunate that during my time as the president coincided with when the university was in the process of redoing its 5-year plan. I say this because at the AI event today was George Mason University’s student government president. It made me a bit nostalgic about my time in that role.

Getting back to AI: I really like this method. By focusing on the positives of an organization, it certainly feels like there’s a better energy about the process. I could be demonstrating one of my biases, but even the faculty facilitator (who was there at the birth of this method in 1987!) spoke about the importance of steering clear of falling into a trap of opining the things that an organization lacks. Why? Simply stated: that list is never-ending.

The group of folks that I spent morning with really came up with some great ideas. This process gave me a new appreciation for some of the positives of George Mason University. In fact, I even joked with the group that it made me want to forget about moving back to Canada and get a job here at Mason.

Lastly, I wanted to say that today’s event reinforced my enjoyment of being part of strategic planning. While there wasn’t any actual “strategic planning” that happened today, I knew that the things that the larger group (of about 100 people) talked about today would be a data point that could be used by those folks who are doing the strategic planning. So, in a larger sense, today’s event was about strategic planning. And strategic planning is something that I can get really excited about.

Oh, one last thing. There was a really great line that was said during the meeting that the room seemed to love. I captured it in a tweet:

Published by Jeremiah Stanghini

Jeremiah's primary aim is to provide readers with a new perspective. In the same vein as the "Blind Men and the Elephant," it can be difficult to know when one is looking at the big picture or if one is simply looking at a 'tusk' or a 'leg.' He writes on a variety of topics: psychology, business, science, entertainment, politics, history, etc.

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