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Appreciative Inquiry and Knowledge

Management

NEW HORIZONS IN MANAGEMENT


Series Editor: Cary L. Cooper, CBE, Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health,
Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster University, UK.
This important series makes a significant contribution to the development of management
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invaluable forum for the publication of high quality work in management science, human
resource management, organizational behaviour, marketing, management information
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The main emphasis of the series is on the development and application of new original ideas.
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from both well-established researchers and the new generation of scholars.
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Organizational Relationships in the Networking Age
The Dynamics of Identity Formation and Bonding
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Islamic Perspectives on Management and Organization
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Supporting Womens Career Advancement
Challenges and Opportunities
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Research Companion to Organizational Health Psychology
Edited by Alexander-Stamatios G. Antoniou and Cary L. Cooper
Innovation and Knowledge Management
The Cancer Information Service Research Consortium
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Managing Emotions in Mergers and Acquisitions
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Appreciative Inquiry and Knowledge Management
A Social Constructionist Perspective
Tojo Thatchenkery and Dilpreet Chowdhry

Appreciative Inquiry
and Knowledge
Management
A Social Constructionist Perspective

Tojo Thatchenkery
Professor of Organizational Learning, School of Public Policy,
George Mason University, USA

Dilpreet Chowdhry
Management Specialist, FannieMae, Washington, DC, USA

NEW HORIZONS IN MANAGEMENT

Edward Elgar
Cheltenham, UK Northampton, MA, USA

Tojo Thatchenkery and Dilpreet Chowdhry 2007


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in
a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical or photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior
permission of the publisher.
Published by
Edward Elgar Publishing Limited
Glensanda House
Montpellier Parade
Cheltenham
Glos GL50 1UA
UK
Edward Elgar Publishing, Inc.
William Pratt House
9 Dewey Court
Northampton
Massachusetts 01060
USA
A catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Control Number: 2006017897

ISBN 978 1 84542 590 6


Printed and bound in Great Britain by MPG Books Ltd, Bodmin, Cornwall

To
Tessy, Sruthi, Manjit, Mina, Tanvir, and the PSOL/ODKM Learning Community

Contents
List of figures
List of tables
Acknowledgements

viii
xi
x

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

1
12
32
49
74
116
139
152

Introduction: a new adventure


Knowledge sharing: a historical perspective
The generative potential of appreciative processes
How to ASK
Private sector case studies
Government sector case studies
Public service case study
Summary, conclusion, and invitations

Bibliography
Index

155
161

vii

Figures
1.1
1.2
2.1
2.2
2.3
2.4
2.5
3.1
3.2
3.3
3.4
4.1
4.2
4.3

Knowledge sharing: a historical evolution


Overview of the ASK process
Knowledge sharing timeline Phase 1
Knowledge sharing timeline Phase 2
Knowledge sharing timeline Phase 3
Knowledge sharing timeline Phase 4
Knowledge socialization the spiral evolution of
knowledge conversion and self-transcending process
The general structure of an appreciative system
The process of appreciation
The process of appreciation
Maslows hierarchy of needs
Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge steps
Knowledge enablers and knowledge infrastructure factors
Interacting elements of future-present scenarios

viii

3
8
12
19
22
29
30
37
38
39
40
50
60
67

Tables
1.1
1.2
3.1
4.1
4.2
4.3
5.1
5.2
6.1
7.1
8.1

Two approaches to knowledge sharing


Overview of the ASK steps
Contrasting retrospective and prospective approaches
to knowledge management
ASK actions
Knowledge enablers
Matrix for constructing future-present scenario
statements
Knowledge sharing matrix with specic examples
Examples of possibility propositions
Possibility propositions
Possibility propositions
Overview of ASK steps

ix

2
8
43
51
65
69
102
105
127
144
154

Acknowledgements
We are indebted to several individuals in the endeavor of putting this book
together. We thank the Vice-president and the specialized staff at the nancial services institution at which we applied the Appreciative Sharing of
Knowledge (ASK) method for their support in trying out the new approach.
We also thank the graduates of the George Mason University Organizational
Learning program who collected the data for three of the case studies. Since
we cannot reveal the names of those organizations, the identity of the graduates is not mentioned. We are grateful to the following graduates who conducted the MARAD project and gave us permission to use the study and
their names: Raymond Pagliarini, Anita Murphy, Dan Eisen, Julia Nissely,
and Ursula Koerner. We are particularly thankful to Raymond Pagliarini
who secured permission to conduct the project at MARAD.
Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge: Leveraging Knowledge Management for
Strategic Change (2005), a practitioner version describing step-by-step ASK
methodology was written by Tojo Thatchenkery, co-author of this book, and
published by Taos Institute. We thank Taos Institute Publications for letting
us use material from the book where appropriate. All such references and
citations are used with the permission of the copyright holder and publisher.
We have tried to ensure that necessary credits are given to those individuals
and organizations. If we have made an error, please let us know and we will
make appropriate acknowledgement in future editions of this book.
We are also grateful to several colleagues who supported us in many
ways, including David Barry, Kenneth Gergen, David Cooperrider, Dawn
Dole, Kingsley Haynes, Roger Stough, William Rifkin, and Ram Tenkasi.
We thank Alan Sturmer, Senior Acquisitions Editor at Edward Elgar
Publishing for enthusiastically commissioning our book, Tara Gorvine and
Julie Leppard for early support, Katy Wight, Promotions Manager for her
publicity eorts, and David Vince, Desk Editor for his excellent and prompt
production support. Without their active assistance and commitment this
project would not have been possible.
Last, but not the least, we are indebted to our families Tessy, Sruthi,
Manjit, Mina, and Tanvir for their love, understanding, and support.
Tojo Thatchenkery,
Dilpreet Chowdhry
x

1.

Introduction: a new adventure

Think about a time when you shared something that you knew that enabled
you or your company to do something better or achieve success. What happened? Tell us the story.
Think about a time when one of your colleagues shared something with you
that enabled you or your company to do something better or achieve success.
What happened? What did you admire in your colleague? Tell us the story.
Take a moment to think about the answers to these questions. Our guess
is that you can easily come up with examples of when you felt overburdened, overwhelmed, or stressed at your job, but you may need a few
minutes to think about when you appreciated how you work and how valuable your work is to those around you.
This should not be surprising. Traditional applications of organizational
change and knowledge sharing rely on nding and solving problems.
While this sort of decit and critical thinking can be valuable in some
contexts, it often leaves groups of people feeling frustrated, unsatised, and
unappreciated.
Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge (ASK) turns this upside down. We
developed this model with the idea that it would take the best successes of
organizations and attempt to reinforce and build upon them in a positive
way while working within the existing culture of the organization. We illustrate the two contrasting approaches to knowledge sharing in Table 1.1
below.

KNOWLEDGE SHARING
As the 9/11 Commission Report stated, the most identiable cause of the
September 11, 2001 event was the failure among the intelligence agencies
to share knowledge. Similar challenges exist in most organizations. Those
organizations that have addressed knowledge sharing issues productively
are the best in their eld. The study of knowledge sharing has tried to replicate practices from the best, but organizations have learned that one size
does not t all. Initially, in the 1990s, practitioners and theorists in the eld
of knowledge sharing assumed that the reason workers were not able to
communicate was because the infrastructure did not exist to help them do
1

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Table 1.1

Two approaches to knowledge sharing

Problem Solving

Knowledge sharing as a
problem to be solved
Identication of problem
Highlight what is broken
Identify knowledge sharing
problems: What makes people
hoard knowledge?
Analysis of causes
Generate possible solutions
Action planning and treatment
Fixing as intervention
Looking at what is missing

Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge (ASK)

Knowledge sharing as an
opportunity to be embraced
Valuing and appreciating what is
Arm what is working
Identify knowledge enablers:
What makes people share knowledge?
Envision what is possible
Generate future-present scenarios
Innovating/realizing what will be
Armation as intervention
Looking at what is present

so. They were convinced that technology would solve the problem. While
technology addressed some issues, it fell short in many areas.
With the advent of Lotus Notes and other collaborative software, organizations created, categorized, and sliced information in the hopes that by
documenting their information people could share knowledge more
eectively. The knowledge sharing toolkit market became saturated
with companies that wanted to get on the bandwagon. Corporations spent
signicant amounts of resources instituting knowledge sharing
architectures on the axiom that if you build it, they will come. People who
rapidly needed to turn around time sensitive documents like proposals still
had to frantically search for current information immediately before the
document was due, but the knowledge management tools did not always
help because they were not populated with the right information. Often, the
tools were not used or contained unusable information and thus became
quickly irrelevant, not meeting business needs.
As it became clear that the knowledge management tools were not
delivering adequately on their promise, attention was focused on the
possibility that the concept of knowledge sharing itself might be an oxymoron. Using the term management implies that knowledge can be
planned, organized, and controlled. Since knowledge mostly resides in
peoples heads, managing it is inherently problematic. The eld of knowledge sharing soon made a paradigm shift from knowledge management
to knowledge sharing. We began to realize that one of the key reasons
that people were not contributing what they knew was because of the
perception that they would lose their control on knowledge once it was

Knowledge management or
knowledge sharing stage

Introduction
Knowledge sharing: a historical evolution

5
4
3
2
1
0
19901993

19931999

19992003

present

Time
Notes:

Stage 1 (19901993) Focus on technology infrastructure as the solution to the KM


problem
Stage 2 (19911999) KM tool saturation, widespread use of KM tools, companies
getting on the bandwagon
Stage 3 (19992003) Knowledge sharing as an oxymoron; knowledge cannot be
managed but instead must be shared
Stage 4 (current) What will help people share knowledge? Appreciative Sharing of
Knowledge (ASK).

Figure 1.1

Knowledge sharing: a historical evolution

shared. Subsequently, they might be perceived as less valuable by the


company.
Overall, organizations were beginning to understand the power of
unleashing knowledge among individuals. What they struggled with was
how exactly to unleash that power, given that the very behavior of hoarding the knowledge is what makes employees successful. After all, it is primarily the hyper-competitive culture of many organizations that creates the
knowledge hoarding climate. The challenge then is guring out how to
create a knowledge sharing culture.
One of the basic tenets of this book is that if we share knowledge appreciatively, managing knowledge will no longer be an issue. Armation may
very well be considered a psychological need. Knowledge sharing is one way
this need is fullled in organizations. If knowledge sharing is done in an
appreciative manner, more people are willing to share. The presence of an
explicitly appreciative format allows others to say what is on their mind
without being questioned, critiqued or put on the defensive.
In this book we expand on the concept of appreciation and show how
organizations can create appreciative systems that would institutionalize
knowledge sharing and create organizational excellence. We also give

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

examples of organizations that have already planted the seeds for the
knowledge exchange to happen.
The ASK process can reinvent in a sustainable manner the way we
think about organizing. By linking practices, artifacts, technologies, and
managerial skills, the ASK perspective oers a creative way to manage a
wide range of enterprises. As knowledge becomes central to organizations,
networks, and markets, the principles and practices of ASK empower a lifearming process of creating value. The rst part of this work is focused on
providing information in order to re-center ourselves regarding the values
of appreciation.

KNOWLEDGE SHARING: A HISTORICAL


PERSPECTIVE
Chapter 2 provides a historical context for the concept of knowledge
sharing, part of which is outlined in Figure 1.1. Knowledge sharing is
of crucial importance in societal evolution. From our ancestral huntergatherers to current copy machine technicians, knowledge sharing has
withstood the test of time. The hunter-gatherers organizational structure
dating back to 10 000 BC provides a powerful testimony of knowledge
sharings value. By optimizing and making the best use of the knowledge
around them, the hunter-gatherers were able to lead a lifestyle that may
be seen as healthy even by todays standards. The hunter-gatherers devoted
only a few hours a day to searching for food and sent out only a fraction of
the able-bodied foragers each day. By making superior use of their
members knowledge, they were able to survive harsh conditions (Ehin,
2000, p. 58).
Using historical data, we show that the knowledge management
methods of hunter-gatherers bear a surprising relevance to contemporary
organizational knowledge sharing practices. In this chapter, we also
explore other similarities between the rich knowledge sharing cultures
rooted in history and those of todays organizations. We conclude by summarizing the lessons learned from the past regarding knowledge sharing
and by articulating the concrete ways that learning might apply to the
current challenges faced by knowledge sharing. We show that the core
element of all successful knowledge cultures of the past was the presence
of some form of appreciative system. Such approaches did not dene
human endeavors in decit terms but as presence, almost like a form of
unconditional acceptance of whatever happened.

Introduction

THE GENERATIVE POTENTIAL OF APPRECIATIVE


PROCESSES
In Chapter 3 we explore the concept of appreciation and its generative
potential in detail. The concept has strong roots in the philosophical theories of organizational and social sciences. Our goal in this chapter is to
establish the foundation for a strong theoretical premise to support the
concept of ASK.
The root of appreciation is linked to the Pygmalion and Galatea eects.
In Roman mythology, Galatea was the name of a statue of a beautiful
woman that was brought to life by Venus, goddess of love, in response to
the prayers of the sculptor Pygmalion, who had fallen in love with his creation. Considerable research evidence and literature exist regarding this
phenomenon, which is variously called a self-fullling prophecy, the
Pygmalion eect, and the Rosenthal eect (Murphy, Campbell, and
Garavan, 1999; Kierein and Gold, 2000; Reynolds, 2002; Rowe and
OBrien, 2002). We have chosen the term Galatea eect to underscore the
fact that it is the beauty of the statue that created the desire in Pygmalion.
The adoption of the Galatea eect to this aspect of appreciation and
knowledge sharing creates signicant dierences in the way people feel
about their capacity to create change in organizations. Essentially, once the
knowledge enabling properties are correctly identied, building on them is
possible because each individual imagines the ideal future as if it has
already happened.
It may seem simple and obvious that people who appreciate each other
in the workplace will have a better working relationship than those who
have an adversarial relationship. So what then makes it challenging to
create an appreciative environment? Over the course of this book we reconcile how to meld our innate appreciative needs with our critical problem
solving minds.
The most common misnomer is that appreciation is as simple as turning
a frown upside down. However, doing so is not an appreciative act at all.
The appreciative approach asks the participants to take a hard look at the
reality around them, but armatively. But this does not mean ignoring or
neglecting the current reality. In this chapter we discuss how the need for
the appreciative mindset has historically evolved for knowledge sharing.
We provide two ways of looking at knowledge: a retrospective and a
prospective approach. In the former, the focus is to look back at what happened with a critical and analytical mindset. This approach, similar to
dissection in a biology laboratory, a postmortem of an event, or a case
study, has certain merits. It is clearly the dominant approach and has been
historically used in a wide range of elds. Examples include the case study

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

of a patient in a medical school, the After Action Review that the U.S.
Army uses immediately after a training or practice engagement in the eld,
and the well-known case study approach used in business schools worldwide. The retrospective approach in knowledge sharing looks at what is
broken in an organization regarding how knowledge is utilized, isolates the
causes for the broken state of aairs, and comes up with remedial actions
or xes to correct the ineciencies in the system.
In this chapter we also explain the connection between language
and knowledge sharing. Encouraged by the strong support expressed in
social constructionist writings (Gergen, 1999; Gergen and Thatchenkery,
2004), a specic question is raised in this chapter: what happens when the
language to address the organizational knowledge sharing problem itself is
changed? What happens if the new approach doesnt even look at problems
as problems?
We believe that one such approach that can achieve a signicant impact
in the knowledge sharing eld is Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge. We
also show how the ASK approach itself is a derivative of a widely successful organizational development tool called appreciative inquiry, originally
proposed by Cooperrider and Srivastva in 1987.

HOW TO ASK?
Chapter 4 explores the process of how to do an ASK initiative. We expect
that by the time the reader reaches this stage after reading the case studies
of diverse organizations, he or she would have a good sense of the pragmatic issues involved in the process. That is why this chapter provides a
systematic way of initiating and completing an ASK initiative for any
organization. The chapter is more like a tool kit, or workbook explaining
the nuts and bolts of the ASK process, most of which is borrowed
from Thatchenkerys previous work titled Appreciative Sharing of
Knowledge (Taos Institute, 2005). To give a taste of this approach, we
mention a few aspects of the process below, repeating what we have mentioned earlier.
Think about a time when you shared something that you knew that enabled
you or your company to do something better or achieve success. What happened? Tell us the story.
Think about a time when one of your colleagues shared something with you
that enabled you or your company to do something better or achieve success.
What happened? What did you admire in your colleague? Tell us the story.
Such questions provide an outline for the foundation of ASK. Pose them
to a group of approximately 30 people and you will be positively impacted

Introduction

by the stories that you hear. It is akin to the sparkle that your child feels
listening to a teacher speak of Harry Potter-like wizardry.
The reactions to the questions above will help you determine the preexisting climate for knowledge sharing in your organization. If key people
view this exercise as a waste of time, that might be your rst indication that
they are not treating knowledge sharing as a high priority. Senior leaders
who might have this attitude may unconsciously encourage knowledge
hoarding behavior.
The key ingredient for Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge is climate.
Does the organization support sharing? Do people feel they have to hoard
their knowledge in order to survive? What has been the history of knowledge sharing initiatives in the organization? Responses to these questions
play a key role in deciding when and how you would introduce ASK in an
organization.
Many people nd organizations to be alienating and oppressive environments. Hence it should not surprise an ASK enthusiast that the appreciative climate is not present in every organization. However, this does not
mean that an ASK initiative or approach will not work there. An appreciative climate can be created with top management support. As pointed out
in the rst chapter, creating an appreciative outlook needs a certain amount
of reframing of organizational reality. One has to look consciously to nd
knowledge sharing events or experiences even when they seem absent at
rst glance.
Overview of the ASK Process
As in any organizational change technique, we begin ASK by focusing on
the current state or what is. Steps 1, 2, and 3, which are explained in later
chapters, will help the practitioner or change agent discover the appreciative temperature of their organization with a series of questions asked in
a facilitated session using interviews. The goal will be to capture what has
worked so far in the organization and to extract the core processes supporting knowledge sharing. During these steps a set of key themes or
knowledge enablers will emerge throughout several of the stories that the
participants share. Steps 4, 5, and 6, also described in later chapters, validate the knowledge enablers through a series of interviews and subsequent
organizational analyses. Finally, we will also build upon them to create a
set of future-present scenarios that are similar to a specic vision of a
future that one can perceive in the present. Step 7 takes that list further by
expanding and prioritizing them into more manageable and actionable
options. The resulting step 8 creates an action plan to make what will be
real. Figure 1.2 and Table 1.2 depict and summarize the steps.

Step

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

1, 2, 3

4, 5, 6

What Is

What Might
Be

What
Could Be

What Will
Be

Infrastructure Factors

Key Themes

Outcome

Process

Identify Knowledge
Enablers

Vote
Action
ActionItems
Items
1.
1.
2.
2.
3.
3.
4.
4.

K1 K2 K3 K4

5.

Identify Five
Knowledge
Enablers

Figure 1.2

Table 1.2

Create
FuturePresent
Possibilities

Prioritize
Actions

Create an
Action Plan

Overview of the ASK process

Overview of the ASK steps

Step

Action

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4

Negotiating top management commitment and support


Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm
Identication of knowledge enablers
Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative
interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team
Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge
infrastructure analysis
Constructing future-present scenarios
Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios
Creating and mandating an implementation team

Step 5
Step 6
Step 7
Step 8

Introduction

These steps can be adopted based on the needs of your organization. By


adopting them you may ignite the generative potential that already resides
within.

CASE STUDIES
Chapters 5, 6, and 7 show case studies of ve organizations where the ASK
approach was used. Each of them starts with a description of the organization and the status of the organization before the ASK process began, and
describes how the ASK initiative was negotiated and conducted, lessons
learned and future directions. Chapter 5 describes the rst of the ASK
studies which were conducted in a large nancial services organization in the
US, the GCB Bank (not the real name), and an environmental information
technology company, ITC, which is also a ctional name to protect its identity. Chapter 6 narrates how the process worked in two government organizations: the Maritime Administration (MARAD) and another federal
agency, identied only as AFA to protect its identity. Chapter 7 provides an
ASK example in a public service organization. These stories give the reader
a detailed blueprint for the techniques of designing and implementing an
ASK initiative. These chapters also contain an analysis of what factors were
present in each of these organizations that helped them become knowledge
enabling cultures.
For example, in Chapter 4, ITC wanted to learn more about the knowledge sharing currently taking place. The recently appointed Chief
Knowledge Ocer wanted to use this to set the foundation for the knowledge management program that she hoped to create. Another objective was
to nd out who knows what and to learn if ITCs infrastructure could
sustain continued growth and support new clients.
With approximately 300 employees ITC was soon going to grow to 500
employees due to increased work demand. Accessing and sharing the
knowledge of each and every employee was crucial to its success and
further growth. Sharing information, keeping it current, and becoming
aware of what other members of the organization were thinking about and
doing were necessary to improve the bottom line of the company. ITC was
working to increase knowledge sharing both internally, to ensure that its
infrastructure would sustain and encourage growth, and externally, to continually support and increase its number of clients in order to continue
the success of its previous ten years.
The following stories, which we refer to as quintessential stories,
appeared in multiple interviews and in a number of other interviews
across the team:

10

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Gary (ctional name) created a developers portal for the internet


team. He had been an analyst and he started analyzing pages,
grouped and linked white papers on new technologies, and built a
portal. He started telling people in the company and theyd look at
it. And theyd send him stu to add to it. It has a database you can
use to search proposals; it has tools for cutting graphics, web sites are
categorized, and it has statistics. What started out as a personal interest became a valuable company tool.

This frequently shared story became a quasi legend within the organization
and was used as a testimony that showed employees, current and future, that
individual initiatives were recognized and genuinely valued by the company.

My colleague and I were meeting in an ITC conference room, and


we could hear through the wall a conversation that a client was
having with an ITC consultant. This unintentional eavesdropping
became intentional. So, we pulled the consultant out of the room and
took him to another conference room. We told him that we heard
what he and the client were talking about, and shared our knowledge
that was relevant to the clients issues. This informal sharing of
knowledge resulted in a good outcome for ITC as well as the client.
Our decisions, based on that informal knowledge sharing, were validated by positive feedback from the client. (Personal interview with
author, 2000)

This story enforces the informal organic interactions that help the organization thrive.

When the Green Team cleaned up a section of highway for the


Adopt-a-Highway program, the president provided money to buy
plants for the area under the highway sign that let people know ITC
adopted this section. What was neat about this project was that it was
about giving back to the community. Some people used part of their
eight hours of volunteer time for it, and we got to know each other
better those relationships provided a foundation for working with
people. Through our informal conversation, we also learned what
each other does. (Personal interview with author, 2000)

These two stories reveal the sense of community and the comfort with
knowledge sharing that pervaded ITC.

Introduction

11

SUMMARY, CONCLUSION, AND INVITATIONS


Chapter 8 provides a summary of what has been provided in the previous
seven chapters, generates some conclusions and generalizations on what
has been learned, and asks the practitioner community to continue to use
the process for organizations of all types. We believe our success with the
process has allowed us to share what we have learned about this unique and
innovative knowledge sharing tool.
At a time when change is the permanent xture in organizations eorts
for growth and survival, ASK is a refreshing approach in the eld of knowledge sharing. This book shares stories of appreciation and knowledge
sharing experienced by several organizations and gives you tips and tools
to jump-start a knowledge sharing culture to leave your organization with
a culture that realizes its fullest potential. We hope that you will have as
much fun engaging with the process as we did.

2. Knowledge sharing: a historical


perspective

Figure 2.1

Knowledge sharing timeline Phase 1


12

Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge


(2001+)
Communities of practice & storytelling
(2000)

Appreciative Inquiry (1986)

1980

Knowledge Conversion Process


(1986)

Rise of modernistic knowledge mgmt


(1980)
Enlightenment Age of Reason (1,700 AD)

Arabic scholars (1,000 AD)


1,000 AD

Renaissance rebirth of learning


(1,400 AD)

Monastic schools (600 AD)


Middle Ages education (500 AD)

Irish monasteries (400 AD)

2nd European explosion(300 BC)


0

Plato & Socrates establish school (387 BC)

Greek explosion (600 BC)


Orator school begins (400 BC)

Importation of papyrus (800 BC)


Gurukul (1,200 BC)

Mesopotamia (3,100 BC)

Egypt (3,000 BC)

Hunter-gatherers (10,000 BC)

Knowledge has always played an important role in societal advancement


(Figure 2.1). Moses is thought to have faced the challenge of sharing
knowledge while wandering in the desert in search of the Promised Land.
The Phoenicians were implicitly concerned about how knowledge about
trade logistics and merchant practices was built, transferred to employees,
and applied to make operations as successful as possible. With that much
history behind us, claiming that we now live in a knowledge society, as if
it is something unique, is no more informative than saying that we now live
in a power society, or money society or culture society.
Yet knowledge sharing is of crucial importance in societal evolution.
People have attributed the survival of humanity to many things such as

Knowledge sharing

13

leadership, the prevailing of good over evil, and political ideologies


(democracy over totalitarianism). In this book, we add appreciative knowledge sharing as another process that helped in the evolution of industrial
society to what it is today. From our ancestral hunter-gatherers to current
copy machine technicians, knowledge sharing has been around and has
stood the test of time.

HUNTER-GATHERERS
The hunter-gatherers organizational structure dating back to 10,000 BC
provides a powerful testimony of the value of knowledge sharing. By
optimizing and making the best use of the knowledge around them, they
were able to lead a lifestyle that may be seen as healthy even by todays
standards (Ehin, 2000). As mentioned earlier, the hunter-gatherers used
only a fraction of their able-bodied foragers, who then devoted only a few
hours a day searching for food. Their hunting and gathering techniques
were based on superior knowledge sharing (Ehin, 2000), as is the case for
many industries today.
The best survival strategy for the foragers was to function in small, egalitarian, self-organizing organic networks in which interdependence, intimacy, equity, trust, and sharing ourished. According to Ehin (2000),
knowledge sharing occurred in their tribal structure because their organization was rich in connections and relationships that made it possible for
them to know what they knew. The knowledge sharing also made it possible to create other values and practices, all of which are seen as highly
desirable in current management thinking. For example, Ehin (2000) points
out that members of foraging groups were fully accepted for what they
were: skilled in certain areas and less skilled in others (the value of appreciation). All individuals were considered to be of equal intrinsic worth and
able to control and regulate their own lives (the value of respecting autonomy). One knowledge sharing characteristic we can take away from this
example is their ability to develop rich relationships and networks.
The hunter-gatherers divided up their work based on a smart allocation
of individuals skills. Even with the division of labor they were able to share
knowledge across bands or organizational units (Ehin, 2000). Tribes consisted of approximately 150 people with small bands of 30 to 50 people.
These bands were very tightly knit groups that were loosely connected to
an organic network of similar small bands located in the same region.
Everyone lived by a strong ethic of sharing leading to a structure that was
extraordinarily egalitarian with no hierarchies or class dierences. These
bands of foragers periodically (as often as every ve weeks) gathered as a

14

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

larger societal group for festivals lasting from days to a few weeks. These
large gatherings were periods of intense social interaction that included
visiting, feasting, gambling, gift exchange, marriage brokerage, and trance
dancing (Power, 1991, p. 227). Such a pattern of information exchange promoted the development of a collective memory (including myths) that
served as an organizational vision, keeping all tribal members on the same
course without restraining individual initiative.
Reciprocity and knowledge sharing were two of the key egalitarian
social values of the foragers. Even the tribal demography was the result of
highly ecient knowledge sharing and resembled the micro-communities
of practice, which is central to knowledge management theories today. The
commonality between the knowledge management practices of huntergatherers and the workforce today is striking. For example, individuals
owned their own means of production similar to that of the knowledge
workers of today who carry their means of production or intellectual
capital in their heads. That is, land and its resources were collectively used
but tools, weapons, and other personal items were the property of those
who possessed them. Further, leadership was uid and situational. No
authoritarian chiefs existed to enforce their will on others.
Having discussed the knowledge sharing practices of pre-literate societies, let us now move on to knowledge sharing in literate societies.

KNOWLEDGE SHARING IN LITERATE SOCIETIES


The capacity to acquire and share knowledge has always been the route to
power and wealth. This was as true in 8000 BC as it is in 2007 AD.
Mesopotamia (now southern Iraq) is the site of the earliest human civilization. According to Van Doren (1991), as early as 8000 BC, a kind of
primitive writing was developed here which by 3100 BC had clearly developed into the Sumerian language. Knowing how to read and write was the
way to wealth and power among the Sumerians, the Akkadians, the
Babylonians, and the Assyrians who succeeded the Sumerians (Van Doren,
1991, p. 10). Five thousand years later, acquiring knowledge is still the way
to wealth and power!
In ancient Egypt, which ourished from about 3000 BC to about 500 BC,
priests in temple schools taught not only religion but also the principles of
writing, the sciences, mathematics, and architecture. Priests became the
primary agents of knowledge sharing and therefore became educators.
Similarly in India, priests conducted most of the formal education.
Beginning in about 1200 BC Indian priests taught the principles of the Veda,
the sacred texts of Hinduism, as well as science, grammar, and philosophy.

Knowledge sharing

15

Formal education in China dates to about 2000 BC, though it thrived


particularly during the eastern Zhou Dynasty, from 770 to 256 BC. The
curriculum stressed philosophy, poetry, and religion, in accord with the
teachings of Confucius, Laozi (Lao-tzu), and other philosophers.

APPRECIATIVE KNOWLEDGE SHARING IN THE


ANCIENT INDIAN SYSTEM OF GURUKUL
The Gurukul was an ancient Indian system of knowledge sharing within institutionalized settings. (The word Gu means darkness, ru means remover.
Guru means someone who enlightens you besides being a friend, philosopher, and guide. Kul means house, home, or household.) In ancient times,
Gurukuls were the centers of education, and this system was believed to be
the ideal one. A child was admitted to a Gurukul under the aegis of a
guru who would spend the next 14 years developing his knowledge, character, and physical skills. The success and worthiness of the system were apparent to the public because it produced great writers, scholars, and philosophers.
In the Gurukul system, the relationship between the teacher and the
student was not contractual but holistic; in that the class lessons focused on
both learning and life. The guru and the students were dedicated to each
other. Their living was temperate, wholesome, and humble. Their devotion
and dedication naturally provided the pupils with an opportunity for
awakening their powers. In fact, the student resident of a Gurukul could seek
the guidance of the guru in every diculty. With the gurus help, he could face
the most dicult predicament undaunted. Much like formal and informal
mentoring systems in todays organizations, the model of a subject matter
expert connected with a novice is a powerful knowledge sharing paradigm.
The gurupupil relationship was based on mutual appreciation. The
pupil appreciated the gurus knowledge and the guru appreciated the pupils
dedication. Underlying the rigor of the Gurukul form was the sense of constant and unconditional armation that the pupil received from the guru.
The knowledge sharing in this context was absolute. The guru would be
extremely happy if the pupils knowledge surpassed his, which happened in
a few celebrated cases.

APPRECIATIVE KNOWLEDGE SHARING IN THE


GREEK EXPLOSION
According to Van Doren (1991), there have been two knowledge explosions
in human history. The rst began in Greece during the 6th century BC. The

16

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

second began in Europe four or ve centuries ago and is still going on.
Knowledge explosions may be seen as intense knowledge sharing
processes. Their size and scope can produce a certain level of intensity that
could last several hundred years, as was the case with the Greek explosion.
The knowledge sharing spread quickly and nally aected the entire known
world. As Van Doren (1991) points out, it [knowledge sharing] commenced with the discovery of a new communications device and a new
method for acquiring knowledge, continued with the help of striking
advances in mathematics, and in revolutionary theories about matter and
force (Van Doren, 1991, p. 29).
As practitioners interested in the knowledge economy, we often discuss
how to exchange knowledge. This would not have been possible without the
importation of papyrus in the 8th century BC. Suddenly, Greek written
materials began to be produced, and commercial records and treatises on
technical subjects began to be distributed throughout the Greek world.
And with it began the creation of inventions and ideas, centered in Miletus,
in a climate that looked like that of a university, think-tank, or research and
development division of a large corporation (Van Doren, 1991). Around
625 BC, this city gave birth to Thales, who is known as the rst philosopher
and the rst scientist.
Since the city of Miletus impacted society by producing such great
minds as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, we should note how Miletus
created the right conditions for appreciative knowledge sharing. As Van
Doren points out, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were more than just
ontologists (experts about being) but had something to say about everything, not just form and matter. In other words, their entire life was a
knowledge sharing expedition. In fact, as Van Doren shows, they came
from the Sophists, a group of wandering teachers who began to teach in
Athens. The Sophists claimed that they could teach any subject or skill to
anyone who wished to learn it. They specialized in teaching grammar,
logic, and rhetoric; subjects that eventually formed the core of the liberal
arts. They were, in a way, the wandering, and rst knowledge management
experts because they shared freely what they knew and learned from one
another.
Socrates sought to discover and teach universal principles of truth,
beauty, and goodness. He claimed that true knowledge existed within
everyone and needed to be brought to consciousness. His educational
method, called the Socratic Method, consisted of asking probing questions that forced his students to think deeply about the meaning of life,
truth, and justice. Thus, his full focus was knowledge creation and sharing
through dialogue. He claimed that he knew nothing himself and spent his
time interrogating his fellow citizens, and especially the professional

Knowledge sharing

17

Sophists, who claimed that they did possess knowledge. If Socrates did
not know anything with certainty, he surely knew how to argue and to
ask hard questions. Socrates was a great example of knowledge creation
through dialogue, though the dialogue expressed itself in a questioning mode.
Socrates wrote nothing, but many of his teachings and conversations
he had with eminent men and Sophists of his day are recounted in Platos
dialogues (Van Doren, 1991, p. 43). Plato spent several years traveling
about Greece sharing his knowledge. During that time he became a
friend of Dion, the tyrant of Syracuse, whom he tried to instruct in philosophy in hopes of making him a philosopher-king. This was the rst
known attempt to institutionalize knowledge sharing from top down and
to legitimize intellectual inquiry. The second most important eort at
institutionalizing knowledge sharing happened in 387 BC when Plato,
Socrates student, established a school in Athens called the Academy. The
Academy was originally a public garden or grove in the suburbs of
Athens, in which he opened a school for those inclined to create and share
knowledge.
Plato believed in an unchanging world of perfect ideas or universal concepts (Van Doren, 1991). He asserted that since true knowledge is the same
in every place at every time, education, like truth, should be unchanging.
Hence he placed great signicance in sharing it with others. The outcome
was probably the rst book on knowledge management, the Republic, also
seen as one of the most notable works of Western philosophy. Platos
Republic describes a model society, or republic, ruled by highly intelligent
philosopher-kings who possess great intellectual capital. Managing intellectual capital is thus not a new challenge, as claimed by several writers in
this eld. Intellectual capital of some sort existed in all times in history. The
only dierence is that the magnitude of information is higher today than it
was in Platos time (at least we think so!).
Plato founded the Academy for the systematic conduct of research in
philosophy and mathematics, presiding over it the rest of his life. The
Academy may be seen as one of the rst attempts to institutionalize the creation and sharing of intellectual capital. Plato wrote dialogues which
included Socrates as the chief speaker and others in which an Athenian
stranger takes the leading role, an earlier form of storytelling.
The next leader in knowledge sharing was Aristotle, the disciple of Plato.
He was sent to the Academy in 367 BC and spent 20 years there as Platos
most famous pupil. The two men disagreed about many things, which only
led to a productive partnership between them and more knowledge creation. Following Platos death in 348 or 347 BC, Aristotle left Athens and
traveled for 12 years, founding new academies in several cities (Van Doren,

18

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

1991, p. 43). This was probably one of the most intense and sweeping
eorts in knowledge sharing at that time. Returning to Macedonia, he
spent three years tutoring Alexander, the son of King Philip. This was
similar to the eorts of Plato in reaching out to the powers that be and
winning their support in knowledge sharing. In 335 BC, Aristotle founded
his own system of knowledge sharing in Athens called the Lyceum. This
school, as opposed to the Academy, was devoted to scientic work.
Believing that human beings are essentially rational, Aristotle thought
people could discover natural laws that governed the universe and then
follow these laws in their lives.
Aristotle taught us to use reason in the world we see and know: he
invented the science of logics, which is the rule of thinking, and invented
the idea of the division of the sciences into elds distinguished both by their
subject matter and by their methods. When approaching any subject, he
always reviewed the contributions of his predecessors and adopted what he
thought was valuable. Moreover, he believed in and practiced collaboration, a basic component of knowledge management these days, by creating research teams to study particularly dicult subjects, like botany and
current political theory. Most importantly, Aristotle believed that to share
knowledge, one must publish. As a result, he wrote and published many
books, and they were carried everywhere Greeks went. Even Alexander
the Great, who had been his pupil, enlisted himself as one of Aristotles
researchers, sending back reports to his old teacher, together with
zoological and botanical samples for the master to analyze and categorize
(Van Doren, 1991).
Aristotles rm belief in appreciatively sharing whatever knowledge he
had led to groundbreaking progress in the dissemination of intellectual
capital and even other methods of knowledge sharing. For example, in the
4th century BC Greek orator Isocrates developed yet another method of
knowledge sharing which was a method to prepare students to be competent orators.
The Greeks created and shared knowledge by having an intellectual
curiosity and by traveling to alien places. In addition, they invented organized knowledge itself by their revolutionary discovery of how to learn
systematically.
There were others as well who joined in this knowledge sharing pursuit
but who are not as well known as Plato or Aristotle. For example, anthropologists generally regard Herodotus, a Greek historian who lived in the
400s BC, as the rst thinker to write widely on concepts that would later
become central to anthropology. In the book History, Herodotus described
the cultures of various peoples of the Persian Empire, which the Greeks
conquered during the rst half of the 400s BC.

19

Knowledge sharing

EARLY MEDIEVAL IRISH MONASTERIES AS


CENTERS OF KNOWLEDGE SHARING

Figure 2.2

Knowledge sharing timeline Phase 2

Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge


(2001+)
Communities of practice & storytelling
(2000)

Appreciative Inquiry (1986)

1980

Knowledge Conversion Process


(1986)

Rise of modernistic knowledge mgmt


(1980)
Enlightenment Age of Reason (1,700 AD)

Arabic scholars (1,000 AD)


1,000 AD

Renaissance rebirth of learning


(1,400 AD)

Monastic schools (600 AD)


Middle Ages education (500 AD)

Irish monasteries (400 AD)

2nd European explosion(300 BC)


0

Plato & Socrates establish school (387 BC)

Greek explosion (600 BC)


Orator school begins (400 BC)

Importation of papyrus (800 BC)

Egypt (3,000 BC)


Mesopotamia (3,100 BC)

Gurukul (1,200 BC)

Hunter-gatherers (10,000 BC)

Paul McGrath (2005) has insightfully explored the organizational, management, and knowledge sharing practices of early medieval Irish monastic
communities (of the late 4th century AD). As he points out, these monasteries were initially established as quiet retreats, places of strict discipline
and asceticism, and refuges from worldly concerns. Despite this, the monks
had an outward focus to share their secular learning with all levels of Irish
life. During this Golden Age (McGrath, 2005, p. 549), Ireland was
regarded as a knowledge society, because of the peculiar mix of ecclesiastical and secular knowledge focused in and around a small number of monastic settlements. The knowledge they developed, protected, and shared as
well as the religious teachers they produced during this unique period had a
profound impact on the re-establishment of organized intellectual and cultural life on continental Europe in the early Middle Ages (Bieler, 1966).
Despite the spiritual focus, the Irish monasteries quickly developed into
complex ecclesiastical centers or cities. The owering of literature and
learning in Ireland is indelibly linked with the development of Christian
monastic schools that came to prominence in the second half of the 6th

20

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

century (McGrath, 2005). Sixth century Ireland provides the best and earliest example of the successful fusion (Ryan, 1972, p. 376) of religious and
secular knowledge. Aristocrats, monks, priests, nuns, devout laity, tenants,
and artisans congregated and shared knowledge freely within these monastic cities (Ryan, 1972, p. 12). The monks created an environment that appreciated and valued diversity and the result was an interesting combination
of higher learning and knowledge sharing.
Bieler (1966, p. 215) suggests that this period of Irish Latin culture was
remarkably superior to anything that could be found in Saxon England,
Lombard Italy, or Merovingian France. This period, sometimes referred to
as the wandering Irish scholars (OCroinin, 1995, p. 244), is considered by
Bieler (1966) as one of the most important European cultural phenomena
of the early Middle Ages. The wandering Irish scholars were spreading
knowledge to the masses appreciatively and without judging them.
While the greatest impact of the Irish monks was in the eld of religion,
they and their disciples were deemed to have had a profound inuence in
all areas of continental contemporary scholarship during this period
(McGrath, 2005). From the 6th to the 9th centuries, Ireland was a
signicant recipient of and contributor to the Christian Latin culture of
Europe (OFiaich, 1994; Bieler, 1966). What can we learn from these monks
who had a profound impact on society and who created a new path of discovery through collaborative learning and mutual respect?
Networking
One trait that made the Irish monks radically dierent from the other
churches at the time was their organizational model. Their structure was
networked rather than the traditional hierarchical church model. The
early Irish church had abbots/abbesses at its center, while the continental
church model was largely bureaucratic since it was headed by bishops in
charge of clearly dened territorial dioceses (OCroinin, 1995, p. 147). The
dominant monastic system adopted a network form of structure which is
the core architecture of many knowledge management eorts today. This
non-territorial system of monastic paruchiae gradually won over the rigid
continental diocesan model headed by bishops over the course of the 7th
century (Hughes, 1966, p. 124).
The monastic communities networked at a number of levels, internally
and externally. The community of monks shared knowledge constantly
as well as openly through one-on-one teaching sessions and the written
word. Because a large part of their job was teaching, they also networked
extensively with clients and patrons. While each monastery rst relied on
its own members, direct kin, clients, and lay allies for survival, there is

Knowledge sharing

21

some evidence of cooperation and networking between monastic sites.


Bitel (1990, p. 220) recounts a number of examples of monastic intercommunity alliances formed in the face of an external challenge to the prevailing socio-political order.
The primary motivation underlying much of the daily life of a monk was
learning, preservation, and the perfection of Christian religious knowledge.
This knowledge was then to be applied to the benet of the wider community through an appreciative process of knowledge sharing.
Appreciation of Diversity
An unusual feature of the Irish monastic schools was their willingness to
appreciate the works of authors who did not share their views. The Irish
monks believed that anything that was not absolutely opposed to the teaching of Christianity could be used to enrich existing knowledge. The increasing diversity and non-religious content of much of their work would suggest
that they were driven by a thirst for knowledge and a general love of all learning, including the attainment of religious insights. This focus on the collective perfection of knowledge, which clearly required extensive and ongoing
interpretation, necessitated a diverse and life-long approach to learning
underpinned through the successful fusion of collective teaching and learning and a high degree of individual contemplation (McGrath, 2005). An
open or liberal approach to knowledge development and diusion within the
monasteries was compatible with, and was assisted by, a high emphasis on
and encouragement of general intellectual pursuits. The focus on teaching,
in turn, represented a key method of organizational self-renewal.
The majority of the manuscripts produced in the monasteries were the
work of school masters and not expert scribes or calligraphers. This shows
that knowledge was not located hierarchically but distributed. All knowledge, old and new, was to be freely shared both in written and oral form.
There was no advantage to be gained in an individual monk hoarding or
hiding knowledge. Indeed, acclaim within monastic schools came with the
ability to analyze and impart knowledge, not from its hoarding, an important issue in reinforcing the monastic principle of common property
(Graham, 1923, p. 100).

APPRECIATIVE KNOWLEDGE SHARING IN THE


MIDDLE AGES
During the Middle Ages, or the medieval period (5th15th centuries),
knowledge sharing in Western society was shaped by the Roman Catholic

22

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Church. During this time 12 Benedictine monasteries undertook the daunting and most challenging knowledge management task of organizing,
sorting, classifying, and copying classical materials handed down from the
glorious Greeks and Romans. These monasteries played a signicant part
in knowledge preservation and sharing. In terms of magnitude or volume,
the knowledge management problem they faced was signicantly more
challenging than that which managers face today. Imagine making sense of
centuries of knowledge handed down in unorganized material form. And
no computers or scanners!

KNOWLEDGE SHARING BY ARABIC SCHOLARS

Figure 2.3

Knowledge sharing timeline Phase 3

Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge


(2001+)
Communities of practice & storytelling
(2000)

Appreciative Inquiry (1986)

1980

Knowledge Conversion Process


(1986)

Rise of modernistic knowledge mgmt


(1980)

Reformation
Enlightenment Age of Reason (1,700 AD)

Arabic scholars (1,000 AD)


Scholasticism
1,000 AD

Renaissance rebirth of learning


(1,400 AD)

Monastic schools (600 AD)


Middle Ages education (500 AD)

Irish monasteries (400 AD)

2nd European explosion(300 BC)


0

Plato & Socrates establish school (387 BC)

Greek explosion (600 BC)


Orator school begins (400 BC)

Importation of papyrus (800 BC)

Egypt (3,000 BC)


Mesopotamia (3,100 BC)

Gurukul (1,200 BC)

Hunter-gatherers (10,000 BC)

In the 10th and early 11th centuries, knowledge sharing by Arabic scholars
further enhanced Western knowledge. The outcomes were new ways of
thinking about mathematics, natural science, medicine, and philosophy.
The Arabic number system was especially important, and became the foundation of Western arithmetic. Arab scholars also preserved and translated
into Arabic the works of such inuential Greek scholars as Aristotle,

Knowledge sharing

23

Euclid, Galen, and Ptolemy. Because many of these works had disappeared
from Europe by the Middle Ages, they might have been lost forever if Arab
scholars such as Avicenna and Averros had not preserved them.
In the 11th century medieval scholars developed a knowledge sharing
system called Scholasticism, a philosophical and educational movement that
used both human reason and revelations from the Bible (Van Doren, 1991).
In a way, this was a serious eort in appreciation. The Scholastics attempted
to reconcile Christian theology with Greek philosophy. Scholasticism
reached its high point in the Summa Theologiae of Saint Thomas Aquinas,
a 13th century Dominican theologian who taught at the University of Paris.
Aquinas reconciled the authority of religious faith, represented by the
Scriptures, with Greek reason, represented by Aristotle. In this great work of
appreciative knowledge sharing, Aquinas described the teachers vocation as
one that combines appreciation, love, and learning (Van Doren, 1991).
The work of Aquinas and other Scholastics took place in the medieval
institutions of knowledge sharing, the universities. The famous European
universities of Paris, Salerno, Bologna, Oxford, Cambridge, and Padua
grew out of the Scholastics-led intellectual revival of the 12th and 13th centuries. In a sense, these universities may be seen as a true community of
practice because their core value was free, appreciative knowledge sharing.

KNOWLEDGE SHARING DURING THE


PROTESTANT REFORMATION
The religious Reformation of the 16th century marked a decline in the
authority of the Catholic Church and contributed to the emergence of the
middle classes in Europe. Protestant religious reformers such as John Calvin
and Martin Luther rejected the authority of the Catholic pope and created
reformed Churches. In their commitment to convince followers to read the
Bible in their native language, reformers extended literacy to the masses,
making information more accessible. By doing so they unwittingly generated signicant amounts of knowledge sharing to the entire public. They
established vernacular primary schools that oered a basic curriculum of
reading, writing, arithmetic, and religion for children in their own language.

KNOWLEDGE SHARING IN THE 17TH CENTURY


The work of English philosopher John Locke inuenced education in
Britain and North America. Locke examined how people acquire ideas in
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Locke, 1695a). He asserted

24

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

that at birth the human mind is a blank slate, or tabula rasa, and empty of
ideas. We acquire knowledge, he argued, from the information about the
objects in the world that our senses bring to us. We begin with simple ideas
and then combine them into more complex ones.
Locke believed that individuals acquire knowledge most easily when they
rst consider simple ideas and then gradually combine them into more
complex ones. In Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1695b), Locke recommended practical learning to prepare people to manage their social, economic, and political aairs eciently. He believed that a sound education
should begin in early childhood and insisted that the teaching of reading,
writing, and arithmetic be gradual and cumulative. Lockes curriculum
included conversational learning of foreign languages (especially French),
mathematics, history, physical education, and games.

KNOWLEDGE SHARING DURING THE


ENLIGHTENMENT
The Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century generated signicant
improvements in knowledge sharing. During the Enlightenment, also
called the Age of Reason, people increased the emphasis on appreciating
the value of reasoning or logic with the hope that knowledge acquired
and shared by that process would improve society. In fact, the knowledge sharing had a signicant impact on the American Revolution
(17751783) and early educational policy in the United States. For
example, American philosopher Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jeerson,
the third president of the United States, stressed the importance of knowledge sharing through utilitarian, scientic, and civic education to the
masses. This focus on knowledge sharing became the foundation of
American society, which resulted in the creation of the largest number of
educational institutions in the world. At the same time, thanks to the rise
of modernity, knowledge started to become commodied (Lyotard, 1984).

THE DECLINE OF APPRECIATION AND THE RISE


OF MODERNISTIC KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT
In 1984, La Condition postmoderne, originally written in 1979 by Jean
Lyotard at the request of the Consel des Universites of the Quebec
government as an interim report on knowledge, was translated into English
(The postmodern condition: a report on knowledge). It became recognized
as a landmark work in consolidating the tenants of postmodernism.

Knowledge sharing

25

Lyotard argues that we live in a postindustrial society and postmodern


culture (Lyotard, 1984, p. 73), where postmodernism means a general
process of delegitimation, a loss of condence in the modern idea of
progress and emancipation. Postmodern is dened as an incredulity
towards grand narratives (Lyotard, 1984, p. 8), and Lyotard thinks that
this is a general cultural condition in societies which have entered the
postindustrial age. According to him, modern science is legitimated by two
kinds of meta-narratives of progress: the meta-narrative of emancipation
and the meta-narrative of unied knowledge. Examples of the former are
1) the Enlightenment narrative of emancipation from serfdom through
knowledge and equality; 2) the capitalist narrative of emancipation from
poverty through industrial development; or 3) the Marxist narrative of
emancipation from exploitation and alienation through socialization of
labor. The latter, the meta-narrative of unication of knowledge, is best
represented in organizational sciences in the Parsonian systems theory
which neglected pluralism, or in Marxism which overstretched dialectics.
Lyotard (1984) denes as modern any science that legitimates itself with
reference to a meta-discourse, . . . such as the dialectics of spirit, the
hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working
subject, or the creation of wealth (Lyotard, 1984, p. xxiii). In primitive societies such as the Cashinahua Indians of South America which is Lyotards
favorite example functions of narratives are embodied in clear sets of rules
about who has the right and responsibility to speak and listen. In this group,
the storyteller begins his narrative by identifying himself with his
Cashinahua name, thereby arming his tribal authenticity and consequent
right to speak. In the process, he also evokes the listeners responsibility to
listen. Lyotard considers this as an example of self-legitimation, established
by telling the story in a certain way. A set of pragmatic rules that constitutes
the social bond is transmitted through these narratives. The strength of this
narrative form, or meta-discourse, lies in its ability to ground the very rules
of the language game upon which its existence is predicated: narratives
dene what has the right to be said and done in the culture in question, and
since they are themselves a part of that culture, they are legitimated by the
simple fact that they do what they do (Lyotard, 1984, p. 23).
Lyotard (1984) asserts that in the end it is by these very narratives alone
that science is given authority and purpose. He identies two forms of narratives to which science has recourse political and philosophical and
maintains that these narratives are teleological because inherent in them is
the notion of a journey toward a nal goal. They are also meta-narratives,
that is narratives which subordinate, organize, and account for other
narratives to the extent that every other local narrative, whether it be the
narrative of a discovery in science or the narrative of personal growth and

26

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

self-actualization, is given credence by the way it represents and conrms


the grand narrative of progress.

APPRECIATION AND GRAND NARRATIVES


The process of appreciation that was the foundation of knowledge sharing
cracked under the weight of modernism. The goal of the modernist system
is to obtain the best equation between the input and output (Lyotard,
1984). In that context, knowledge is transformed into productive forces for
capital and subsumed under the principle of eciency and performativity. This has resulted in the commodication of knowledge.
Lyotard stated that science has been transformed into production forces.
To quote him, knowledge is and will be produced in order to be sold, it is
and will be consumed in order to be valorized in a new production: in both
cases, the goal is exchange. Knowledge ceases to be an end in itself, it loses
its use-value (Lyotard, 1984, pp. 45). The best equation between input
and output is what is required in knowledge management. Lyotard calls
this performativity of sciences which displaces the Enlightenment project
of truth for humanity. Lyotard characterizes this as a process of
commodication. His own words make this explicit:
A technical apparatus requires an investment; but since it optimizes the
eciency of the task to which it is applied, it also optimizes the surplus-value
derived from this improved performance. All that is needed is for the surplusvalue to be realized, in other words, for the product of the task performed to be
sold . . . A portion of the sale is recycled into a research fund dedicated to
further performance improvement. It is at this precise moment that science
becomes a force of production, in other words a moment in the circulation of
capital. (Lyotard, 1984, p. 45)

It is not surprising that commodication became the driving force of


modernity which resulted from the collapse of religious authority and the
rise of a rationalized, bureaucratic social order. Separate groups of professionals, each with their own special expertise and technical abilities, were
granted responsibility for independent areas of activity. Scientists oversee
nature, critics determine taste, lawyers administer justice, physicians maintain health, therapists and the clergy provide psychological well being,
and so on. The central assumption of this era was that specialization and
rationalization would promote not only the control of natural forces, but
would also further understanding of the world and of the self, would
promote moral progress, the justice of institutions, and even the happiness
of human beings (Habermas, 1984, p. 9).

Knowledge sharing

27

THE NARRATIVE OF PROGRESS IN MODERNISTIC


KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT
Modernitys version of knowledge management is solidly based on the
notion of knowledge as progressive. Research creates knowledge on how
to increase organizational eciency/eectiveness, improve organizational
climate, generate more participation in decision making, create egalitarian
communication structures and democratic leadership styles, and, above
all, sustain a better quality of work life. According to Cheal (1990),
modernity is a project, in which the goal of progress is achieved through
the managed transformation of social institutions. The project of modernity dominated the classical formulations of knowledge management primarily because its theories were developed during the era of modernism in
a world dominated by industrialization, technology, secularism, individualism, and democracy. The industrial organization was perceived as the
source of human unity and progress (Comte, 1970). For example, Daniel
Bells (1976) thesis of modern (postindustrial) society is that it is organized around knowledge for the purpose of social control and the directing
of innovation and change . . . (Bell, 1976, p. 20). Theoretical knowledge
is supposed to oer a methodological promise for management of organized complexity in the modern world. Intellectual technologies available
for this, according to Bell, are information theory, cybernetics, decision
theory, game theory, utility theory, and so on. Their function is denition
of rational action and the identication of means to achieve this goal.
Above all, it is performance rather than size that distinguishes modern
organizations (Bell, 1976); this is expressed in the economizing mode, as
seen in productivity.
The proliferation of ideas on knowledge management reveals that the
tendency is to treat knowledge as a thing that can be possessed, measured,
stored, processed, and readily distributed to people who are designated as
users of knowledge. In this case, knowledge is identied as something
physical and is described as an asset. Organizations are urged to leverage
their intellectual capital by treating knowledge as yet another commodity
that can be exchanged and managed.
Knowledge management is rooted in many disciplines, including economics, education, information management, organizational behavior,
psychology, and sociology. It embraces the perspectives developed in these
subject areas, but operates from the basic premise of the tacit nature
of knowledge. Tacit knowledge is personal knowledge rooted in individual experience and involving personal belief, perspective, and values.
Philosopher of science Michael Polanyi (1967) famously characterized tacit
knowledge as that which we know but cannot tell. It is now understood

28

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

that a key aspect of knowledge management should be about nding ways


to apprehend such tacit knowledge possessed by long time employees, customers, clients, or other stakeholders.
Typically, people may not want to share what they know for various
reasons, such as feeling possessive about their knowledge and the fear that
once shared, they may not be wanted by the company anymore. Later in the
book, this question of how to help share the tacit knowledge organizationwide will be discussed using the principles of appreciation and the methodology of ASK.
Knowledge is dynamically embedded in networks and processes as well
as in the human beings that constitute and use them. In other words,
people typically acquire knowledge from established organizational
routines, the entirety of which is usually impossible for any one person to
know.
The acquiring of knowledge is, in essence, a mutually constructed activity. To build it alone and to keep it to ones self is to create a singleness of
mind taking away the usefulness of the knowledge, wisdom, and aspirations of the knower(s).
Well known social scientist Kenneth Gergen suggests, [I]f we are to generate meaning together we must develop smooth and reiterative patterns of
interchange a dance in which we move harmoniously together (Gergen,
1999, p. 60). He goes on to suggest that in order to mutually construct
our world, we must engage in coordinating discourse where there is a
signicance of self-expression, active arming of each other, and regular
recreation of our worlds (Gergen, 1999, pp. 15864).
ASK must become an integral part of organizing whether in the workplace or otherwise, with an invitation to bring together and share knowledge in order to maximize the value of knowledge management.

RECLAIMING APPRECIATION IN KNOWLEDGE


MANAGEMENT
There has been a gradual attempt to reclaim appreciation in managing
knowledge since the mid 1980s. Eorts in this regard began indirectly
through an approach called Appreciative Inquiry that began at the Case
Western Reserve University in 1986. Appreciative Inquiry (discussed in
more detail in the following chapter) is an organization development
approach, and therefore not specically focused on knowledge management.
Thatchenkery (2005) has used some of the Appreciative Inquiry principles
for knowledge management and created a methodology called Appreciative
Sharing of Knowledge.

29

Figure 2.4

Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge


(2001+)
Communities of practice & storytelling
(2000)

Appreciative Inquiry (1986)

1980

Knowledge Conversion Process


(1986)

Rise of modernistic knowledge mgmt


(1980)
Enlightenment Age of Reason (1,700 AD)

Arabic scholars (1,000 AD)


1,000 AD

Renaissance rebirth of learning


(1,400 AD)

Monastic schools (600 AD)


Middle Ages education (500 AD)

Irish monasteries (400 AD)


0

Plato & Socrates establish school (387 BC)

Greek explosion (600 BC)

2nd European explosion (300 BC)


Orator school begins (400 BC)

Importation of papyrus (800 BC)

Egypt (3,000 BC)


Mesopotamia (3,100 BC)

Gurukul (1,200 BC)

Hunter-gatherers (10,000 BC)

Knowledge sharing

Knowledge sharing timeline Phase 4

NONAKA AND KONNOS KNOWLEDGE


CONVERSION PROCESS
Nonaka and Konno explore the knowledge conversion process by tracing the
evolution of knowledge from tacit to explicit back to tacit, or vice versa
(Figure 2.5). Knowledge is transferred by rst sharing what is known
(socialization), then translating what is known to a reusable format (externalization), then understanding that knowledge is applicable to a new
environment (combination), and nally using that knowledge in a dierent
setting (internalization). This knowledge spiral continues as the knowledge
is transferred from setting to setting.
During a speech given at the Buckman Laboratories which bear his name,
Bob Buckman made a statement that approximately 90 percent of knowledge
is in the heads of people (tacit) and 10 percent is on paper (explicit).
Managers spend approximately 75 percent of their eort on that 10 percent.
Buckmans statement points out that most of the knowledge lies in the socialization quadrant of Figure 2.5, but yet that is the quadrant that is least
eectively accessed. Perhaps people do not have the tools they need to enable
eective socialization. This is where ASK rst time comes in. It plants the

30

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management


Tacit knowledge

Tacit knowledge

Tacit
knowledge

Socialization
Meetings and discussions
Storytelling

Externalization
Write a report

Tacit
knowledge

Internalization
Learn from a report

Combination
Email a report

Explicit knowledge

Explicit
knowledge

Explicit
knowledge

Explicit knowledge

Figure 2.5 Knowledge socialization the spiral evolution of knowledge


conversion and self-transcending process (Nonaka and
Konno, 1998)
seeds to enable eective storytelling, a commonly accepted knowledge
sharing practice expanded by Steven Denning (2000) and others who are
fond of the narrative approaches to organization studies. Storytelling enables
socialization, which creates a space for that tacit-to-tacit exchange to happen.
In his book The Springboard, Steve Denning (2000) has given a useful
description of his quest for convincing key stakeholders of the need for
storytelling for change in organizations. Denning uses storytelling as a
knowledge management tool and as an organizational change tool. His
approach is to share a story to create the space for the client to imagine what
might be in their organization. According to Denning (2000, p. 12), the
storyteller skilfully gets into the minds of key stakeholders and richly
portrays how they feel and think in the process of creating and recreating
their organization. He shares stories of events that are already working well
in the organization. This creates a framework to generate more ideas of
what else could easily work well in the organization.
Denning talks about a specic type of story that enables change called a
springboard story. A springboard story is a story that provides the kind of
plausibility, coherence, and reasonableness that enables people to make sense
of immensely complex changes that are being discussed. The story holds
the disparate elements together long enough to energize and guide action,
plausibly enough to allow people to make retrospective sense of whatever
happens, and engagingly enough that they will contribute their own input
into creating the future of the organization (Denning, 2000, p. 54). Storytelling can create a powerful collaborative tool because it allows people to
make sense of something that on the surface may not make sense. People can

Knowledge sharing

31

connect with a story in whatever way they know how. They can take with
them precisely what they need to enable the change in their environment.
One of the springboard stories that Denning uses is the story of a healthcare worker in Zambia:
Clearly the 21st century is going to be dierent. But how? The story of the health
worker in Zambia oers the possibility of viewing the future, which, I suggest,
is going to be like today. Thus in June 1995, a health worker in Kamana, Zambia,
logged on the CDC [Center for Disease Control] web site and got the answer to
a question on how to treat malaria.
This story happened, not in June 2015, but in June 1995. This is not a rich
country: it is not even the capital of the country: it is 600 km away. But the most
striking picture is this: our organization [the World Bank] isnt in it. Our organization doesnt have the know-how and expertise in such a way that someone like
the health worker in Zambia can have access to it. But just imagine if it had.
(Denning, 2000, p. 41)

This story helps convey examples of how the World Bank where he used
to work can get involved in circumstances around the world. By sharing it,
people put themselves in a place of possibility in addition to focusing on
the organization they know on a day-to-day basis.
Springboard stories also enable a leap in understanding by the audience . . . A springboard story has an impact not so much through transferring large amounts of information, but through catalyzing understanding.
It enables listeners to visualize from a story in one context what is involved
in a large-scale transformation in an analogous context (What is a springboard story? How does it work? available at: www.stevedenning.com/
springboard_story.html, accessed September 20, 2006). His story paints a
picture of what is currently happening and also paints a picture of what
could be. The picture is tangible because it is based on something that is
already working. The springboard story can be a useful way to inspire
innovation and help understand change.

KNOWLEDGE SHARING CONTINUES


As you can see, knowledge has been shared throughout time. It is human
to connect with others, by sharing stories, education, mentoring, and other
mechanisms that we have discovered throughout time. In the next chapter,
we will explore appreciation, its roots, and meaning.

3. The generative potential of


appreciative processes
It is said that in the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts
criminally or irresponsibly, he is placed in the center of the village, all by
himself. The men, women, and children in the village gather in a large circle
around the accused. Everyone, including the tribal elders and peers, is
encouraged to share stories of the accused where he did something positive
and exemplary. His good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are brought to
focus intentionally during the sharing. The tribal ceremony ends when
everyone has exhausted the positive feedback she or he can muster about
the person in the center. In the end, the person is welcomed back to the
community through celebratory rituals (Walker, 2001).
While this tradition, deeply embedded in the unique cultural and social
context of the tribe, may not be easily replicated elsewhere, it still reveals an
important lesson about the power of reframing. By intentionally focusing
on the persons positive attributes, a reality dierent from the problem
person is created. The tradition itself transforms the person.
Traditional applications of organizational change and knowledge management rely on nding and solving problems. The notion is that organizational systems have inherent aws that need to be xed through systematic
problem solving and interventions. While this sort of decit and critical thinking can be valuable and informative, it often leaves groups of
people feeling frustrated (Cooperrider and Srivastva, 1987). Appreciative
processes have the potential to reframe these problems into opportunities
and possibilities by intentionally focusing on what is present as opposed to
what is missing.

WHAT IS APPRECIATION?
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth
Edition, denes appreciation as:
appreciation (-prsh-shn) n.
1. Recognition of the quality, value, signicance, or magnitude of people and
things.
32

The generative potential of appreciative processes


2.
3.
4.
5.

33

A judgment or opinion, especially a favorable one.


An expression of gratitude.
Awareness or delicate perception, especially of aesthetic qualities or values.
A rise in value or price, especially over time.

Appreciation is feeling validated for our opinions, our eorts, and the
unique qualities we bring to bear on a situation. In appreciation, there is
also a deliberate action of selectivity and judgment. The perceiver is choosing to look at some stimuli intently and in the process see them more fully.
When changing the way that we perceive a new situation, we have the
power to switch the decit thinking that is inherent in an organization. The
way we are trained makes it easy to focus on the negative and what is not
working in an organization. Venting may be appropriate for a small amount
of time because it allows for release and sense making. The real power from
venting comes from the time when the venting turns to empowered actions.
It may seem simple and obvious that people who appreciate each other in
the workplace will have a better working relationship than those who have
an adversarial relationship. So what then makes it so hard to create an
appreciative environment? Is it that we do not accept that as humans we have
fundamental needs or that we should not be concerned with those needs in
the workplace? Over the course of this book we will reconcile how to meld
our innate appreciative needs with our critical problem solving minds.
Being appreciative is harder than nding problems. To be appreciative,
we must experience a situation, accept the situation, make sense of the situation (pros/cons), and do a bit of mental gymnastics to understand the situation with an appreciative lens. Not only that, the appreciative lens that we
put on the situation impacts our next experience as well.
When people interact with each other on a frequent basis, they are going
to experience conict. To think that organizational problems can be xed
with a one-size-ts-all paradigm would trivialize humans fundamental
nature. Appreciation, if nothing else, helps us admit and accept that we may
disagree with our co-workers philosophies but can appreciate these same
co-workers for their strengths (even though those very strengths are the
ones that bring out our weaknesses).
There are various ways to understand the power of appreciative
processes. Using the model of self-fullling prophecy is one. In Roman
mythology, Galatea was the name of a statue of a beautiful woman that
was brought to life by Venus, goddess of love, in response to the prayers of
the sculptor Pygmalion, who had fallen in love with his creation. We have
chosen the term Galatea eect to underscore the fact that it is the beauty
of the statue that created the desire in Pygmalion. In the knowledge sharing
context, knowledge enablers are like Galatea, having highly desirable and
attractive attributes. Once people imagine these desirable enablers, they see

34

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

more in their work settings. The adoption of the Pygmalion/Galatea eect


to this aspect of appreciative knowledge management creates signicant
dierences in the way people feel about their capacity to create change in
organizations. Essentially, once the energizing properties or knowledge
enablers are correctly identied, building on them is possible because each
individual imagines the ideal future as if it has already happened.
In the play My Fair Lady, George Bernard Shaw created a character
named Professor Henry Higgins who makes a wager that he can take a poor
ower girl and train her to be a lady at the embassy ball. Once Professor
Higgins treats the ower girl, Ms Doolittle, like a lady, she starts to behave
like a lady. And before you know it, she becomes a lady.
During the 19641965 school years, Harvards Robert Rosenthal conducted an experiment to see whether a teachers expectations impacted students performance. The teacher was given the names of the gifted
students, who were, in fact, no smarter than the rest of the class. At the end
of the term, those students who were identied as gifted, performed
signicantly better on the exams than did their peers. In a story widely circulated among organizational development practitioners, a manager was
hired to improve the morale of a small work unit which had various performance issues as well as low morale and team cohesion. The newly hired
managers boss informed him (the manager) that several managers before
him had already tried various approaches to improve the morale and team
productivity but nothing seemed to have worked. The boss hoped that the
new manager would do something unique based on his reputation that
would change the behaviors of the workers in the unit. A year later, the
executive met with the manager and commented very favorably that the
morale of the team had improved signicantly and based on his records
the performance of the team had gone up. While complimenting the
manager, he asked how he had done something that most had failed in the
past. The manager responded that he did not have to do anything because
he learned that they were a group of intelligent workers who were not challenged enough. When asked to elaborate the manager replied that while
checking the personal les of the employees, he learned that their IQs were
in the range of 110130. The manager determined that what the sta
needed were more challenging tasks, respect, and an appreciation of their
intelligence and performance capabilities. The manager also created new
work procedures whereby the sta would be autonomous and responsible
for accomplishing many of the tasks. The manager also showed a great deal
of respect for the sta and treated them like they were his colleagues,
capable of living up to whatever was asked of them. At this point a surprised executive pointed out that the numbers he saw on top of his les were
the le folder numbers and not the IQ!

The generative potential of appreciative processes

35

While it is not easy to conrm the veracity of this story, it can be noted
that it is not very dierent from the original Rosenthal eect experiment.
Just as the school teacher in the Rosenthal experiment thought that some
of her elementary school kids were highly intelligent, this manager believed
that some of the employees were highly intelligent. An expectation can
change how a manager relates to his subordinates. Just as in the Rosenthal
experiment it is also easy to see how the sta would have reacted dierently
to this new manager, when they observed that he treated them dierently
and with more respect. Therefore the story plays out very well within the
existing literature of self-fullling prophecy and the Pygmalion eect.
Consciously or not, we establish expectations of people, places, and
things and we communicate these expectations by verbal and non-verbal
cues. The Pygmalion eect is an important key to creating and improving
the workforce. The results of these studies are profound because employees
can create their own reality for each other and the organization. As these
theories and cases show, expectations can create a dierent reality.

VICKERS AND THE HERMENEUTICS CIRCLE OF


APPRECIATION
The term hermeneutics comes from the classical Greek verb Hermeneuein,
to interpret. During the 17th century, hermeneutic study emerged as a
discipline devoted to establishing guidelines for the proper interpretation of
Biblical scripture (the Protestant Reformation created a need to interpret
the scriptures without church authority). Since then, hermeneutic study has
evolved into a form of inquiry primarily concerned with the processes by
which human beings interpret or discover the meaning of human action in
general and linguistic expression in particular. The theory of hermeneutics
explores the concept that texts are understood dierently by dierent people
at dierent times.
The hermeneutics circle indicates that the interpretive scheme one brings
to a situation signicantly inuences what one will nd. Seeing the world is
always an act of judgment. One can take an appreciative judgment or a critical or decit oriented judgment. In general, societal discourses are geared
toward a problem solving kind of dialogue thanks to the decit oriented
critical thinking cultivated in social sciences.
Georey Vickers, a professional manager turned social scientist, was the
rst to talk about appreciation in a systemic way. Peter Checkland, a professor of systems at the University of Lancaster, is a well known interpreter
of Vickers work and has simplied his abstract writing. According to
Checkland (1986, p. 3), when Sir Georey Vickers retired from 40 years of

36

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

full-time professional life he wanted to make sense of all his experiences by


constructing an epistemology which will account for what we manifestly
do when we sit round board tables or in committee rooms. The outcome
was a number of books and papers unique to the eld of management
thinking. Vickers main contribution is that of appreciation and the
appreciative process which constitutes a system. An appreciative system
may be that of an individual, group, or an organization.
In explaining appreciation, Vickers used systems thinking, which provided basic concepts to describe the circular human processes of perceiving, judging, and acting. Vickers work was thus part of the soft systems
approach within the systems movement, but was carried out independently.
However, it is possible to describe soft systems methodology as an operationalization of the process Vickers calls appreciation.
Vickers focused on ve key elements of appreciation:

The experience of day-to-day life (similar to Schutzs Lebenswelt) as


a ux of interacting events and ideas.
Separate judgments about what goes in the present or moment
(reality judgments) and a value judgment about what ought to be
good or bad, both of which are historically inuenced.
An insistence on relationship maintaining (or norm seeking) as a
richer concept of human action than the popular notion of goal
seeking.
A concept of action judgments stemming from reality and value
judgments.
Action, as a result of appreciation, contributes to the ux of events and
ideas, as does the mental act of appreciation itself. This leads to the
notion that the cycle of judgments and actions is organized as a system.

In other words, as humans we are in a state of ux. We judge the events we


experience based on our individual history. We make meaning based on the
interactions with other humans to enrich our lives. Our judgments, relationships, and values dictate how we act in subsequent events. By framing our perceptions and judgments on appreciation, we can change our behavior. We can
change the way we hoard knowledge to a philosophy of sharing knowledge.

THE MODEL OF THE APPRECIATIVE SYSTEM


In order to model appreciation, we must break down the act of appreciation
into steps. Schutz (1966) describes appreciation as an interacting ux of events
and ideas unfolding through time. We have the ability to select and choose

37

The generative potential of appreciative processes

Time

Appreciation

Action

Figure 3.1 The general structure of an appreciative system


(Checkland, 1985)
what reality we perceive from the event based on our judgments and values.
The perception we have of the event impacts the next event that we experience,
thus creating a recursive loop. Figure 3.1 visually depicts how appreciation
impacts action based on the ux of events and ideas throughout time.
Vickers breaks down the decision making components even further:
Those who are engaged in a course of decision-making soon become aware that
each decision is conditioned not only by the concrete situation in which it is
taken but also by the sequence of past decisions; and that their new decisions
in their turn will inuence future decisions not only by their eect on the history
of event but also by the precedents which they set and the changes which they
make in the way decision makers in the future will see, interpret and respond to
event, a separate development which for the moment I will label the history of
ideas. Thus human history is a two-stranded rope; the history of events and the
history of ideas develop in intimate relation with each other yet each according
to its own logic and its own time scale; and each conditions both its own future
and the future of the other. (1965, p. 15)

As you can see in Figures 3.2 and 3.3, in any situation a person has the
choice to perceive the relevant facts based on their interest or concerns.
Once that person has extracted their facts, they place a value judgment on
the situation (good/bad, acceptable/unacceptable) and therefore create an
action based on their value judgment.

MASLOWS HIERARCHY OF NEEDS AND


APPRECIATIVE PROCESSES
Abraham Maslow (1954) is known for establishing the theory of a hierarchy of needs. The logic behind the hierarchy of needs model is that

38

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Interests, concerns
Perceived facts
of the situation
relevant to
interests, concerns

Selected facts
relevant to the
current situation

Significance of the facts


(good/bad, acceptable/
unacceptable) in terms of
regulatable relationships

Standards of fact
and value: good/
bad, acceptable/
unacceptable

Figure 3.2

Hypothetical forms of
relevant relationships

Selected form of relevant


relationships deemed good enough
in the current situation

The process of appreciation (Checkland, 1986)

human beings are motivated by needs. Certain lower level needs should be
satised before the higher needs can be satised. Maslow studied exemplary people such as Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt as well as the
mentally ill, like many other scientists of his time, such as Seligman. He
pointed out that people are basically trustworthy, self-protecting, selfgoverning, and tend toward growth and love.
According to Maslow, there are certain types of deciency needs physiological, safety, love, and esteem that must be satised before a person can
act unselshly. As we satisfy these needs, we are moving toward growth and
self-actualization. The hierarchy is displayed in Figure 3.4. Most knowledge
workers today have some or most of their deciency needs satised, and are
therefore focusing on the needs of self-esteem and self-actualization.
However, organizations (comprising groups of knowledge workers) are
lower on the hierarchy chain. Appreciation provides us with the means for
groups of people to go up the pyramid. It provides us with the foundation
required to create a safe environment to pave the way for and encourage
love, self-esteem, and self-actualization.

39

Figure 3.3

From
previous
cycle
Selected form of relevant
relationships deemed good enough
in the current situation

Significance of the facts


(good/bad, acceptable/
unacceptable) in terms of
regulatable relationships

Perceived facts
of the situation
relevant to
interests, concerns

The process of appreciation (Checkland, 1986)

Standards of fact
and value: good/
bad, acceptable/
unacceptable

Hypothetical forms of
relevant relationships

Selected facts
relevant to the
current situation

Interests, concerns

Decision on how to
act to maintain,
modify, or elude
relevant relationships

Action to
maintain,
modify, or
elude relevant
relationships

To (modified)
standards in the
next cycle of
appreciation

40

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Abraham
Maslows
Hierarchy of
Needs
SELFACTUALIZATION
Pursue Inner Talent,
Creativity, Fulfillment

Higher
Order
Needs
(Like Knowledge
Management)

Appreciation

Lower
Order
Needs

SELF-ESTEEM
Achievement, Mastery
Recognition, Respect
BELONGING LOVE
Friends, Family, Spouse, Lover
SAFETY
Security, Stability, Freedom from Fear
PHYSIOLOGICAL
Food, Water, Shelter, Warmth

Figure 3.4

Maslows hierarchy of needs (1954)

RETROSPECTIVE AND PROSPECTIVE APPROACHES


TO KNOWLEDGE SHARING
Two ways to dierentiate knowledge management approaches (paradigms)
are to delineate them into retrospective and prospective practices. In the
former, the practice is to look back at what happened with a more or less
critical and analytical mindset, like a dissection in a biology laboratory,
a postmortem of an event, or a case study. This approach has certain merits,
is clearly the dominant approach, and has been historically used in a wide
range of elds. Examples are the case study of a patient in a medical school,
the After Action Review that the US Army uses immediately after a training or practice engagement in the eld, and the well-known case study
approach used in business schools worldwide. The retrospective approach
in knowledge management looks at what is wrong in an organization
regarding how knowledge is utilized, isolates the causes for the broken state
of aairs, and comes up with remedial actions or xes to correct the
ineciencies in the system.
While appearing to be objective, data based, and tangible, the retrospective
approach tends to generate costly and damaging ssures in the morale and

The generative potential of appreciative processes

41

organizational climate. It is extremely dicult to engage in an analysis of


what went wrong without assigning responsibility. As soon as that process
begins, the organizational climate is polluted with a wave of the blame game.
The prospective approach, on the other hand, does not analyze what
went wrong but considers what needs to happen for an individual, group,
or organization to reach a desired state or vision. Applied to the knowledge
management domain, this approach will raise the question what needs to
happen in this organization for people to share their knowledge? The
prospective approach purposely focuses on a new and ever-changing future
of information exchange, as well as increasing opportunities for harmonious knowledge sharing at every level in an organization.
Though not intentional, the retrospective approach appears to reproduce
key features of the learned helplessness phenomenon popularized by well
known psychologist Martin Seligman in 1965. In the beginning of his
experiments, laboratory dogs were given an electric shock, which caused
them to try to escape the shock by jumping over to another chamber, only
to nd that the bar was too high. After a few repetitions the height of the
bar was reduced signicantly so that any dog could easily jump over. But,
to Seligmans surprise, the dogs did not and instead chose to resign themselves to continuing to receive the shocks and be in pain.
Based on subsequent more rigorous research, Seligman argued that
exposure to uncontrollable negative events can lead people to develop a
belief in their inability to control important outcomes, and consequently a
loss of motivation and failure to act. The internal dialogue that one cannot
control important events tends to lead to lowered persistence, motivation,
self-esteem, and initiative.
Two decades later another event prompted Seligman to look at the
experiments in a dierent way. In his best selling book Learned Optimism
(1991), Seligman showed that based on individual explanatory styles
one person may see despair in a situation while another sees hope. He
researched entrepreneurs who, unlike his dogs, did not give up after several
successive failures but rejuvenated each time, learning from their mistakes
and eventually succeeding in their businesses. Seligman showed that such
people continuously reframed their reality into possibilities as opposed to
limitations, eventually developing learned optimism.
The retrospective, problem solving approach to knowledge management
bears an uncanny resemblance to learned helplessness. In the retrospective
approach, the consultant looks at the causes of the failure in knowledge
sharing. Using the same logic as in Seligmans experiment, a consultant
could conclude that the real cause was the height of the bar. In the prospective approach, the questions will be about the modalities of reframing. How
can the client system look at the current status of knowledge sharing using

42

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

an explanatory style of learned optimism so that they may see the organizational environment as full of possibilities?
Yet another distinguishing feature of the retrospective approach to
knowledge management is the prolic presence of defensive routines, an
organizational process rst articulated by the well known organizational
learning theorist Chris Argyris (1990). A defensive routine is an institutionalized, ongoing, and routinized mixed message about which discussion is taboo. It is an elaborate double-bind whose purpose is to prevent
embarrassment, threat, and awkward situations, to maintain the status
quo, and avoid unwanted change.
To demonstrate defensive routines, Argyris (1990) asked a group of
executives to describe a key problem in their organization and to narrate an
imaginary meeting in which they were talking to the person of their choice
about the problem and solutions. On the left side of a split page he asked
them to write what they would actually say and on the right side the ideas
and feelings they would have but not communicate for whatever reason.
Argyris was struck by the discrepancy between the two and felt that what
was not shared was just as signicant as what was. The bigger the discrepancy, the stronger the defensive routines.
Because organizational defensive routines are intended to avoid the
experience of embarrassment, they make it unlikely that the organization
will ever genuinely address the contributing factors for the lack of knowledge
sharing. This would be true even if external knowledge management consultants were brought in. In the prospective approach to knowledge sharing,
the consultant does not try to solve or x the defensive routines. Instead, the
focus is on creating open communication, dialogue, genuine inquiry.
In the prospective approach, the consultant is not interested in identifying or isolating the defensive routines because, based on her training in
social constructionist theories, she knows that paying attention to such
constructs would only bring them to life with increased intensity. The more
the participants talk about the defensive routines, the more they recognize
them. The outcome may be a stage of learned helplessness where they discover that no matter how hard they try, the roadblocks are there to stay, or
that they wouldnt have much inuence in doing anything about them.
The alternative approach in ASK is therefore to focus on the harmony or
ow rather than defensive routines. By intentionally probing for solid data
where knowledge sharing happened, the prospective ASK approach isolates the knowledge enablers rather than the disablers.
Table 3.1 outlines the main points of the retrospective and prospective
approaches to knowledge management. It will be obvious to the reader that
one is based on a decit view of knowledge management and the other on
a more armative view.

The generative potential of appreciative processes

43

Table 3.1 Contrasting retrospective and prospective approaches to


knowledge management
Retrospective

Problem solving
Identication of problem
Highlight what is broken
Identify knowledge management
problems: What makes people
hoard knowledge?
Analyze causes
Generate possible solutions
Action planning and treatment
Fixing as intervention
Looking at what is missing
Knowledge management as a
problem to be solved
Degenerative diagnostic focus
Reactive, knee-jerk response
Focus on whats urgent
Leverage learned helplessness
Passive, cognitive re-arming of
status quo and current reality
Modernistic
Reductionistic
Defensive routines
Managing from the past

Prospective

Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge


Valuing and appreciating what is
Arm what is working
Identify knowledge enablers: What
makes people share knowledge?
Envision what is possible
Generate future-present scenarios
Innovating/realizing what will be
Armation as intervention
Looking at what is present
Knowledge management as an
opportunity to be embraced
Generative prognostic focus
Proactive, reective response
Focus on whats important
Leverage learned optimism
Active, intentional cognitive
reframing of current reality
Postmodern
Social constructionist
Open communication/dialogue
Managing for the future

TWO APPROACHES TO KNOWLEDGE


MANAGEMENT
In addition to his work on learned helplessness (mentioned above), Martin
Seligman has another project: the study of what he calls positive psychology. According to him, psychology as a discipline is focused on decits.
Psychology journals have published 45,000 articles in the last 30 years on
depression, but only 400 on joy. Seligman himself had a celebrated career
as a result of his famous theory on learned helplessness. All that changed
when a businessman on a plane trip asked him about studying optimism
instead of pessimism. That was a turning point for Seligman his later best
seller (1991) was called Learned Optimism!
According to Seligman (1991), when psychology began developing as a
profession, it had three goals: to identify genius, to heal the sick, and to help

44

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

people live better, happier lives. Over the last century, however, it has focused
almost entirely on pathology and decits, following the science of medicine,
itself structured around disease, as its model. Psychology, Seligman says,
has been negative essentially for 100 years. Theories have generally focused
on damage, as have techniques for intervention. Social science has believed
negative things were authentic and human strengths were coping mechanisms, Seligman says. The former American Psychological Association
president is determined to change that by focusing on the three central
aspects of peoples lives: love, work, and play. Rather than spending $10
million on, say, phobias and fears, study courage, he argues. Along with
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, well known for studies on the psychology of
optimal experience, or ow (1990), Seligman has created a research team
of young and promising psychologists to work on these aspects.

APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY AND KNOWLEDGE


MANAGEMENT
In the late 1980s a group of organizational development and psychology
professionals at Case Western Reserve University developed a new model
for looking at organizational analysis, focusing on the positive aspects of
the organization rather than the negative (Cooperrider and Srivastva,
1987). This innovative action research model was developed with the
idea that it would take the best ideas of the organizations and attempt to
reinforce and build upon them in a positive way while working within the
current culture of the organization.
Appreciative Inquiry attempts to determine the organizations core
values (or life giving forces). AI seeks the best of what is in order to
provide an impetus for imagining what might be (Cooperrider and
Srivastva, 1987). The basic rationale of Appreciative Inquiry is to begin
with a grounded observation of the best of what is, articulate what might
be, ensure the consent of those in the system to what should be, and collectively experiment with what can be.
The concept of AI is important in oering an approach that seeks and
discovers what a group does well and what enables a particular group to
work at its best. It has been suggested that this armative approach
expands those competencies to a new level of excellence. It has been emphasized that, contrary to traditional gap-analysis consulting, which starts at
a decit point and works to zero, Appreciative Inquiry purposely begins
with the positive and moves to the extraordinary.
In their 1987 publication Appreciative Inquiry in Organizational Life,
Cooperrider and Srivastva reason that organizations are not problems to

The generative potential of appreciative processes

45

be solved but are centers of innite human capacity ultimately unpredictable, unknowable, or a mystery alive. They prove that human systems
grow in the direction of what they focus on; therefore, let us all search for
the true, the good, the better, and the possible in human systems. The article
represented the beginning of the transition from thinking of AI as just a
theory-building approach to seeing its potential as a full blown intervention framework (Cooperrider and Srivastva, 1987).
Most tools of organizational analysis are rooted in a logical positivist
paradigm that treats organizational reality as something fundamentally
pre-existing. On the other hand, according to Cooperrider and Srivastva
(1987), Appreciative Inquiry is based on a socio-rationalist paradigm which
treats organizational reality as a social construction and a product of
human imagination. Reality is seen as a linguistic achievement made possible by our engagement in a social discourse.
Appreciative Inquiry is both a method of action research and a theory
of how organizational realities evolve. Taking the socio-rationalist point of
view associated with the sociology of knowledge school, Cooperrider and
Srivastva (1987) argue that there is nothing inherently deterministic about
any particular social form, no historically valid principles to be uncovered,
even though mainstream social science tends to study organizations as if
they are tangible forms waiting to be molded. While logical positivism
assumes that social phenomena are suciently enduring, stable, and replicable to allow for lawful principles, socio-rationalism contends that social
order is fundamentally unstable and organic. Social phenomena are
guided by cognitive heuristics, limited only by human imagination: the
social order is a subject matter capable of innite variation through the
linkage of ideas and action (Cooperrider and Srivastva, 1987, p. 139).
Thus, the creation of new and evocative theories of groups and organizations is a powerful way to aid in their change and development.
Appreciative Inquiry refers to both a search for knowledge and a theory
of intentional collective action which are designed to help evolve the normative vision and will of a group, organization, or society as a whole
(Cooperrider and Srivastva, 1987, p. 159). In a later writing on the
armative basis of organizing, Cooperrider (1990) proposes that all
groups have images of themselves that underlay self-organizing processes
and that social systems have a natural tendency to evolve toward the most
positive images held by their members. Conscious evolution of positive
imagery, therefore, is a viable option for evolving the group as a whole.
According to Cooperrider (1990), the greatest obstacle to the well being
of an ailing group is the dis-armative projection that currently guides it.
When organizations nd that attempts to x problems create more problems, or the same problems never go away (Senge, 1990), it is a clear signal

46

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

of the inadequacy of the organizations current images or projections of


who it is. In that context, Appreciative Inquiry is an attempt to co-create a
shared consensus of a new future by exploring the core competencies that
are resident in an organization.
Gabriel Marcel (1963) introduced into philosophy a distinction between
problem and mystery. Mystery produces a diused experience where the
distinction between subject and object disappears. A mystery is something
in which I am myself involved, and it can therefore only be thought of as a
sphere where the distinction between what is in me and what is before me
loses its meaning and its initial validity (Marcel, 1963). On the contrary, a
problem is something to be xed. There is very little to appreciate in a
problem other than getting rid of it or solving it.
This distinction between mystery, problems, and positive throughput is
the foundation of Appreciative Inquiry. Once everyday experiences of life
are drawn in terms of eciency, logic, precision, and problem solving,
organizational experiences become a microcosm of that very mindset.
Thus, we have two contrasting and unconscious images of organizations:
organizations as problems to be solved or xed, or as mysteries to be
appreciated (Cooperrider and Srivastva, 1987).
In this context, Appreciative Inquiry as a methodology seeks to locate and
heighten the life-giving-forces (Cooperrider and Srivastva, 1987) or core
values of organizations. An armation of the organization calls for an indepth understanding of its core values. The focus on core values becomes
persuasive when we see organizations as systems of shared meaning and
beliefs where the critical activity is the continued construction and maintenance of the meaning and belief systems which assure compliance, commitment, and positive aect on the part of the participants (Pfeer, 1982, p. 82).
Pfeers denition amplies the life giving nature of values, beliefs, and
ideology around which people organize themselves for collective action. An
armation of the uniqueness of organizational values is most likely to help
a researcher or consultant realize what makes such organizing possible and
understand the possibilities of newer and more eective forms of organizing. Appreciative Inquiry seeks the best of what is in order to provide an
impetus for imagining what might be. According to Karl Weick (1982),
intense armation might also show faults and inadequacies more readily
than intense criticisms. He argues that if we have only weak images of organizations to work with we are likely to end up with weak theories of their
organizing. Another writer in this area, Peter Elbow (1973), reminds us that
we could also make an intentional choice to play the believing game as
opposed to the doubting game. In the doubting game, the consultant or
researcher has a suspicious eye whereas in the believing game the eorts are
to understand the organizational dynamics from the participants point of

The generative potential of appreciative processes

47

view. In this context, explanations and interpretations are armations that


assert what organizations are more than what they are not. As Weick (1982,
p. 445) says, We rst have to arm that it is there, in order, second, to discover that it is there.
Appreciative Inquiry, in essence, is an attempt to generate a collective
image of a future by exploring the best of what is and has been. The basic
rationale of Appreciative Inquiry is to begin with a grounded observation
of the best of what is, articulate what might be, ensure the consent of those
in the system to what should be, and collectively experiment with what can
be (Cooperrider and Srivastva, 1987). Appreciative Inquiry argues that
organizational research eorts should be appreciative, applicable, provocative, and collaborative. Appreciation means that the research process
should not be based on the problem solving mode, but instead should build
on the uniqueness and specic qualities of the organization under consideration. The applicable calls for the research to be relevant, useful, and
potentially capable of generating new knowledge. The provocative refers
to a type of analysis that becomes challenging and generative (Gergen,
1994b). A generative approach points toward realistic potentials that are
latent in the system. It becomes challenging when enactment of those
potentials represents a moderately high risk requiring the development of
unused or untried possibilities (Cooperrider and Srivastva, 1987).
To conclude, Appreciative Inquiry is an ideally suited methodology if
one is interested in studying how to reframe organizational realities. Ever
since its introduction in 19861987, Appreciative Inquiry has been used in
a wide variety of organization development situations. One of its most
comprehensive uses was with a nonprot global organization in a study
that was conducted by this author and documented in his doctoral dissertation (Thatchenkery, 1994).

APPRECIATIVE INTELLIGENCE
After reading and studying over a hundred stories about leaders in the
Investors Business Daily column, Leaders and Success, Tojo Thatchenkery
observed certain patterns in leaders behavior. Building on his doctoral work
on the methodology and technique of Appreciative Inquiry with the team of
Suresh Srivastva and David Cooperrider in the late 1980s, and later as a business consultant and Professor of Organizational Learning, Thatchenkery
began to see that the ability to appreciate to see hidden value in people and
situations and to construct a more positive future seemed more related to
a leaders success than did traditional IQ or subject matter expertise.
Appreciative intelligence, a term coined by Thatchenkery, is the missing

48

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

link between leadership, intelligence, and success. Because it was never conceptualized or articulated before by traditional intelligence researchers in
the eld of psychology, leadership research placed undue importance on the
capacity of leaders to get things done, primarily based on traits that helped
leaders inuence others by sheer charisma, analytical intelligence, or positional power. One of Thatchenkerys ndings is that leaders who possess a
high level of appreciative intelligence have higher incidence of innovation,
entrepreneurship, more productive employees, and greater ability to adapt
to changes particularly to lumps and bumps in a volatile economy and
environment. Furthermore, by developing appreciative intelligence in
leaders, the traditional workplace can be made into a more productive and
humane environment. Top leaders show a high degree of four characteristics of appreciative intelligence (Thatchenkery and Metzker, 2006):
1.

2.

3.

4.

Ability to reframe reality to bring out the inherent generative potential


in a situation, in much the same way that the farmers of Enterprise,
Alabama, saw the devastation caused by the cotton-eating boll weevil
insect as an opportunity to diversify their agriculture.
Capacity to appreciate people to see and expose the hidden value in
others, as did Estee Lauder who saw a shoeless woman who entered an
upscale store as a potential good customer, and ended up selling two
of each product to her and more to her relatives the next day.
Irrepressible resilience the ability to bounce back from a dicult situation, as did Dell, Inc., with Michael Dell leading the company from
its year 2000 drop in performance, market capitalization, and shareholder base back to a $90 billion capitalization, improved performance, and return to stable long-term shareholder base today.
Ability to build an infrastructure/environment/culture/system that
spreads the leaders appreciative intelligence to others and helps appreciation perpetuate, as did Tupperwares marketing genius Brownie
Wise who made Tupperware a household name as she inspired thousands of company representatives to successful careers.

While some individuals possess a high degree of appreciative intelligence


naturally, others can learn, develop, and enhance their skills for greater
eectiveness by identifying their own areas of appreciative intelligence and
expanding them. By working from the conscious practice of reframing and
appreciating, leaders can move to a position of unconscious competence
in reframing, appreciating, and creating a self-perpetuating appreciative
culture.

4.

How to ASK

Green Capital Bank was a well-known nancial institution that integrated


an approach to knowledge management called Appreciative Sharing of
Knowledge in an attempt to create a culture of true knowledge sharing that
would positively impact the bottom line. The question that most organizations have is how to help and foster these quick knowledge exchanges.
How can they dene the benets? The integral components of a knowledge
management program include:

Generating new knowledge both internally and by accessing valuable


knowledge from outside sources.
Representing knowledge in documents, databases, and software.
Facilitating knowledge growth through culture and incentives.
Transferring existing knowledge into other parts of the organization.
Measuring the value of knowledge assets and impact of knowledge
management.
The creation of a new and advanced awareness of the benets of
retaining knowledge within the organization as changes occur and
people leave.

The ASK process, as outlined in this chapter, helps pave the way for these
components. This chapter focuses on how to implement an ASK process,
step by step. The chapter highlights various antecedent factors on how the
ASK process was initiated at the Green Capital Bank. There are several
elements of appreciation that should be kept in mind in creating an ASK
process. The rst is a corporate culture that promotes knowledge sharing
and the technology that enables it. Managers can promote the value of
knowledge sharing by openly praising and rewarding employees who share
knowledge rather than hoarding it. One way to enforce knowledge sharing
is to use it as an evaluation point in performance appraisals. The second is
the elimination of organizational barriers to knowledge sharing. Several
outdated business processes, organizational structures, and inecient management systems can create territorial barriers that reduce the willingness
to share knowledge. And third is the desire on the part of the leader to
embrace a positive approach to planning and management rather than
merely a problem solving approach.
49

50

Step

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

1, 2, 3

4, 5, 6

What Is

What Might
Be

What
Could Be

What Will
Be

Infrastructure Factors

Key Themes

Outcome

Process

Identify Knowledge
Enablers

Vote
Action
ActionItems
Items
1.
1.
2.
2.
3.
3.
4.
4.

K1 K2 K3 K4

5.

Identify Five
Knowledge
Enablers

Figure 4.1

Create
FuturePresent
Scenarios

Prioritize
Actions

Create an
Action Plan

Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge steps

However, as evidenced from previous chapters, the key ingredient for


Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge is the climate. Does the organization
support sharing? Do people feel they have to hoard their knowledge in
order to survive? What has been the history of knowledge management
projects in the organization? Responses to these questions play a key
role in deciding when and how you would introduce ASK in an organization. Figure 4.1 depicts the process that we will take you through in this
chapter.
As in any organizational change technique, we begin ASK by focusing
on the current state or what is. Steps 1, 2, and 3 will help the practitioner
or change agent to discover the appreciative temperature of their organization with a series of questions asked in a facilitated session with interviews. The focus will be on capturing what has worked so far in the
organization and to extract the core processes supporting knowledge
sharing. During these steps a set of key themes or knowledge enablers
(KEs) will emerge throughout several of the stories that the participants
share. Steps 4, 5, and 6 validate the knowledge enablers through a series of
interviews and subsequent organizational analysis. We will also build upon

How to ASK

Table 4.1

51

ASK actions

Step

Action

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4

Negotiating top management commitment and support


Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm
Identication of knowledge enablers
Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative interviews
designed and conducted by the ASK team
Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge
infrastructure analysis
Constructing future-present scenarios
Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios
Creating and mandating an implementation team

Step 5
Step 6
Step 7
Step 8

them to create a set of future-present scenarios that might be. Step 7


takes that list further by expanding and prioritizing them into more manageable and actionable options. The resulting step 8 creates an action plan
to make what will be real. Table 4.1 depicts and summarizes the steps.

DISCOVERING WHAT IS
Step 1: Negotiating Top Management Commitment and Support
The genesis of knowledge management usually begins with one person who
might have a need to shrink the gap between how knowledge is shared and
Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

52

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

how knowledge needs to be shared. He or she realizes that the organization


can improve its bottom line and realize a signicant competitive advantage
when people share what they know. Depending on who she or he is, and
what he or she does with that realization, a knowledge management project
may or may not succeed.
Like all change eorts or knowledge management projects, the inuence,
passion, and dedication of the sponsor correlate to the success or failure of
the eort. Step 1 involves endorsement and support from top management.
Ideally, the chief executive or someone at senior level is the champion/
sponsor for it. In many real world contexts, this may not happen right at
the beginning. In such situations, all that is needed is tacit support to get
the project going. In most cases, this will lead to a more explicit support
and commitment of resources. Thanks to the appreciative format that will
be used in an ASK initiative, managers tend to see a value in the project
much sooner than traditional knowledge management approaches that
involve larger investments.
To formalize the initiation of the project, the champion can send out a
written communication explaining the signicance of the initiative, the
approximate timeline, and the expectations involvement of that he or
she has of the sta. The memo may be drafted by sta but must be sent
out by the executive sponsor to show leadership endorsement of the
initiative.
Step 1: process summary
People

Outcome

Method

Champion of ASK initiative (leader within organization)


ASK team members
Leadership endorsement
Written communication endorsement from sponsor to
organization (via memorandum or email)
Meetings between ASK initiative team members and sponsor

Step 2: Presenting the Appreciative Knowledge Sharing Paradigm


Once the sponsor has initiated the ASK initiative, it is time to involve
various stakeholders and the knowledge workers. Grounding the employees in the context of the appreciative approach is crucial. The subtleties
must be well understood to ensure the projects success.
Appreciation is not the power of positive thinking. It is not a touchyfeely tool. The appreciative approach asks the participants to take a hard
look at the reality around them, but appreciatively. This does not mean
ignoring or neglecting what is on peoples minds. An example we have often

How to ASK

Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

53

used is of a crying child. Asking the child to shut up and start smiling is not
appreciative. To be truly appreciative here an adult needs to empathize with
the child, acknowledge the childs feelings, and respect his/her state of mind
as genuine and a source of understanding.
We nd that starting an ASK initiative with a good input of theory of
appreciation and knowledge creation is useful. There is an underestimation
of corporate Americas willingness to listen to theory. Invoking Kurt
Lewins notion that there is nothing more practical than a good theory,
we believe that explaining the logic and philosophy of ASK would help in
creating the right mindset and motivation to engage in the project. This is
best accomplished by making a thorough presentation of ASK in about
30 minutes to a representative sample of stakeholders in the project, preferably all of the participants. In this carefully prepared presentation, various
salient features of ASK, such as the role of language in creating reality, the
decit versus appreciative discourses, the history of appreciation, and communities of practice, must be communicated briey and eectively.
Step 2: process summary
People

Outcome
Method

ASK initiative sponsor


First round of participants of ASK (~30 people)
ASK team members
Employees understand what ASK is
Meeting (part 1 of 2) run by ASK team members and ASK
initiative sponsor to enable the discussion of the rst round of
participants

54

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Step 3: Identication of Knowledge Enablers


Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge projects normally start with a demonstration of the power and methodology of ASK. The task is typically
accomplished by interviews in pairs among those who attended the presentation in step 2. Step 3 step subtly accomplishes three tasks at once.
First, members will later get an opportunity to hear the content of the
interviews that are, by its very denition and process, appreciative knowledge sharing stories. Second, the interviews help in identifying what are
called knowledge enablers. Third, the process works as an ice-breaker
activity to get the ASK task started. If it is not possible to do the interviews in pairs, the ASK team may take responsibility to do the interviews
themselves.
Storytelling is an eective knowledge management and organizational
change tool. Sharing a story creates the space for the client to imagine what
might be in their organization. By listening to a story one can get in the
minds of individuals who collectively make up the organization and [aect]
how they think, worry, wonder, agonize, and dream about themselves and
in the process create and recreate their organization. The storyteller shares
stories of events that are already working well in the organization. This
creates a framework to generate more ideas of what else could easily work
well in the organization.
The following sample interview questions for Appreciative Sharing of
Knowledge help begin the process of understanding the best of what is
happening in the organization to plant the seeds for what needs to be.
The interviewer starts by asking the interviewee (or his/her partner) a few

How to ASK

55

questions in order to get a sense of how knowledge sharing has been


working in the organization. The interviewee (or partner) is then asked to
answer his or her choice of the following questions:
Sample questions
1. Think about a time when you shared something that you knew, which
enabled you and your company to achieve success. Describe one such
event when you felt most alive, excited, valued, or appreciated.
Follow-up questions

a)

What made it a signicant positive experience? Or, What is it about


the experience that you continue to cherish?
b) What did you learn from that experience?
c) How can you apply your learning to your daily activities?
2. Name an event where one of your colleagues did something exemplary
recently (outstanding/highly successful) with respect to knowledge
sharing. What did s/he do?
Follow-up questions

a) What did you admire in her/him?


b) How has that (what s/he did) contributed to the success of the
organization?
c) Can this learning be extended to others? How?
3. What are your images for the future of this organization with respect to
knowledge sharing? What would you like to contribute to make that
happen?
The interviewer always prompts for a full description of incidents. He or
she should steer the interview to hear more about what happened rather
than why it happened. Doing so will help identify the core elements of the
story. Each interview takes approximately 3045 minutes. Once the interviews are over, the facilitator will ask the participants to share the stories
they heard from their partners. As they do this public sharing, it is important not to ask any justifying questions to those sharing. Whatever is shared
is accepted. The one exception is clarifying questions, which can and should
be asked.
As these stories are shared, the ASK team members capture main
descriptors on a white board. While capturing, it is important not to spend

56

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

too much time in wordsmithing. The words that stand out from a story are
given a name and listed on the whiteboard. These descriptors generate the
dozens of rst cut of themes. With the help of the audience, the facilitator
will analyze them and narrow them down to four to ve. In the ASK initiative, these four or ve key values/themes are called knowledge enablers.
They are the building blocks of knowledge sharing within the organization.
To give you an example of a knowledge enabler, listed below is one set
that we obtained. We show more examples in the subsequent chapters that
include case studies.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Collegiality.
Teamwork.
Valuing autonomy.
Opportunity for personal growth.
Participation.

Step 3: process summary


People

Outcome

Method

ASK initiative sponsor


First round of participants of ASK (~30 people)
ASK team members
Employees have conducted their rst round of ASK interviews
Employees have begun identifying knowledge enablers
Meeting (part 2 of 2) facilitated by ASK team members
Break out teams of two, each employee interviews a colleague
using ASK interview questions
Each employee reports to the larger group and key themes are
captured on the white board by ASK team members

CREATING WHAT MIGHT BE


Step 4: Expansion of Knowledge Enablers Using Appreciative Interviews
Designed and Conducted by the ASK Team
Once the knowledge enablers are identied, your task is to explore
the knowledge infrastructure factors that facilitate the existence and
continuance of the knowledge enablers. Using the above example, explore
those factors in the organization that sustain and nourish collegiality,
teamwork, valuing autonomy, participation, and opportunity for personal growth. You nd this out using the appreciative interview. Ideally,
these one-on-one interviewees should be people who were not part of
step 3.

57

1, 2, 3

4, 5, 6

What Is

What Might
Be

What
Could Be

What Will
Be

Identify Knowledge
Enablers

Vote

Key Themes

Process

Outcome

Identify Five
Knowledge
Enablers

Infrastructure Factors

Step

How to ASK

Action
ActionItems
Items
1.
1.
2.
2.
3.
3.
4.
4.

K1 K2 K3 K4

5.

Create
FuturePresent
Scenarios

Prioritize
Actions

Create an
Action Plan

Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

The sample appreciative interview format is outlined below:


1.

Introduction
a) Explain the purpose of the interview. Assure condentiality of
responses.

58

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

b) Establish rapport. Make sure the interviewee feels comfortable and


easy with the interview. Emphasize the fact that there are no right or
wrong answers.
2.

Priming/context setting questions


a) Tell me something about what attracted you to this organization.
How did you start out? What were your initial excitements and
impressions?

3.

Exploring knowledge enablers. Example: Collegiality


a) Several people in your organization have identied collegiality as a knowledge enabler. Can you tell me something more
about it?
b) Can you describe two incidents where you found collegiality at its
best? Or, When have you experienced a signicant level of collegiality in this organization?
c) What are the factors or conditions that facilitate the existence of
collegiality here?

4. The same process is used for the remaining knowledge enablers. Example:
teamwork:
a) Several people in your organization have identied teamwork as a
knowledge enabler. Can you tell me something more about it?
b) Can you describe two incidents where you found teamwork at its
best? Or, When have you experienced a signicant level of teamwork
in this organization?
c) What are the factors or conditions that facilitate the existence of
teamwork here?
Follow the same pattern with the rest of the knowledge enablers. It is critical to explore at least the following two aspects with respect to each knowledge enabler.
1.
2.

Description of occasions/events where the interviewee experienced the


knowledge enabler in its most alive manifestation.
Factors/conditions (personal, organizational, and/or environmental)
that heighten/facilitate/promote these knowledge enablers.

How to ASK

59

Step 4: process summary


People

Outcome

Method

Second round of participants of ASK (~30 people)


ASK team members
ASK team members have validated and explored knowledge
enablers
ASK team members interview 30 employees individually

Step 5: Thematic Analysis of the Data Using Knowledge Infrastructure


Factors
Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

Once the KE factors have been identied and further explored, the remaining task is to enhance the operation of those factors within the system.
Some would say this is the hardest part of the process.
In chapter 3 we discussed the Pygmalion (also called Galatea or
Rosenthal) eect. In the knowledge sharing context, the knowledge
enablers are like Galatea, highly desirable and so attractive that people
desire to bring them to life or to see more of them in practice in their
work settings. Further, once the knowledge enablers have been correctly
identied, building on them is possible by helping individuals imagine the
ideal future as if it has already happened. The next step is to analyze the
interview data to get a sense of the knowledge infrastructure factors
(KIFs). Knowledge infrastructure is the backbone of any knowledge
enabler. Without this infrastructure, knowledge enabler cannot sustain
themselves for long.

60

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Incentives
for knowledge
sharing

Leadership

Knowledge
enablers
(e.g., collegiality,
participation)

Communication

Decision
making
Organizational
routines &
practices

Figure 4.2

Knowledge enablers and knowledge infrastructure factors

KIFs may be thought of metaphorically as the pillars that support


an architectural structure (Thatchenkery, 2005) (Figure 4.2). If removed
or damaged the building may collapse. Yet, when looking at an architectural
marvel, we do not necessarily think of the pillars, or may not even be aware
of their existence: the pillars dont command attention nor are they very
visible in a casual external appearance, yet they are critical for the very existence of the building. The knowledge infrastructure factors work in similar
ways. Without them, the knowledge enablers cannot exist. Unlike knowledge enablers, they are the same for every organization. Based on a review
of knowledge management research literature, the following knowledge
infrastructure factors have been identied (Thatchenkery, 2005). They are
decision making, organizational practices and routines, incentives for
knowledge sharing, leadership, and communication.

How to ASK

61

Decision making
As a knowledge infrastructure factor, decision making refers to the relatively
permanent and institutionally legitimized way decisions are made in an
organization. Over a period of time, based on historicity and norms, organizations tend to develop a pattern of decision making which is transmitted
from old timers to newcomers through socialization processes. Examples are
participatory, consensus based, or autocratic decision making styles.
Organizations will have certain decision making styles irrespective of
whatever knowledge enablers they may have. For example, faculty in a particular university may identify freedom of expression as a knowledge
enabler (Thatchenkery, 2005). They nd freedom of expression as core to
knowledge sharing. In a nonprot development-oriented organization,
empowering others may be a knowledge enabler. In both organizations,
decision making is a knowledge infrastructure factor. If decisions are made
autocratically, it will certainly aect freedom of expression among faculty
members or the empowering of others in the nonprot organization.
A signicant body of research exists to suggest that participatory or
consensus-based decision making styles tend to foster collaborative behavior in organizations. It is safe to assume that collaborative behaviors are
more likely to lead to knowledge sharing than competitive practices. In the
latter, individuals may have a vested interest in protecting or hoarding their
knowledge.
Organizational practices and routines
Organizational practices refer to routines, procedures, and established ways
of doing things that have become normal like a habit (Thatchenkery, 2005).
They tend to be repeated with certain periodicity such that organizational
participants would come to anticipate the occurrence of those routines or
procedures at the prescribed time and place. All organizations have routines
and practices. A Monday morning meeting every week, having a customary welcome party for a new employee, letting every employee, irrespective
of rank, meet with the President if the employee desires, and so on, are
examples of organizational practices.
In several highly functioning knowledge sharing organizations, another
organizational practice called communities of practice (CoPs) has been in
existence as well, where people share their knowledge informally and
voluntarily. A CoP, as used in knowledge sharing, is spontaneously and voluntarily organized by those interested in enhancing their knowledge and
networking, potentially around a certain subject or profession. Typically,
individuals will gather around for 40 minutes and share their wealth of
knowledge and at the same time learn new practices and procedures from
those who share.

62

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Recent organizational research suggests that organizational routines can


have either facilitative or inhibitive inuences on organizational innovation
(Thatchenkery, 2005). For example, a practice of having to send every new
idea for approval to a chain of hierarchy is most likely to inhibit innovation.
On the other hand, a dierent practice where a group that comes up with a
new idea is also given responsibility to bring it to production stage may be
more eective in encouraging creative solutions. When an engineer in
Hewlett-Packard refers to the HP way he or she is actually referring to its
institutionalized practice and routines. HP insiders know what to do when
a new idea emerges in their unit. It will be a predictable series of actions
and follow-ups, even though they may be unaware that they are reacting in
a routine-like manner. Certain organizational practices like the CoPs mentioned above have been shown to be highly facilitative for knowledge
sharing in a large number of researches. Other evidence points to the long
term advantages of productive organizational routines. Once established,
they are relatively easy to maintain, thereby freeing up valuable organizational energy for more proactive strategies and actions.
It is important to recognize that habits, routines, and norms can be a liability or asset. Once solidied with time, habits and routines, whether productive or non-productive, tend to become comfortable. In that context, the
ASK process gives a unique opportunity for stakeholders to examine
whether the routines are facilitating or inhibiting knowledge enabling. If
they are inhibiting, the future-present scenarios (FPS) that will be introduced later in the book will be a pragmatic way to address the situation
(Thatchenkery, 2005). Incentives, leadership, and communication are
the remaining knowledge infrastructure factors. Together with decision
making and organizational practices and routines, they constitute the
support structure that not only maintains the knowledge enablers but also
enhances them when used as key elements of the FPS construction process
(which will be explained later in this chapter).
Incentives for knowledge sharing
The organizational practices and routines eventually shape the type of
incentives for knowledge sharing. It has frequently been observed that
some practices and routines act as incentives for knowledge sharing while
others do the opposite. Incentives as a knowledge infrastructure factor are
benets, material and psychological rewards that the organization has institutionalized to encourage knowledge sharing. A key question is: What
incentives are in place to recognize individuals who share knowledge? All
organizations have some form of incentive that may or may not encourage
knowledge sharing.
The impact of incentives on organizational performance has been thor-

How to ASK

63

oughly researched and documented. Available evidence suggests that both


material and psychological incentives play a key role in employee morale
and satisfaction. In some cases, nancial incentives cease to have an impact
and more intangible ones like status, challenge, autonomy, and recognition
become more important. As a KIF, most incentives are likely to be psychological rather than material or nancial.
Leadership
It should not be a surprise that leadership is a KIF. Leadership is a critical
pillar for all organizations. Some leadership styles support knowledge
enablers better than others. Identifying those that are signicant to the
group or organization, as noted earlier, is of critical importance. As one
would imagine, leadership is one of the most researched concepts in management. Voluminous amounts of empirical data and anecdotal evidence
are readily available to demonstrate the role of leadership in creating excellence in organizations. In the case of ASK, the support provided by leadership appears to contribute to the legitimacy and acceptance of the
process. Such an observation is of course consistent with traditional change
management literature where it has been shown again and again that top
management support is critical for change eorts to succeed.
Organizational practices and leadership impact each other. Certain practices, such as the presence of distributed, self-autonomous groups, are
likely to encourage the emergence of participative leadership styles. Or,
the participative leadership style may encourage the creation of selfautonomous groups. While it is not necessary or even possible to determine
what comes rst, recognition of the mutual causality or interdependence
between the two is useful in creating action steps for the future.
Communication
Like leadership, communication is a KIF. The quality and style of communication that support knowledge sharing are the focus here. Also just
like leadership, communication as a concept has been solidly researched
and shown to directly inuence the quality of organizational outcomes.
Some communication styles enhance knowledge sharing while others
curtail it. Research strongly supports what is common knowledge to many
organizational development practitioners: an open communication style
where employees are able to talk to each other without regard to hierarchical status tends to create a more knowledge sharing climate. Organizations
with set rules about channels of communication and strict protocols
regarding who can talk to whom tend to generate a climate where people
are more likely not to take the time or risk of sharing.
As in the case of leadership, organizational practices and routines impact

64

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

communication styles as well. For example, the larger the number of selfautonomous groups in an organization, the larger the probability of horizontal channels of communication ourishing.
Interdependency of KIFs and KEs
It is important to recognize that the above KIFs are intermingled and interdependent (Thatchenkery, 2005). From a constructionist perspective, all
labeling (naming) is socially constituted, serving the purpose of aiding the
sense making process. This interdependence suggests that one KIF cannot
exist without the support and existence of the other; each promotes the
existence of the other; making sense cannot happen without the existence of
the other. Yet, as in many identifying processes, treating them as if they are
independent makes the data easier to analyze and understand. Further, the
possibility of designing proposition statements (which will be explained
later) is easier through recognizing that interactivity between the actionable,
independent KIF and KE is vital to productive knowledge sharing.
Building a KEKIF matrix
Organize the interview responses obtained in step 2 in a large matrix. On
one axis of the matrix is listed the knowledge enablers and on the other the
infrastructure factors. The cells in the matrix will contain examples of the
KE and KIF they represent (Table 4.2).
Step 5: process summary
People
Outcome
Method

ASK team members


Thematic analysis of knowledge enablers
ASK team members transcribe interview notes and analyze
themes as a group
ASK team members organize data across knowledge
infrastructure factors

Step 6: Constructing Future-Present Scenario Statements


The term future-present may seem like a paradox. A future-present scenario statement is a concrete description with rich details of a future
desired state happening in the present reality. The future has come to the
present; this has also been called anticipatory reality statements. A futurepresent scenario statement bridges the best of what is with ones own
image or anticipation of what might be.
Sports psychology has used the practice of imagining a concrete, sometimes immediately realizable, future scenario for a long time. Many runners

65

How to ASK

Table 4.2

Knowledge enablers
Empowerment

Knowledge Infrastructure
Decision
Examples
Making
of decision
making styles
that enhance
empowerment

Teamwork

Respect

Building
Relationships

Examples
of decision
making styles
that enhance
teamwork

Examples
of decision
making styles
that enhance
respect

Examples
of decision
making styles
that enhance
building
relationships

Leadership

Examples of
leadership
styles that
enhance
empowerment

Examples of
leadership
styles that
enhance
teamwork

Examples of
leadership
styles that
enhance
respect

Examples of
leadership styles
that enhance
building
relationships

Communities
of Practice &
Organizational
Practices

Examples of
CoPs & OPs
that facilitate
empowerment

Examples of
CoPs & OPs
that facilitate
teamwork

Examples of
CoPs & OPs
that facilitate
respect

Examples of
CoPs & OPs
that facilitate
building
relationships

Incentives

Examples of
incentive
systems that
facilitate
empowerment

Examples of
incentive
systems that
facilitate
teamwork

Examples of
incentive
systems that
facilitate respect

Examples of
incentive
systems that
facilitate
building
relationships

Communication

Examples of
communication
that facilitates
empowerment

Examples of
communication
that facilitates
teamwork

Examples of
communication
that facilitates
respect

Examples of
communication
that facilitates
building
relationships

imagine themselves reaching the nish line. Sometimes called visualization exercises, the logic of such practices is now fully supported by
research evidence in cognitive psychology (Oschner and Lieberman, 2001).
Using future-present scenarios during the ASK process helps stakeholders in an organization think of the future as if it is already present and
they therefore may get a better sense of what it feels to live that future.
Constructing these scenarios is challenging because it stretches the realm
of the status quo and helps suggest real possibilities that represent potentials for knowledge sharing in the organization. A future-present scenario
releases energy to make visions a reality (Thatchenkery, 2005).
The key is in the richness of the details. The more details about a futurepresent scenario one can create, the more concrete the statements become

66

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

after the writing process. The future-present scenario statements will


consist mostly of what is possible as opposed to what is not. There will be
no decit terms in an FPS. Cognitive psychologists have shown that decit
constructs tend to create a decit or fragmented reality. In creating an FPS,
the stakeholders mind becomes populated by details of a new reality. Often
without being consciously aware, the person then engages in behaviors that
are likely to produce more or less the same reality that existed in their
thoughts.
In the case of ASK, a future-present scenario helps suggest real possibilities for knowledge sharing in the organization and helps heighten attention to such possibilities, making it more likely that such potential will
become reality.
At the same time, it is important to remember that the future-present
scenarios must be data supported. That is, the matrix of KIFs and KEs is
the launching pad for the future-present scenario. Someone cannot just
make up a future-present scenario because he or she likes it, wishes it to
happen, or thinks that is what the organization needs.
One of the features that distinguishes ASK is that the methodology
forces the future to be embedded in the meaningful aspects of the present.
One way to structure this process is to use the CIG model (commitment,
inspiration, and groundedness). Three elements interact in creating a
future-present scenario statement in the model (see Figure 4.3).
The CIG model is based on the synthesis of several theories of managing change (e.g., Lewin, 1951/1997; McGregor, 1960; Herzberg et al., 1959;
Rogers, 1980/1995; and Argyris, 1993). They argue that certain elements
need to be in place so that individuals, groups, or organizations can change.

67

How to ASK

Commitment
Future-present scenarios

FPS

Inspiration

Figure 4.3

Groundedness

Interacting elements of future-present scenarios

For example, psychotherapists have long observed that individuals change


when their desire change (inspiration) is synergistically combined with concrete baby steps (groundedness), and a plan to stay on course (commitment). If the change is too dramatic, or the expectations unrealistic, the
commitment to sustain the change will eventually vanish.
The same can be said of groups and organizations. Change agents must
learn the art of creating enough energy and desire for change and grounding the desired new behaviors, practices, or structures into something
specic, measurable, and concrete. Above all, they need to think in the long
term, that is, How long can these changes be sustained? Is there enough
commitment on the part of the stakeholders to go through with the change
process?
Commitment, inspiration, and groundedness are thus elements that must
be present in a healthy future-present scenario (Thatchenkery, 2005).
Without commitment, the new possibility will not materialize. It will be easy
for participants in such a scenario building activity to come up with
provocative or daring possibilities, but as a consultant you may want to ask:
Do the data so far show evidence for a long term commitment for making
this scenario possible?

68

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

The second element in the model, inspiration, is the driver that provides
the energy for people to carry out the new possibility. And nally, the
future-present scenario must be realistic and plausible (groundedness). If it
is too far-fetched, looking too radical or beyond the capabilities of the
organization, not many will have the energy to make it happen. This is a
ne line and calls for certain judgment, both on the part of the participants
and the consultant. Overall, a future-present scenario constructed using the
three elements of commitment, inspiration, and groundedness is more
likely to become a reality.
Future-present scenario statements contain three elements: inspiration,
commitment, and groundedness. To realize future-present scenarios in a
knowledge sharing corporation, we need to link the future-present scenarios with the knowledge enablers and knowledge infrastructure factors
as seen in the matrix below (Table 4.3). The future-present scenarios are the
key to making existing parts of the knowledge sharing culture grow and
thrive in the organization of tomorrow.
To come up with ideas for the future-present scenarios, consider the
following:
1.

Locate signicant examples of each KE, the best of what is from your
step 2 matrix.
Analyze/interpret how and what kinds of KIF positively increase or
support each KE.
Extrapolate from the best of what is to envision what is possible. Be
imaginative and inspiring. Let the resulting creativity envision a collectively desirable future for the organization.
Construct a future-present scenario statement of what is possible and
state it in armative language as if the scenario were already true and
happening fully in the present.

2.
3.

4.

Developing future-present scenarios


To write the future-present scenarios, certain criteria, as noted below, are
involved:

Write it as if it is already happening. Use the present tense.


Be specic. State the activity, skill, or practice you propose to create
the new reality.
Examine how you feel about living in the new vision and reality.
Keep the inspirationcommitmentgroundedness model in mind.

After the future-present scenario statement has been written, consider


whether it accommodates the following:

69

How to ASK

Table 4.3

Matrix for constructing future-present scenario statements


Empowerment

Teamwork

Respect

Building
Relationships

Decision
Making

Propositions
related to
decision making
styles that
enhance
empowerment

Propositions
related to
decision making
styles that
enhance
teamwork

Propositions
related to
decision making
styles that
enhance
respect

Propositions
related to
decision making
styles that
enhance
building
relationships

Leadership

Propositions
related to
leadership styles
that enhance
empowerment

Propositions
related to
leadership styles
that enhance
teamwork

Propositions
related to
leadership styles
that enhance
respect

Propositions
related to
leadership styles
that enhance
building
relationships

Communities
of Practice &
Organizational
Practices

Propositions
related to CoP
that enhance
empowerment

Propositions
related to CoP
that enhance
teamwork

Propositions
related to CoP
that enhance
respect

Propositions
related to CoP
that enhance
building
relationships

Incentives

Propositions
related to
incentive
systems
that enhance
empowerment

Propositions
related to
incentive
systems
that enhance
teamwork

Propositions
related to
incentive
systems
that enhance
respect

Propositions
related to
incentive
systems
that enhance
building
relationships

Communication

Propositions
related to
communication
that enhance
empowerment

Propositions
related to
communication
that enhance
teamwork

Propositions
related to
communication
that enhance
respect

Propositions
related to
communication
that enhance
building
relationships

1.
2.
3.
4.

Is the statement really challenging or merely a restatement of something already in practice?


Is it specic, concrete, and tangible, as opposed to something very
general and abstract?
Does it inspire you, the participant?
Does it stay grounded and connected to the knowledge enabler and the
knowledge infrastructure factor under consideration?

It is important to remember that dierent organizations will create


dierent possibilities based on their own style, culture, preferences, and

70

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

so on. Even the amount of detail or how specic the statements are will
vary across dierent organizations: as long as the organization meets the
criteria inspired, committed, and grounded and the possibilities stretch
the current reality, accept whatever future-present scenarios are created.
Additionally, accept as many as the group feels it is important to add. The
greater the participation in this step (as with every other), the greater
the success of your ASK initiative and future knowledge sharing within the
organization. Examples of these provocative propositions can be found in
the subsequent case study chapters.
Step 6: process summary
People
Outcome

Method

ASK team members and/or employees of the organization


ASK team members and/or employees of the organization
have created future-present scenario statements
ASK team members and/or employees of the organization pull
from interview data to create future-present scenario statements

Step

PRIORITIZING WHAT COULD BE

1, 2, 3

4, 5, 6

What Is

What Might
Be

What
Could Be

What Will
Be

Outcome

Process

Infrastructure Factors

Key Themes

Identify Knowledge
Enablers

Vote
Action
ActionItems
Items
1.
1.
2.
2.
3.
3.
4.
4.

K1 K2 K3 K4

5.

Identify Five
Knowledge
Enablers

Create
FuturePresent
Scenarios

Prioritize
Actions

Create an
Action Plan

71

How to ASK

Step 7: Consensual Validation of Future-Present Scenario Statements


Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

Once the propositions have been written, check them again against the criteria listed in the previous section. Ask dierent groups to visit others and
comment on each others statements a reach a revised set of propositions.
Once this has been done, ask everyone in the group/audience to valence
them using the following three questions:
How much of an ideal is it?
5
4
VERY MUCH

How much of it may already be present?


5
4
3
A LOT

1
NOT MUCH

1
NOT MUCH

Realistically, how soon do you want this to happen?


Immediately

Short Term
(within six months)

Long Term
(within two years)

Once the valencing has been done, tabulate the scores. Look for propositions with the maximum discrepancy between the ideal and the present
and needing immediate implementation. At the end, you should have all the
propositions prioritized through a set of criteria that are important to the
organization.

72

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Step 7: process summary


People

Outcome

Method

ASK initiative sponsor


All ASK participants
ASK team members
The organization has upgraded and validated the
future-present scenarios
The organization has ranked the future-present scenarios
ASK team members present future-present scenarios,
receive upgrades and validations
The organization ranks the propositions based on three criteria

Step

DECLARING WHAT WILL BE


1, 2, 3

4, 5, 6

What Is

What Might
Be

What
Could Be

What Will
Be

Outcome

Process

Infrastructure Factors

Key Themes

Identify Knowledge
Enablers

Vote
Action
ActionItems
Items
1.
1.
2.
2.
3.
3.
4.
4.

K1 K2 K3 K4

5.

Identify Five
Knowledge
Enablers

Create
FuturePresent
Scenarios

Prioritize
Actions

Create an
Action Plan

Step 8: Creating and Mandating an Implementation Team


This is the most important step in ASK. Several organizations have done
excellent work from step 1 through 7 but have hesitated at step 8. We are
beginning to realize that part of the reason for this is that in those cases the
future-present statements were not written keeping in mind the criteria

How to ASK

Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

73

listed earlier. It is relatively easy to come up with exciting possibilities, but


implementing them is where the hard work really begins. To avoid this trap,
you must make sure that the propositions in the high priority list are those
for which a true desire for implementation exists. You may work with the
client in setting up the implementation team and do periodic follow-ups on
how the process is working. This team would be in charge of prioritizing
and implementing the highest priority possibility propositions and making
them a reality. A contract that includes an implementation phase would be
ideal in this context.
Step 8: process summary
People

Outcome

Method

ASK initiative sponsor


All ASK participants
ASK team members
The highest ranked future-present scenarios have an action plan
and owner for each task
Implementation owners design and present an action plan for
successful implementation

In the following chapters we will explore several cases of how this


method has been applied in organizations and the results that have been
achieved.

5.

Private sector case studies

Many private industries keep their competitive edge by maintaining a


culture of innovation by trying to be the rst to come up with new ideas and
products. In such contexts, organizational silos and incentives traditionally
prohibit knowledge sharing. We believe that the appreciative approach helps
remove these barriers and pave the way for cross-organizational fertilization
and a cycle of innovation. In this chapter we include two case studies an
environmental information technology company (ITC, a ctitious name)
and a well known top ranked bank (Green Capital Bank (GCB), also a
ctitious name). In the ITC study, we provide a sample of the setting and
themes produced. In the GCB case, we provide a step-by-step example of
how to conduct an ASK initiative.

ITC
A group of experienced students with change management backgrounds
formed into a consulting team and studied ITCs corporate environment for
knowledge sharing. The recently appointed Chief Knowledge Ocer
(CKO) wanted to use the initiative to set the foundation for a knowledge
management program that she hoped to create. Another objective was to
nd out who knows what and to learn if ITCs infrastructure could sustain
continued growth and support new clients.
During the time of the study, ITC was a 10-year-old employee-owned,
environmental and consulting rm serving 15 federal agencies and several
state, local, and international governments, as well as 10 private industry
clients and associations. ITC was headquartered in Arlington, Virginia
with other oces in Washington DC, Research Triangle Park, NC, and
remote locations across the United States. It had sales of nearly $30 million
annually.
With approximately 300 employees, ITC was preparing to grow to 500
employees. Accessing and sharing the knowledge of each and every
employee was crucial to its success and further growth. Sharing information, keeping it current, and becoming aware of what other members of
the organization were thinking about and doing were necessary to improve
the bottom line of the company. ITC was working to increase knowledge
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Private sector case studies

75

sharing both internally, to ensure that its infrastructure would sustain and
encourage growth, and externally, to continually support and increase its
number of clients in order to continue the success of the previous ten
years.
ITC had a corporate environment set up for knowledge sharing. The
organizational structure was relatively at and had few layers. ITC was
made up of three business centers and under the centers were six clusters.
Those clusters had several practice areas, which were led by Practice Area
Leaders (PALs). The practice areas were organized by core competencies
and driven by client needs. They were very uid and organized by matrix.
WAMs (Work Assignment Managers) helped lead the practice areas below
the level of PAL. Employee roles were diverse and exible within the
matrix, such that a PAL or Assistant WAM for one practice area could concurrently hold the role of worker in another practice area. Additionally,
roles continually changed as projects and client needs changed over time.
ITCs basic work unit was the team. Teams were normally formed
around one contract or one aspect of a contract. Most employees were on
more than one team.
Most companies core competencies are based on the technical knowledge and experience that they possess. While ITC had these competencies,
its true core competencies what separated it from its competitors
appeared to be some of the more intangible elements of the rm. These
included enthusiastic employees, dedication to the customer, and the ability
to work in a collaborative, team environment. Furthermore, ITCs strong
culture worked to ensure that these competencies remained eective and a
central part of its work.
Going for the Gold
Our rst introduction to this organization was its fall open house. The
theme was Go for the Gold, with reference to the Summer Olympics which
were taking place at the time. This was a great experience for us because it
gave us some context for the ITC culture. An organizations work environment says a lot about its culture. Organizations with open spaces and
shared displays tend to be very collaborative. Organizations with pictures
of family events such as new babies tend to embrace events in their employees lives. In ITCs case the open work environment and Olympic memorabilia around the oce paved the way for fun and collaboration. We saw
knowledge booths scattered around ITCs work area, spaces that were
specically designed with low cubicles for open communication.
The atmosphere was extremely informal, with food and beverages
oating around. We felt comfortable at the open house because friends and

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

family were such integral components of the event. We could see that ITC
places great value on the community of which it is a part. As the open house
wound to a close, everyone gathered for an awards ceremony, where many
individuals and teams received recognition for their contributions to ITCs
success.
Quintessential Stories
Our team discussed the frequency of certain stories in our interviews. The
following narratives, which we began to refer to as quintessential stories,
appeared in various interviews across the team:

Gary (ctional name) created a developers portal for the internet team. He
had been an analyst and he started analyzing pages, grouped and linked
white papers on new technologies, and built a portal. He started telling
people in the company and theyd look at it. And theyd send him stu to
add to it. It has a database you can use to search proposals; it has tools for
cutting graphics, web sites are categorized, and it has statistics. What started
out as a personal interest became a valuable knowledge management
company tool.

This story was frequently shared, making it a quasi-legend, and showed


employees that individual initiatives were recognized and valued by the
company.

My colleague and I were meeting in an ITC conference room, and we could


hear through the wall a conversation that a client was having with an ITC
Practice Area Leader. This unintentional eavesdropping became intentional.
So, we pulled the PAL out of the room and took the PAL to another conference room. We told the PAL that we heard what the PAL and the client
were talking about, and shared our knowledge that was relevant to the
clients issues. This informal sharing of knowledge resulted in a productive
outcome for ITC as well as the client. Our decisions, based on that informal
knowledge sharing, were validated by positive feedback from the client.

This story enforces the informal, organic interactions that help the organization thrive.

Corporate gatherings are both formal and informal. One year they made the
corporate gathering like a game show. They asked questions like, What are
the reasons you could be disbarred as a government contractor? The winner
got a gift certicate for the Best Buy electronics stores. The annual meeting
this year was o site in the AMC movie theater. We saw a movie afterward
families were invited. It was also a formal meeting treasurers report and
stock report and the president gave the state-of-the company presentation.

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77

This helps build the notion that fun is built into work.

When the Green Team cleaned up a section of highway for the Adopt-aHighway program, the president provided money to buy plants for the area
under the highway sign that let people know ITC adopted this section. What
was neat about this project was that it was about giving back to the community, some people used part of their eight hours of paid volunteer time for
it, and we got to know each other better those relationships provide a foundation for working with people. Through our informal conversation, we also
learned what each other does.

This story helped capture the sense of community that pervaded the
organization.
The founders of the company mindfully created a norm that emphasizes
informal meetings, focusing on some group activity and often involving
eating and discussion. We noticed this at our very rst visit when we
observed the annual Open House, which was really a knowledge fair.
The visible focus was on having fun, but the real purpose was to share
knowledge among the employees about what their colleagues were doing
for other customers and thus keep everyone informed about the rms
progress and health.
Another knowledge sharing norm that we saw in abundance from the
shared stories (in round 1 and 2 interviews) was face-to-face meetings and
informal meetings. This included eating lunch together (as planned brown
bag lunches for educational purposes and as unplanned get-togethers
when WAMs ate lunch with practice area workers and ended up talking
about work issues) and after-work discussions at local restaurants and bars.
It was these norms that led to a social structure that involved a signicant
degree of trust within teams. The founders of ITC purposefully created
proximity and a sense of interconnectedness and closeness that led to a
feeling of belonging and trust.
The result was increased trust, which enabled increased knowledge
sharing. We developed a number of our possibility propositions around
ways to improve trust or take it to a new level as a way of encouraging
increased knowledge sharing. One interview participant remarked that the
President was Italian and she liked the metaphor of an Italian dinner table,
with a lengthy meal, good food, wine, and extensive conversation as a way
to foster inclusion and trust.
Transferring Best Practices
During the course of our Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge consulting
engagement at ITC it became apparent that the employees possessed a large

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

inventory of best practices. These ranged from how to approach potential


clients, to how to secure a competitive advantage in follow-on contracts.
ITC had a strong culture of knowledge sharing and a solid technological
infrastructure that could be brought to bear. But merely knowing that a
rm has potential knowledge to share will not be enough to ensure that it
gets shared or used by others. As a possibility proposition, we suggested a
process of making the transfer of these best practices more pervasive as
stories shared in their meetings and on their intranet and a more formal
part of their processes.
Team Learning, Team Building
Teams such as the volunteer Green Team that cleans up highway trash and
encourages recycling in the oce building, and the Internet Team which is a
community of practice which helps participants to learn about software such
as Dreamweaver and xml in order to build better web sites for clients are a
major part of ITC. Teams and team spirit are a signicant source of its vitality and a key enabler for knowledge sharing throughout the company.
Applying these ideas to ITC, a web developer described a story in which
a manager and a Software Team learned to work together. There was a new
manager who had been doing independent consulting. As she got used to
working with people she became very fair. The whole team became focused
and was willing to go the extra mile. Similarly, the Internet Team had a
manager who had some new ideas and a vision for the team. Together, the
team built a new and innovative, award-winning web site for a client.
Team building activities can be focused on an individual level, on the
groups operation and behavior, or on the groups relationship to the larger
organization. Stretching the companys teamwork and current brown bag
lunches, we suggested that there be a periodic brown bag lunch focusing
on facilitation and other team building activities.
Team eectiveness and knowledge sharing can also be improved when
the concepts of team learning are applied. Team learning is a way to maintain a focus on a teams collective potential. The idea is to focus on the
eectiveness of the entire team rather than to reward individual performance. This was precisely what ITC did. While there was individual recognition, the focus was clearly on the team. For example, Funny Money to
spend on a team lunch or bowling outing was awarded to teams who
showed great eort or outcomes. We believe that team learning techniques
could help ITC become even more eective.
Team learning, probably more challenging than team building, is based on
conversations from which we draw insight and build shared understanding
and, ultimately, shared vision. With developing knowledge and alignment in

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79

mind, we expanded ITCs current vision statement in a possibility proposition: ITC values the sharing of strategic corporate knowledge with all corporate leaders. All leaders in the organization know the direction the
company is headed and the roadmap for getting there. ITC holds annual
osite retreats that include all PALS and WAMS.
Using Metaphor to Explore Teamwork, Databases and Entrepreneurial
Spirit
Organizational metaphors provide windows into how an organization
thinks and how its members look at what happens to the organization. We
looked at the language of the stories from round 1 and the interviews of
round 2 and applied the insights to develop possibility propositions.
During round 1 when the group shared stories, they talked about links
and chains, dependencies and interdependencies in their system. They
talked about seeds, growth, and food. Since ITC is an environmental consulting rm, the language and thought about ecosystems were a natural
possibility for a metaphor. The knowledge enablers of teamwork cooperation for shared survival and growth and entrepreneurial spirit the
force behind growth could be seen as vital forces in an ITC ecosystem.
Using metaphors helps increase innovation and analytical thinking in the
organizational environment. It also helps serve as a communications tool
that helps employees reect and engage with each other, therefore increasing team eectiveness.
ITC Group showed each of these characteristics in their discussions
during interviews. Correspondingly:
1.
2.

3.
4.

5.

Databases showed up as another knowledge enabler, and opportunities


for internet technologies and consulting seemed to abound.
Gary talked about developing an internet portal, and the Internet
Team told stories about sharing links to web sites which inspired the
sites they built for customers.
ITCs organizational structure was a matrix; one employee was a PAL
for one project and a worker on another contract.
Asking a question over the walls of the cubicles to receive an answer
from anyone who had an answer was an acceptable and standard
organizational practice.
Commitment, as shown by volunteering for activities such as Green
Team environmental care outings and recruiting parties, and putting in
extra unpaid hours of work to develop a database that would help the
entire organization match resources for proposals, appeared in nearly
every employee we interviewed.

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Using the insights from the ecosystem metaphor to develop possibility


propositions, we looked at the way an ecosystem would transfer the
equivalent of knowledge. The way one buttery might spread pollen to
multiple plants or a bird might carry seeds to dierent areas of ground, a
knowledge concierge would span the various parts of the organization.
Another possibility proposition addressed the expectation that each
employee would nd out an answer by asking just one person. In the way
that in an ecosystem some humans might not directly eat a bug, but
instead might eat the chicken that ate the bug, we developed the possibility proposition, the Three Degrees of ITC: At ITC, we understand that as
we grow we may not be able to know what every single person does. But,
we believe that like the six degrees from Kevin Bacon, we have the three
degrees of ITC. When we need to know who does what, we send an
email and ask that if they cant answer the question they forward it to
someone who might know the answer. We try to reach a person within
three emails.
Enlightened Leadership
One clear implication of our analysis is that ITC has enlightened leadership. This is a factor that each member of our team commented upon. The
four founders, who are also the majority owners, have maintained a vision
for ITC that stresses a corporate commitment to customer exhilaration,
collaboration, and community. One of the cultural assumptions made by
the owners of ITC is that people who work for the rm dont know everything they need to know. Consequently, knowledge sharing at the ITC
Group focuses on learning who knows what and on how to connect with
them. The organizational implication of this focus is that social connectedness, social relationships, and social learning must be paramount. This
cultural assumption forms the foundation for ITCs successful commitment
to collaboration. The ITC ownership contends that this is one of the
stronger points of their company.
The Employees Like ITC
Another implication of our analysis is that the vast majority of ITC
employees hold a positive perception of the company. Our data are rich
with examples from employees who feel strongly that ITC is moving in the
right direction. Our analysis of the data showed that virtually all interviewed employees felt a strong link to ITC commitment to environmental
and social organizational causes. Further evidence of this implication was
seen on an evening when ITC hosted the Arlington County E-Government

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81

Symposium. This after-hours event, hosted by the ITC ownership, was


attended not only by Arlington County executives but also by about 20 ITC
employees. We saw this as evidence of employees commitment to ITCs
social and organizational causes.
Fun is an Organizational Objective
It was clear from our interviews that fun is a driving force in ITCs corporate culture. This implication became apparent and understood through the
ASK interviews. During our interviews with the founders and majority
owners, they indicated that when they decided to establish the rm, fun was
a core value. They wanted to start a company where they and all employees could have some fun. The cultural underpinning for fun as a core value
at ITC is the fundamental social striving for intensity and depth in human
relationships. The ITC founders see these social relationships as the key
to community building within the rm. Knowledge sharing at ITC is
approached in a fun, informal way that combines employees interests in
work, their care for their community and environment, and what they love
to do. The ITC Group benets from a high level of social interaction that
crosses a variety of internal business units at a variety of dimensional levels.
In these and many other ways, the Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge
model for gathering armation through interviews gave us a glimpse into
the ITC corporate soul.
ITC has the Right Culture for Knowledge Management
It was clear from the outset that ITC has all of the hallmarks that would
enable a successful knowledge management initiative. The new Chief
Knowledge Ocers job will be made somewhat simpler by this fact. The
rms people are all professional and motivated by superordinate goals.
They openly display commitment to a culture of knowledge sharing rather
than knowledge hoarding. They are committed to a team philosophy. We
feel that we made a signicant contribution to the CKOs understanding of
what enables knowledge to ow throughout the organization and predisposed her to a humanist version of knowledge management rather than a
technical one.
The Methodology
We used the interview technique to gather data to support the knowledge
sharing eorts at ITC. During round 1, employees interviewed each other
using the following questions (one or the other):

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Think about a time when you shared something that you knew, which enabled
you and ITC to achieve success. What happened? Tell us the story.
Think about a time when you learned something from someone else that
enabled you and ITC to achieve success. What happened? Tell us the story.
Likewise we used the interview technique to collect data during round 2
one-to-one interviews.
Seeds of appreciative knowledge sharing usually exist in small chunks in
organizations. Often times, people need to hear the stories about how they
are happening to give them ideas of how to take the initiative within their
unit. The interview technique, along with the sharing of stories afterwards,
sets up an opportunity for people to create what might be together.
Each pair went around the room and shared the stories that their partner
expressed as evidence of knowledge sharing. As the individuals shared the
stories, we collected key words that emerged from the stories. After we
heard all of the stories, a thematic analysis was done leading to the
identication of ve knowledge enablers. They were: 1) informal interactions, 2) formal interactions, 3) team philosophy, 4) database sharing, and
5) internal entrepreneurship.
These ve KEs were explored and validated in a second round of individual interviews with 26 ITC employees. To validate the KEs we used the
following questions:

Several people in ITC have identied informal interactions as a


knowledge sharing enabler. Can you tell me something more about
this?
Can you describe two incidents where you found informal interactions, at their best? Or, When have you experienced a signicant
level of knowledge sharing through informal interactions?
What are the factors or conditions that make informal interactions
possible here?

Similar questions were asked for the remaining four knowledge enablers.
We analyzed and coded the interview responses, leading to the creation of a
matrix that balanced our ve knowledge enablers (informal interactions,
formal interactions, team philosophy, internal entrepreneurship, and database sharing) against eight organizational factors (organizational structure,
problem solving, leadership, communication, incentives, organizational
practices, community involvement, and organizational culture). The matrix
provided examples of how the organizational factors at ITC enhanced the
knowledge enablers. We saw these as examples of what is at ITC.

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83

We further analyzed the common themes and organized the data to come
up with eective possibility propositions.1 Based on the stories that we
heard repeatedly, we brainstormed for ways we could stretch what was
already happening at ITC to what could be happening. We discussed and
nalized our possibility propositions (which we referred to as possible
action items to synchronize with their language preference) and met with
ITC employees for the nal round of validating the action items. The
experience was a powerful one because of the extremely high positive
energy that was surrounding the eort. The participants were very excited
to share their knowledge and were grateful for the opportunity to reect on
what they valued at ITC. In addition, our team collected ideas about what
might be from the round 2 interviews and built a second matrix that
reected Examples of What Might Be.
Following the ASK model our team conducted a comprehensive analysis of the ITC using data from the second matrix titled, Examples of What
Might Be. Our analysis led us to develop a thorough list of 21 possibility
propositions, or, to use their language, possible action items. We presented
these possibility propositions to ITC as our recommendations of What
Could Be at the ITC Group.
The Possibility Propositions
In summary, we based the development of these propositions on the what
is that ITC employees reported to us during the two rounds of interviews
and on the subsequent analysis and generation of what might be at ITC.
We overlaid our analysis on the model of continuance, transition, and
novelty. We designed possibility propositions for ITC that would help continue that which was good, to transition to something that might be better,
and to stretch provocatively into new, uncharted corporate directions.
Below is that list of our provocative possibility propositions that reect
the best of What Could Be at ITC. These 21 specic recommendations
were derived from our data analysis and were selected because they were
pragmatic and t within the existing culture and processes at ITC. They
form the core of our recommendations to the company.

Banners. Knowledge sharing is how we get things done at ITC. This


includes an active transfer of knowledge to others and being receptive to new knowledge. We are also aware that knowledge sharing can
occur anytime and anywhere. We decorate our oce space in ways
that convey ideas about what we do. We have large, brightly colored
banners that say things like Have you shared some knowledge
today? and Have you learned something new today?

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Performance appraisals. At ITC, we acknowledge and reward employees who share knowledge throughout the organization. We
accomplish this through our performance appraisals, which require
that an individual demonstrate a commitment to knowledge sharing
within the team and/or between teams in the past year.
Community involvement. At ITC, we leverage our community
involvement activities to learn more about both our colleagues and
our clients. The networking we do during these projects helps us:
understand our communitys needs;
give our employees an opportunity to meet each other and
share information;
expose our newer employees to new business development
opportunities and techniques; and
nurture our relationships with clients and discover new ways
of meeting their needs.
Noteworthy people. We currently recognize important Americans by
naming conference rooms in their honor. This creates an awareness
of his or her individual accomplishments. Periodically, we recognize
individuals within ITC for their contributions to our success. We preserve the knowledge of their work and the stories of their accomplishments by dedicating spaces in their honor.
Who knows what? At ITC, we have various ways to help information
ow across the cubicle. In order to help people learn who knows
what, we have an enticing, interactive tool for retrieving information
about employees capabilities, backgrounds, and experiences. We
attract users to this tool by featuring two peoples photos and stories
on the initial intranet screen each day. On an ongoing basis, we coach
our people so that they can see how this tool can make their jobs
easier. We also award funny money to every tenth person retrieving
information from the tool and to the teams who best sta their projects by using the tool.
Databases. ITC corporate databases are accessible, secure, and easy
to use. Easily accessible and searchable databases facilitate the
sharing of knowledge, improve eectiveness, and enhance productivity. Stories about the potential application of ITC database systems
are continually told at team meetings by the WAMs. Individuals that
have had a success using a database to nd important information are
given a spot award. Teams that make extensive use of the ITC databases are similarly rewarded.
Knowledge concierge. At ITC, we value knowing whom to go to
in order to nd specic types of knowledge. Our Knowledge
Concierges are cross-functional representatives of communities of

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85

practice (software user groups, Creative Caf, Green Team, Internet


Team or other) who direct a person to another person, a database, a
source, or someone else who can help. We facilitate the work of the
Knowledge Concierge by encouraging them to charge to an indirect
account.
Mentoring. At ITC, mentoring relationships are critical to our long
term success. Each of us gives and receives mentoring. We believe in
Each One, Teach One. We give each new employee a mentor, who
helps share best practices and basic knowledge about us and about
our clients. We reward eective mentoring in our performance
appraisals. We evaluate how well we each develop each other into
eective contributors to our knowledge base.
Best practices. ITC captures internal and external best practices and
actively shares them throughout the company. We at ITC completely
understand our value proposition of customer intimacy, have
dened what best practices means to us, and understand our core
processes. We transfer our best practices through verbal discussions,
ITC newsletter articles, and through IT enabled means. By sharing
what we do best, we become more productive and eective, thus
delighting our clients.
Retreats. At ITC, we share strategic corporate knowledge with all
corporate leaders. Top management reinforces knowledge sharing by
promoting it at company-wide meetings and in every possible communication. ITC holds annual osite retreats that include all PALs
and WAMs.
Walking the talk. PALs and WAMs support the practice of knowledge sharing through teams by modeling the behaviors of top management. All employees know the direction the company is headed
and the roadmap for getting there. PALs and WAMs walk the talk by
holding fun, informal monthly meetings and by actively practicing
the example set by the senior managers.
Show and tell (and ask). We leverage every small group meeting to
share something that we know. Team leaders put Show and Tell (and
Ask) on the agenda. We take the rst ve minutes of every team or
small-group meeting to share one thing that someone has recently
learned and to ask one question that has come up about our work.
Continuing education. ITC has a bulletin board in the kitchen where we
post brochures from local universities oering degrees, certicate programs, and continuing education opportunities in information technology, organizational learning, environmental studies, and business
management. The tuition reimbursement policy hangs at the top of the
bulletin board. Next to it hangs the procedure for the reimbursement

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

of books for the professional development of our employees. ITC


reimburses the full cost of tuition and books to our employees who
participate in approved educational programs. In addition, employees
may petition for reimbursement for other programs.
Three degrees of connection. At ITC, we understand that as we grow,
we may not be able to know what every single person does. But we
believe that like the six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, we
have the three degrees of connection within ITC. When we need to
know who does what, we send an email and ask that if the recipient
cant answer the question, then they forward the question to someone
who might know the answer. We try to reach the knower within three
emails. The knower emails the answer back to all previous recipients
of the request so that everyone can learn both the answer and the
knowers area of expertise. (Note: we tie this into our communities of
practice and our Knowledge Concierges.)
Seminar goodies. Here at ITC, we leverage what we learn from outside
our organization. Whenever one of us attends a seminar or conference, we take responsibility for sharing the highlights of what we
experienced with our colleagues during the week after we return to
the oce. This sharing happens in informal gatherings, brown bag
lunches, or formal presentations. At a minimum, our colleagues bring
back to us at least one freebie, such as a conference pencil or a piece
of hotel stationery. They might bring back a specialty from the geographic area, such as jambalaya mix from New Orleans or soft pretzels from Philadelphia. They use this item to spark a discussion in
some way related to the event they attended. We also post this information on our intranet and use it as an online discussion topic, focusing on how to use new knowledge in the support of our customers.
Baseball card trading. At ITC, we have business cards for internal use
that are like baseball cards. They have our pictures on them and
contain statistics such as what teams were on, what software we
know, our learning style or our Myers-Briggs type, or what positions
weve played (jobs weve held at ITC). They also have a little bit of
personal information such as where we were born, how many kids we
have, and our favorite hobby. The cards are exchanged at team meetings, brown bag lunches, monthly corporate-wide events, community
of practice/user group meetings, or Monday morning breakfasts. If
we end up with more than one card from a particular employee, we
can trade with someone else. The person who collects the most cards
(not including duplicates) wins tickets for four to an Orioles game.
Knowledge poster. Along with our candy bowl to new employees, we
give them a blank poster for autographs. When employees visit the

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87

newcomer, the visitors sign their autographs and add a few words
about what they do, like to do, area where they work, or area of
expertise. The new employee is left with a reminder of who visited
and a source of people to turn to and what areas a person might
know about.
Coee talk. At ITC we value brainstorming, informal interactions,
and mindful listening around as ways to share knowledge. We have
transformed our kitchen into an in-house caf la Barnes and Noble
and Starbucks. We use the space to grab coee and talk about our
projects and about whats going on in our work. We have installed
comfortable couches and tables near our shelf of books to encourage
a relaxed, informal atmosphere for sharing.
Team facilitation. ITC dedicates two brown bag lunches every year on
how to facilitate, build, and sustain successful teams. Each attendee
of the lunches receives a Payday candy bar and a coupon for lunch at
Whitlows to remind us that eective team discussions result in
greater business and nancial rewards, both to ourselves and our
clients.
Lightning bolts. ITC has a Spark award for sharing an idea or piece
of knowledge. Any employee can award a lightning bolt to a colleague
who has either shared a sparking idea, or who has employed someone
elses idea to spark a new idea of their own. Each lightning bolt contains a description of the sparking or sparked idea, the signature of
the awarding colleague, the name of the recipient, and the date the
idea was sparked. The accumulated lightning bolts hang on the recipients outside cubicle wall so that others can see who shares lots of
ideas and what the ideas were. The recipient also gets specic feedback
about who has beneted from the sharing of their knowledge.
Knowledge vision. At ITC, our knowledge management strategy supports both our corporate strategy and our competitive advantage of
customer intimacy. This vision guides our eorts in applying IT to
knowledge management. We have an easy-to-use, browser-based
corporate intranet. Easily accessible, secure, and searchable information facilitates and improves knowledge sharing and increases the
eectiveness of our people.

As mentioned above, we presented the possibility propositions to ITC


sta as the best of What Could Be at ITC. We designed our session
mindful of the need to overcome the general tendency to resist change by
asking the ITC employees to thoughtfully consider these What Could Be
items and transform them into What Should Be action. The group
involvement in the review and reworking of the possibility propositions

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

were designed to help overcome any resistance to change. We had envisioned a vote on the 21 items above by a valencing or prioritizing activity to reduce the total number of action items to ve manageable issues.
Two things became clear during this stage. First, much of what we proposed was warmly welcomed. The problem of overcoming resistance was
not as severe as we had anticipated. Having senior management ownership
is critical to the success of an ASK program. Even though we would have
preferred a nal decision, we left the organization with a sponsor and a
plan. The CKO took it upon herself to put these proposals in place.
Second, the ITC Group needed more time to consider these possibility
propositions. Hence, we adjourned the evening with the understanding that
the CKO would keep the above ballot of possibility propositions taped to
ITCs walls in order to give sta more time for a comprehensive review of
our recommendations. The CKO indicated that she herself would perform
the valencing of these provocative possibility propositions at some time in
the future.
These 21 possibility propositions constituted the recommendations to
the ITC sta. The entire process was productive because we uncovered a
long list of knowledge enablers that can serve to guide the CKO in her
design of the future knowledge management program at ITC. She now has
a much clearer picture of what really works and, more importantly, the
culture of knowledge sharing within ITC.
Creating these propositions generated a signicant amount of energy
within the organization. The challenges at ITC were dierent from the ones
you will see at GCB below. While youll see similarities in the approaches,
youll see very dierent outcomes. The common denominator was the
energy generated to create lasting knowledge sharing. In the case study of
Green Capital Bank2 below, we guide you step by step on how to create and
sustain that energy.

GREEN CAPITAL BANK


GCB is one of Americas largest diversied nancial services organizations,
providing regional banking, corporate banking, real estate nance, assetbased lending, asset management, global fund services, and mortgage
banking. In the late 1990s, after a series of mergers and acquisitions at
Green Capital Bank, knowledge sharing was ebbing. When departing
employees lost their jobs due to the identication of redundant positions,
they took vast amounts of important knowledge with them. Moving into
a protectionist mode, many of those remaining hoarded knowledge for turf
protection and competitive advantage over their co-workers.

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In order to facilitate the knowledge sharing that would see the bank
through the many changes in industry policy, processes, and technology,
the banks organizational learning department began to study the latest
thinking on knowledge management as a way to incorporate knowledge
sharing in GCB. This department was responsible for the training and professional development of all company employees. Their goal was to keep
management and employees across business units up to date with current
best practices, processes, technology, laws, and policies in the banking
industry. They hired one of the authors to help the department build a
culture of eective knowledge management in order to demonstrate knowledge sharing behaviors and climate to the rest of the bank.
The ASK methodology was started at GCB out of sheer necessity. The
amount of changes happening (and still happening) in the banking industry were signicant, creating all kinds of new knowledge (procedures, rules,
technology, etc.) and the need to better acquire and share the existence of
new processes and employee knowledge.
The Challenge
Keeping employees at the cutting edge of knowledge in the banking eld is
a big challenge. In the late 1990s, bank technology and operations had
become extremely sophisticated with the institution of centralized loan
centers and bank by phone services, as well as the proliferation of 24 hour
automatic teller machines and the advent of internet banking and investing. At the same time, employees were still expected to provide top-notch,
individualized, face-to-face customer service for clients with a more traditional or conservative approach.
Sharing knowledge was vital to maintain GCBs competitive edge and
sustained nancial growth. New knowledge sharing challenges arose as a
result of the various mergers GCB had undertaken. As redundant
employees left the organization, vast amounts of information and knowledge company history, client relationships, and wisdom gained by experience left with them. Some remaining employees began to: (1) hoard
knowledge to establish a competitive advantage over employees with
similar positions and responsibilities, (2) hold on to knowledge as a means
of protecting their turf, (3) create a perception that there was so much extra
work after the mergers that there was little time left to share knowledge. In
the words of one employee, We see [knowledge sharing] as critical, but
time-consuming. Sharing is highly valuable, but a low priority.
GCBs organizational learning department recognized these challenges
to meeting their goal of corporate-wide knowledge sharing. They also realized that they could not force people to change; knowledge sharing could

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

not be mandated. The corporate culture and climate that did not provide
incentives to share knowledge had to change instead. The real question
became: How does one create a new knowledge sharing culture as quickly
and painlessly as possible?
GCB chose to use the ASK process with the intention that it would
address this knowledge management challenge.
A Hesitation
The idea of an appreciative or prospective approach starting with
prociencies, rather than deciencies was not immediately embraced by
the department. In fact, a handful of GCB employees viewed the concept
with great skepticism. Their apprehension was not unexpected; much of
our society operates counter to the prospective concept. Typically, quality
experts check for insucient quality, mechanics look for problems with our
automobiles, and consultants strive to identify companies shortcomings.
Social sciences and psychology have also ended up with the view that
human beings are typically lacking something. Over the last century psychology has focused almost entirely on pathology and decits. Following
the science of medicine, it has been structured around disease as its model.
It is natural to have many skeptics question the ASK methodology. In
such a situation, which is more common than one might think, it is better
to start with a pilot and hopefully create a shift in the mindset of
those who might have been initially doubtful. In the GCB event, the
ambassadors were asked to consider the benets of having as many
people participate in the event as possible. This was suggested as an
opportunity to uncover organization-wide examples of current practices
at all levels at GCB.
While the core team understood inherently what it meant to appreciate,
they needed to gain a deeper understanding of how the process of appreciation works in order to apply it to the project within the bank. An
example was needed for the consultant to address their apprehension and
to explain the benets of an appreciative mindset. The consultant noted
the dierence between how two people may look at similar paintings one
at an art museum and the other at a ea market. Assuming neither person
is an art critic, the person at the art museum is likely to have a better appreciation of the painting than the person viewing a similar painting at the
ea market. Because she is in the art museum, she has an appreciative
mindset intentionally looking for beauty in the details, looking hard to
see what might have made the experts see the painting as worthy of being
placed in the museum. As she looks intently, she sees aspects of the painting that someone with a casual mindset at a ea market might miss. An

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interpretation that the painting is beautiful or exquisite, because of the


appreciative context, is more likely.
Applying this principle to the knowledge sharing process, it was
explained that the group could use an Appreciative Inquiry method with
GCB employees to nd and expand the pockets of knowledge sharing that
were already occurring. By focusing on the present successes in knowledge
sharing (rather than failures) the way the art museum visitor focused on
the paintings beauty already supported and existing knowledge sharing
details could be uncovered in the culture. With the awareness of what
enabled employees to share what they knew, coupled with the energy generated from the realization of what was already being done well, employees
could become aware of possibilities for the future and could set their own
action items to build a new culture that emphasizes the existence of knowledge sharing programs.
GCB decided to use the Appreciative Inquiry approach to knowledge
management in the organizational learning department, betting that the
momentum and lessons learned would spread to the rest of the organization. The approach would not put people on the spot no ngers would
be pointed and no blame would obscure the process: it would allow everyone to share whatever they knew, regardless of perceived signicance.
GCB felt that the best way to capitalize on tacit and distributed knowledge
would be to encourage people to share it in whatever way they were
comfortable, rather than in ways that were mandated by upper levels of
hierarchy.
Step 1: Negotiating Top Management Commitment and Support
The decision to use ASK was unanimous. There was considerable energy
and anticipation for getting started. At the same time, GCB sta recognized that ASK entailed reframing the way they looked at knowledge management. They also realized that it was crucial to hear the voices of
everyone as part of the process. (People could not be forced to share knowledge just because of a management decision to do so.) Therefore everyone
in GCBs organizational learning department was invited to take part in a
pilot ASK process.
Experience suggests that the answers lie in getting a strong buy-in from
top management and in involving as many internal sta as possible to plan
and run the ASK process.
While a bottom-up approach to ASK is also possible, it is more eective
and ecient to start with a top-down approach of strong management
support. In many cases, the outcome of an ASK initiative may depend
on some strategic decisions from management. It is also important to

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

communicate clearly the expectations from various partners, including the


client and the consultant. It should be done in a manner that would recognize the emergent properties of the ASK process. That is, it should communicate the possibility that there may very well be an escalation of
commitment from various stakeholders leading to renewed enthusiasm
about being part of the ASK process.
AT GCB, there were four key points to initiating the ASK.
1. Support the group in examining, understanding, and making the
decision to initiate a positive approach to information sharing
through ASK. This is best done by exploring with the client at least
three important approaches to knowledge management and change
and then leaving the decision to the client. It is quite appropriate
for the consultant to reveal his or her predisposition for ASK but it
must be made clear that s/he will go by the consensus that may
emerge.
2. Construct and hold a pilot event. When a consultant is invited into an
organization, much of the work of setting the stage is potentially in
progress. Active participation in a pilot allows the group to fully participate, ultimately learning as they go. The pilot allows the consultant
and the group to identify active occurrences of and to inquire and
share examples of knowledge sharing and what made these activities
of sharing possible.
3. Create an ongoing process of integrating what the participants learned
in the event. This allows the participants to adopt emerging designs or
processes that might be more suitable than what was planned in advance.

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93

Sustain the momentum. Taking the information gathered from the


pilot event to the decision making group is essential to securing top
management support for a full ASK process in the key parts or the
whole organization.

The pilot (the process of learning as you go) created a positive experience to build on for the future organization-wide ASK process. In most
cases, the success of the pilot generates self-condence in the sta and the
consultant in pursuing a process that many in an organization might characterize as too soft or touchy-feely.
During the pilot the group realized that there would be a need for additional hands during the organization-wide event. GCB debated
whether to hire additional outside consultants to facilitate or train internal people to work with the large number of employees who accepted the
invitation to participate in the ASK event. The bank chose to use its own
employees because it believed that would help in capacity building within
the bank and may lead to better acceptance of the method in the long run.
GCB, like many other organizations, had seen consultants coming in,
doing their interventions, and then leaving without having transferred
much of their knowledge. Above all, using their own sta would save
money.
To impart the ASK training, the consultant organized a daylong workshop for 16 GCB sta who were chosen by the bank. The days content and
process were designed such that it would be a condensed version of what
would be run at the forthcoming organization-wide two-day event. The
goal of the one-day workshop was to train the 16 chosen employees as
facilitators for the two-day event.
The trained facilitators for the project became known as the knowledge
ambassadors. The ambassadors would help conduct the two-day meeting
and have an ongoing role in keeping the process alive and growing over
time. The knowledge ambassadors introduced the concept of Appreciative
Sharing of Knowledge to the rest of the employees using more or less the
same materials that had been used to introduce the concept to the facilitators on earlier occasions.
Step 2: Presenting the Appreciative Knowledge Sharing Paradigm
How an event is opened is foundational to what will be accomplished. Why?
To a large extent, the opening sets the stage for expectations, especially for a
new tool such as ASK which at that time did not have a track record of accomplishments to reassure skeptical participants. In such cases, good context
setting about how the process was chosen by the bank and a strong statement

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

of support from leadership that they would go all the way with the process are
important. After such a speech from GCBs management at the senior vicepresident level advocating for the process and encouraging full participation,
the department began the main purpose of the event ASK. As the beginning
of step 2, each employee interviewed another person to hear his or her stories
about knowledge sharing currently happening at GCB.
Steps 3 and 4: Identication and Expansion of Knowledge Enablers
Through Appreciative Interviews
Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

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The ASK process begins with an Appreciative Inquiry to discover examples of


the identied topic: knowledge sharing. The process utilizes an appreciative
interviewing technique where all participants divide into pairs and interview
their partners to hear stories about knowledge sharing currently happening.
Next, the larger group shares the highlights of the stories from the pairs.
Interview questions
Interview questions are selected carefully by paying attention to the context
of the project. If the client is interested in a specic aspect of knowledge
management, the question below will have to be customized to reect that.
Otherwise, the generic question about knowledge sharing that we used at
GCB bank is given below. The focus of the interviews is intentionally on
events and incidents where knowledge sharing occurred.
1. Think about a few recent positive experiences you have had in this organization with respect to knowledge sharing. Describe one such event when
you felt most alive, excited, valued, or appreciated.
Follow-up questions

a) What made it a signicant positive experience? Or, what is it about


the experience that you continue to cherish?
b) What did you learn from that experience?
2. Name an event where one of your colleagues recently did something exemplary (outstanding/highly successful) with respect to knowledge sharing.
What did s/he do?
Follow-up questions

a) What did you admire in her/him?


b) How has that (what s/he did) contributed to the success of the
organization?
It is important to always get a full description of incidents. Each interviewer is asked to steer the interview to hearing more about what happened
rather than why it happened. The suggestion is to allow at least 15 minutes
per interview or a total of 30 minutes for this interview process.
GCB took the step of identifying knowledge sharing behaviors that were
already occurring at their two-day ASK event, held at a bright and welcoming conference center. For many participants, as the rst day began,
hope was running high. Others, however, were quietly skeptical, believing
that the event would become yet another top-down mandated initiative.

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

A few employees greeted the event with a fair amount of cynicism expecting that change would last only as long as the event itself. Participants of
the conference were seated ten to a table with members of their own business unit and one or two trained knowledge ambassadors. Interviewees
were encouraged to tell the story with full details and the interviewers were
reminded to ask what questions rather than why. It was pointed out that
what questions typically generate data and understanding while why
questions tend to elicit an emotional response and generate interpretation
as opposed to data. What questions tend to make respondents more comfortable while why questions create apprehension and hesitation. No questions about justication of actions were allowed so that storytellers could
share openly without fear of criticism or need for justication.
The interviewers were encouraged to practice active listening, a way of
communicating to provide a mirror, allowing the respondents to hear
what they said, thus providing an opportunity to clarify or be further
understood. Active listening includes showing explicit, unconditional
respect for what the interviewees are sharing and not questioning the validity of their responses. It is natural for both the interviewee and the interviewer to engage in some problem solving without even realizing it. Hence,
the intentional or mindful focus on what worked as opposed to what did
not. In this case, with the help of the knowledge ambassadors, interviewers actively created a non-judgmental climate for conversation during the
interviews. For example, one sta member talked about the nature of the
customer complaints received in the call centers and how she designed a
process to handle them on the spot. The interviewer did not ask why complaints were occurring in the rst place, why there was a need for training,
or why the call center sta were not previously trained in handling dicult
callers. Instead, the focus was on nding what she did by engaging in a
series of what happened next questions and by repeating her answers to
receive conrmation that she had been heard correctly and understood.
Each what happened next, or what did you do, or tell me more about
it, question led to the unfolding of a layer of information about specic
knowledge sharing practices. Some participants began slowly, observing
other pairs in action. Others wiggled in their seats, uncomfortable with the
word story, which initially sounded not business-like or not bottom line
oriented. Yet, within a few minutes, the roar of conversation could be
heard in the ballroom. The observers could see and hear the excitement
mounting.
A key question at this point is: What makes it possible to share knowledge what enables people to be open to participating in this process? As
the term knowledge enablers literally indicates, the goal is to identify the
kind of processes, values, beliefs, and competencies that encourage,

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prompt, facilitate, or cause stakeholders in an organization to share the


knowledge they possess. Some may not believe that their knowledge is of
value. It is through this process that people feel more connected with others
and their organizations.
The next step in Appreciative Knowledge Sharing is to purposely identify the known and unknown knowledge enablers (see below). The importance of this process cannot be emphasized enough: the KEs are the
building blocks of desired and productive knowledge sharing behaviors.
KEs will vary from organization to organization, though some aspects like
respect or valuing others appear to be a universal enabler to help people
share knowledge.
In the ASK process, the focus is to identify what is unique to the organization around knowledge sharing. An example might be: What are the values
or competencies that currently exist in the organization that, if removed, will
fundamentally change the ow or character of knowledge sharing? Or, what
are the non-negotiable aspects that if left unattended or ignored for a period
of time will lead to a gradual decline in knowledge sharing?
For example, let us say respect emerged as a knowledge enabler in the
above mentioned large investment banking rm. In this moderately hierarchical organization, members took great care in valuing everyones input.
It did not matter whether you were the mailroom clerk, a junior analyst, or
the Vice President. The analyst was respected for her research reports even
though she did not have the lengthy experience of senior analysts. Because
she felt respected, she was eager and highly committed to contribute to the
success of the organization by sharing what she knew. However, if she felt
unwanted or insecure, her motivation to share would be limited.
Once the interviews were over, the participants were asked to share the
stories they heard from their partners. As these stories were shared, the key
themes were captured on a whiteboard. When you carry out this process, do
not spend too much time in wordsmithing give a name to whatever theme
stands out from a story and add it to the whiteboard list. It is crucial not to
ask any justifying questions of those sharing. Accept whatever is shared and
thank them for doing so. This is a very important aspect of the process.
Locating the themes
Make a rst cut or merging of the themes to generate only a dozen of them
by grouping similarly named or interrelated themes. For instance, honesty,
trust, and trustworthiness might be categorized under Trust. With the help
of the participants, look at the listed themes again and narrow the list down
to four to six. In an ASK initiative, these themes are called knowledge
enablers. As mentioned earlier, they are the building blocks of knowledge
sharing, enabling the knowledge sharing process.

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

It is important to note that every group or organization will have its own
unique combination of knowledge enablers that reect its own values.
Because the group itself has identied them and come to consensus about
them, it is not possible to have any wrong answers.
After GCB interview pairs shared their stories with each other, the larger
group at the table shared the highlights of the stories from the pairs with
the facilitation of the knowledge ambassadors. The stories were lled with
real-life examples of moments of knowledge sharing within GCB:

A customer service director at the loan center recounted how she had
received communication techniques to help frustrated customers.
A program supervisor in the training department shared how information from the branch business unit helped him set up more
eective educational programs.
A new recruit in the investment division told how a fellow employee
went the extra mile and spent hours after work to show her the ins
and outs of their investment analysis software.

As participants shared their success stories, initial reluctance to talk or


to share in depth was replaced by enthusiasm. A palpable sense of energy
overtook each table, and even those who admitted to initial skepticism
toward yet another company initiative became highly involved.
As each story was repeated, the knowledge ambassador for each group
captured the themes of each story on a ip chart page. General themes such
as honesty, empowerment, recognition, respect, teamwork, valuing others,
and building relationships appeared. The themes identied the knowledge
enablers or what conditions, policies, or behaviors were present when
knowledge was shared. Participants listened intently and began noticing
additional themes and trends in the responses. GCB began to discover,
dene, and then come to consensus about the knowledge enablers that they
wanted to cultivate in their organization.
Narrowing the list
With nearly one hundred people at ten tables, there were ip charts everywhere with long lists of themes. It was, therefore, necessary to condense the
long list of themes into four or ve in an inclusive way as much as possible.
Without a small list, it would be dicult to stay focused on a strategy and
assign responsibility later in the process for various implementation issues.
Consequently, the groups at the tables analyzed their lists to determine
which were most important to the group.
The knowledge ambassadors led the process to make a rst cut of the
themes by grouping similarly named or interrelated themes. For instance,

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as noted earlier, honesty, trust, and trustworthiness were categorized under


Trust. Participants actively narrowed the list to the following four themes:
empowerment, respect, teamwork, and building relationships.
Knowledge Enabler 1: Empowerment
Empowerment is evident when individuals in an organization gradually
acquire the autonomy, freedom, and authority to make decisions that are
appropriate within the domain of their inuence. In GCB, the overwhelming evidence showed that when employees felt empowered they shared what
they knew and listened to others more readily.
For example, a story was told about an employee who designed a distance
education training module on her own and shared what she had done
directly with her colleagues across bank divisions. Her supervisor was happy
to see his sta take such initiative and felt that as more of his sta acted to
initiate changes, more knowledge sharing would happen in his division.
Knowledge Enabler 2: Respect
Respect is present when individuals are armed and granted a certain
degree of recognition based on their accomplishments or contribution to
the organization. Respect is about noticing what an individual has done as
objectively as possible without the lters of stereotypes based on race,
gender, and other forms of dierence. In respect, there is an active and
mindful process of valuing without stereotypical judging.
In GCB, respect emerged as an energizing force from the stories shared.
A woman from a minority ethnic group who had once felt disrespected
and undervalued began to share more knowledge with her manager and
entire team after her manager took the time to sit down and talk with her
and learn what she had done. As the conversation progressed, the
manager began to understand and appreciate the contributions she had
made to the group that had gone unnoticed in the past. Through his
acknowledgement of the value the individual had added to the group, the
manager showed respect, which in turn made the employee feel that she
belonged to the group. From this position of acceptance, the employee
was motivated to share more deliberately the tacit knowledge she had
picked up over the years.
Knowledge Enabler 3: Teamwork
Teamwork is the process of working together in a group that has come
together voluntarily or by design. It is the process that enables the pooling
together of various intangible resources of individual members such that

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

collective knowledge is always more than what would have been generated
by the mere summation of individual knowledge.
In the organizational learning department of GCB it looked like teamwork
was a time-tested concept. The stories shared exhibited a level of genuineness
that didnt look like a manufactured or forced version of teamwork. For
example, a team member involved in a project with her teammates reported
that there was a great deal of communication in her team, which included
using weekly teleconferences. Everyones ideas were welcomed. They provided pre-meeting information and the team actively kept open lines of communication. Eventually, the project turned out to be a massive, cross-market
project. These eorts resulted in an accessible team where any member of the
team could call anyone anytime and would get a friendly, welcoming response.
Knowledge Enabler 4: Building Relationships
Building relationships is an element of what has recently been called social
capital formation. Social capital can be dened as the features of social
organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benet. Social capital is the set of
elements of the social structure that aects relations among people and are
inputs for the production and/or utility function (Schi, 1992, p. 160). It
may be considered as the goodwill that is engendered by the fabric of social
relations. A growing body of new research in management suggests that
social capital is a dierentiating variable at individual and group level for
career growth and organizational eectiveness. Knowledge sharing stories
in the bank clearly pointed toward building relationships. In the story of
the new recruit who learned about the investment analysis software, both
the experienced employee and the newcomer developed a friendship that
led to further knowledge sharing between the two women.
Identifying Common KEs
The knowledge ambassadors from each table then shared their list so everyone in the room could hear the summary of themes. While each table had
its own special combination of knowledge enablers, there were commonalities across tables. The four knowledge enablers common to the larger
group were empowerment, respect, teamwork, and building relationships.
Within the appreciative knowledge management perspective, the knowledge enablers were extremely important for knowledge sharing to happen
in GCBs organizational learning department. And yet the entire process,
from asking the rst interview question to nding the four common themes
of the entire room, took only two hours. Not only did the group determine
what makes sharing knowledge possible and probable, they had modeled

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the actual act of knowledge sharing through the process of utilizing the
Appreciative Inquiry process.
As is often the case, at the end of this segment participants indicated surprise at the amount of successful knowledge sharing that had been happening unnoticed, and felt an enthusiastic connection at the common
themes discovered at their table.
During the remainder of the two-day event, the focus was for the attendees to understand the interconnection of these factors, what facilitated
their existence, and how participants could make them more routine in
order to enhance knowledge sharing.
Step 5: Thematic Analysis of the Data Using Knowledge Infrastructure
Factors
At the GCB event, there was a denite attempt to put the information into
a manageable framework that would connect the knowledge enablers with
KIFs. The objective was to nd ways to enhance the knowledge enablers
identied so that knowledge sharing would become a continuous, sustainable, long term activity.
The consultant and facilitators organized the knowledge enablers, KIFs,
and previously collected success stories in a large table. Across the top of
the table, they listed the knowledge enablers and along the side they listed
the infrastructure factors. The knowledge ambassadors plastered sticky
notes with examples (from the interview stories) into the cells of the matrix.
Once each group of participants had added its notes, a subset of the table
looked like Table 5.1. Many stories overlapped dierent knowledge
Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Table 5.1 Knowledge sharing matrix with specic examples (not all KIFs
and KEs are shown)
Knowledge
Infrastructure
Factors

Knowledge Enablers
Empowerment

Leadership
Vision
Strategic focus
Accountabilities

Decision Making
Priorities
Goals

Organizational
Practices
Teams
Cross-LOB teams
Planning process
Hiring
Promotion
Performance
What is valued

Respect

Building
Relationships

I felt respected and


valued after my
manager took the time
to sit down and talk
with me and listened to
me with great respect.
I volunteered
for several event
responsibilities
and shared
more with
other facilitators when I
felt like we were
empowered to
shape the
outcome of
the event.

I learned communication techniques from


the loan center to help
my call centers frustrated customers. I was
able to accept more
information from them
because they showed
great respect for my
position and because in
the end, they let me
make the decision on
how to handle
customers.

A program
supervisor in the
training department shared how
information from
the branch
business unit
helped him set up
more eective
educational
programs.

I learned communication techniques from


the loan center to help
my call centers frustrated customers. I was
able to accept more
information from them
because they showed
great respect for my
position.

Just after I was


hired, one of my
co-workers spent
hours after work
to show me the
ins and outs of
their investment
analysis software.
I volunteered for
several event
responsibilities
and shared more
with other
facilitators when
I felt like we were
empowered to
shape the outcome
of the event.

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103

enablers and knowledge infrastructure factors. Such unanimity suggested


that there were indeed an underlying set of knowledge enablers in that organization and that the process thus far was producing valid results.
From this matrix, GCB employees made sense of the stories they had
heard, making it possible to identify trends and patterns of current knowledge sharing. They began to see the evidence of potential possibilities
to expand what they already do well in knowledge sharing. It was an
armation that signicant potential existed in the organization to move
forward, making the best use of what they already do well. They recognized
the importance of knowledge sharing for the continued growth of the
organization in the highly competitive environment in which GCB existed.
The clear trend as evidenced in the matrix gave them the condence and
courage to think strategically about what more might be possible, in concrete terms, to accelerate knowledge sharing in ways that would contribute
to GCBs competitive advantage and long term existence.
Step 6: Constructing Future-Present Scenario Statements
With the active involvement of its employees and based on concrete evidence, the ASK process so far has identied for GCB the knowledge
enablers and the organizational infrastructural factors that supported them.
A logical question that emerges at this point is How will the organization
sustain these knowledge enablers? Given that entropy is a natural occurrence in all systems, GCB must nd ways to prevent the knowledge enablers
from becoming entropic. Not only that, they must nd ways to enhance the
enablers since again based on systems theory they cannot stay the same.
Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

The enablers would either decline or grow. The ASK process deals with this
need to prevent entropy and enhance knowledge enablers by creating a
vision for what might be possible based on what is already present (as
opposed to what is absent). It is called future-present scenario statements.
Once GCBs knowledge enablers were identied and understood in the
framework of the banks infrastructure, building on them was possible by
helping individuals imagine the ideal future as if it had already happened.
ASK participants constructed the future-present scenario statements for
each knowledge enabler and knowledge infrastructure.
The process, as applied at GCB, included hour long gatherings every
Monday where the group listened to one another and heard whatever
anyone had to say. This occurred no matter how busy the participants were.
At these meetings, information was shared about the projects in progress,
making space for the input and concerns of those with information or
seeking answers to questions. Also, discussions were held regarding what
was to be or could be achieved during the coming week(s) and, again,
inputs were sought from others in accomplishing them. Specic responsibilities were given to everyone regarding what was to be accomplished.
Friday afternoons become regular meeting times to take stock of what had
been accomplished and what was to be learned from these experiences.
These were called weekly reections.
As they nished creating the FPS after long hours of work, the consultant asked the group if they wanted to continue working. The answer was
a denite, positive yes thanks to the high energy and momentum that built
up throughout the day. Although they were nearing the end of the rst day
of the event, participants were still enlivened. Conversation between tables
had opened up and employees from all business units chatted with each
other about productive ways they could work benecially together after the
event was over. These were a lively exchange of why nots and can we
questions that opened up new and innovative ways of achieving together.
Next, using the same matrix they had used for earlier analysis, participants
created their own future-present scenarios for each of the knowledge
enablers and infrastructure components (see Table 5.2). While some of the
propositions in the matrix didnt seem extraordinary to some participants,
knowledge ambassadors reminded everyone that the statements showed
what was possible and desired, but not already occurring.
Ending the day
The GCB employees began to see more than common interests and needs:
they saw ways to build a common future of excellence. The day ended with
a feeling of pride over the work that had been accomplished and a curiosity
about what would happen the next day.

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Private sector case studies

Table 5.2

Examples of possibility propositions

Knowledge
Infrastructure
Factors
Leadership
Vision
Strategic focus
Accountabilities

Decision Making
Priorities
Goals

Knowledge Enablers
Empowerment

Respect

Building Relationships

Every employee
in the business
unit is free to be
a leader by being
a revolving
chairperson for
our Friday
afternoon
meetings.

Leaders show
respect by accepting
and acting on team
members ideas.
Leaders show
respect by listening
fully and then
asking questions
rather than
contradicting ideas.

Leaders build relationships by sharing


information through
meetings and eating
lunch with new
employees.

Trainers are
acknowledged by
their leaders at June
and December
program events for
contributions with
regard to knowledge
sharing.

We, as leaders,
participate in both
informal and formal
knowledge sharing
through water
cooler meetings and
learning communities;
thus teamwork.

Leaders trust the


ideas, experience,
knowledge, and
opinions of sta
members and are
considered in the
decision making
process.

We include key
stakeholders in
knowledge
sharing activities.

To communicate
what dierent lines
of business are
doing, we hold a
yearly knowledge
fair. To show the
respect for each
others work, each
line of business is

Business presentations
are shared with all
TPS service partners.

Risk taking is
encouraged and
supported by our
unit managers.
Trainers are
empowered to
implement
changes to
program delivery
and share results
with peers.

Communication
How people
know what
others are
working on
How knowledge
is gained in
communication

We consistently
provide data for
the knowledge
sharing repository during and
after the project,
such that it can
be used by all.

The trainers work on


assigning crossfunctional projects
that increase crossfunctional knowledge.

We facilitate various
Regional Community
Bank programs to
educate our service
partners.

106

Table 5.2

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

(continued)

Knowledge
Infrastructure
Factors

Knowledge Enablers
Empowerment

Respect

Building Relationships

invited to have a
booth. All
participants visit
each booth to nd
out about others
projects.

We meet with sector


managers and coaches
on a bi-weekly basis to
educate them on the
in-branch experience.

To respond to these feelings, a debrieng was done at the end of the day.
GCB employees expressed both excitement and exhaustion. They were
pleased with what they had accomplished by the evening but also felt the
need to take a break for the evening. Afterwards, the consultant provided
his own interpretation of the day by stating that he had noticed a remarkable seriousness and commitment on the part of the sta to create concrete
outcomes from the series of activities they were engaged with. He also commented on the absence of blaming others or pointing ngers of any sort.
The consultant shared his sense of satisfaction in seeing a large number of
people working with a clear focus and purpose.
Meanwhile, an internal community of practice group in the bank had
planned an after-dinner cultural-entertainment event. The dinner was
organized in a large hall and several skits followed immediately after it.
Most of them were around the theme of ASK as CoP and made direct references to the activities of the day. The skits had several role-plays that made
funny references to and made examples of various knowledge enablers and
FPS. This allowed the employees to look at the whole approach as something fun and meaningful. Secondly, the skits that went into the night
allowed a continuity to be maintained towards the following day.
Step 7: Consensual Validation of Future-Present Scenario Statements
The decision to add a second day to an ASK initiation project should be
made carefully. In this case, the large number of GCB employees participating made it necessary to have extra time for processing the emerging
data. Secondly, a pace that allows for a two-day event tends not to rush
important decisions. A single day to process the vast amount of data generated would have been clearly insucient. Further, having an overnight
reection time was certainly facilitative for the concluding but important
activities that were to follow the next day. In the case of GCB, the overnight

Private sector case studies

Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

107

reection time brought forward the resolve of the group to complete the
important steps they had started the previous day. A certain kind of clarity
about what knowledge sharing in GCB is and should be was evident in the
participants. There was a new level of condence and assertiveness in many
members. The tentativeness that had been present in a few during the beginning of the previous day had all but disappeared as they took charge and
participated with enthusiasm. Even then, there were a few stragglers grabbing a last-minute cup of coee as the knowledge ambassadors greeted participants at their tables.
After a quick review of the previous days process, the groups went back
to work attentively. With the help of the knowledge ambassadors, they
checked the completed FPS from the previous day against the criteria of
commitment, groundedness, and inspiration. Then the groups visited other
tables, commenting on each others statements the accomplishments that
had been made already. Eventually, based on learning from others, a revised
set of FPS or propositions were written.
Writing future-present scenario statements was an exciting activity for
the GCB employees. Having an opportunity to participate in creating an
innovative knowledge sharing process as a continuing reality was appealing to them because it allowed them to express the sense of belonging they
had felt for the organization and the process itself. It was very much like
arming McGregors classic theory Y that, given an opportunity, employees will work without supervision and will autonomously contribute to the
good of the organization.
Thanks to the commitment and enthusiasm of GCB participants, a large
number of future-present scenarios were generated. However, it wouldnt

108

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

be realistic to act on all of them, hence the need to prioritize them using a
set of criteria. The criteria allowed the scenarios to be categorized into a
sequence of various action steps. They were the importance or idealness of
the future-present scenario, how much of it may actually be present in
the organization, and how soon GCB employees wanted it realized in the
organization.
Once the FPS had been written, they were checked again against the criteria listed in the previous section. The various groups were asked to look
at other FPS and comment on each others statements so that eventually a
revised set of scenarios could be written. Once this was done, everyone in
the group/audience was asked to prioritize, rank, or rate them using the following three questions:
How much of an ideal is it? (How important is it?)
5
4
3
2
1
VERY MUCH
NOT MUCH
How much of it may already be present?
5
4
3
A LOT

1
NOT MUCH

Realistically, how soon do you want this to happen?


Immediately

Short Term
(within six months)

Long Term
(within two years)

A nal rewriting and revision of the statements incorporated the comments and sentiments received from other groups. As mentioned above, the
next step was the groups at their tables rating the importance of each FPS.
To do this, the group listed the nal statements on their own ip chart pages
at the front of the ballroom. The top half of each ip chart contained an
FPS written in large letters. The bottom half of each ip chart listed the
three questions for voting or rating (that is, how much of an ideal it is? How
much of it is present now? And how soon would you like this to happen?).
Each ip chart was pasted on to a wall.
The facilitators managed to do a quick review of what was posted on
the walls to make sure all knowledge enablers were represented and that
there was at least one FPS for each knowledge infrastructure factor. Next,
the knowledge ambassadors handed each member at their table a set of
blue, green, and red round, bright colored stickers. Each color represented
a question in the prioritizing ip chart. Blue represented the ideal, green
the current or present, and red denoted how soon the FPS were to be realized. Participants were instructed to express their preferences for each

Private sector case studies

109

FPS by sticking the colored dots next to their preferences. For example,
for FPS X, employee A might stick a blue dot over the 5 rating (most
ideal) whereas employee B might stick a blue dot over the 3 rating.
Similarly, employee A might place a green dot over the 1 rating (not
present) while employee B may give a 2 for the same FPS. By doing this,
each bank employee was in eect voting for the FPS they could most
fully support.
Once the sticking was done, the number of dots on each statement was
tabulated. For each FPS, the dierence between the ideal and actual was
derived. The consultant and the group then looked for the FPS with the
maximum discrepancy between the ideal and the present and needing immediate implementation. For example, let us assume 100 people participated
in the voting process and that FPS #7 received 65 ratings of 5 for ideal
and the following for the current or present: 50 for 1, 15 for 2, and 8 for
5. It is clear in this case that a large number of people felt FPS #7 was highly
desirable but not present currently, as evidenced by the large number of low
1 ratings it received. When such calculations are performed for each FPS,
they can be transferred to a Microsoft Excel table and all sorts of calculations performed depending on the quantitative inclinations or interests of
the group.
What is really important is determining where the energy of the organization is, as evidenced by FPSs receiving a proportionally high number of
ideal 5 ratings and current 1 ratings and a sizable immediate for the third
question of implementation. At the end, all the FPS were prioritized
through a set of criteria that were important to the organizational learning
department and to the bank. The criterion was primarily around the time
line. FPS with a large dierence between the ideal and the current and high
immediate implementation ratings were put into the category for immediate follow-up and actions. The FPS that received short term rating for the
third item was put in a new category for closer examination with a larger
audience. Finally, the long term FPS were perceived as strategically important and were designated for further follow-up with all stakeholders, including customers and other players in the environment.
Step 8: Creating and Mandating an Implementation Team
GCB recognized that this step of forming an implementation team would
become the crossroads at which the project would become a success or no
change would take place. So participants and the consultant took great
care to verify that the propositions on the high priority list were those for
which a true desire for implementation existed. Fortunately, the organizational learning department sta were not content with creating possibility

110

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

propositions as an end. Being equally concerned about the bottom line,


they generated action items from the possibility propositions that were
specic to each business unit. Further, they set several knowledge sharing
initiatives and goals for the year in areas such as employee development,
distance learning, leadership development, and project management.
Participants volunteered to become the advocates or sponsors for action
items and to take responsibility for the realization of the desired outcomes.
They became sponsors if they had the power and responsibility for initiation and implementation of a given FPS. They became advocates when
they did not have the formal power to make decisions but had the informal
power to inuence using their social capital and goodwill.
Later on it became evident that the knowledge ambassadors felt
signicant investment in the process and as a result felt a sense of responsibility not to lose the momentum generated and to make things happen in
a timely manner. As a result, they divided up the FPS among themselves
based on the advocacy/sponsorship dimension and their personal interest
in them, took the lead in setting up meetings with senior managers, and
sought their input, support, or permission for initiating or executing FPS
as the case may be.
GCBs ASK event ended on a high note. Overall, the focus to reframe
organizational reality in armative terms was so strong that one of the
groups in the organizational learning department decided collectively that
when they heard one another speak negatively about a situation they would
challenge that person by asking them If the situation you are talking about
was just the way it should be, what would that look like? Now, how can we
make that happen?

Private sector case studies

111

Participants lingered after the session was over, talking about their action
items and the work they had agreed to champion. More than a few participants commented, This project was dierent. It was the best bank program
Ive ever attended. Participants could now see the possibilities at GCB.
They were enthusiastic and energized with a desire to continue working in
the organizational learning department, and they felt they had a stake in
the organization.
With their action items in hand, they went to work!
Lessons learned
As with any project or program, through experiences and intelligent questions from the diverse participants everyone learned fascinating and valuable lessons. Highlighted below are the unexpected challenges and the way
the management, sta, and the consultant resolved them and the lessons
learned.
Future-present scenarios as road maps
The various future-present scenario statements turned out to be a signicant motivator for GCB to embrace knowledge sharing. They were like a
road map because they provided direction to move forward to a specic
location. They were also based on the tacit knowledge of the organizational
members. Further, because of the participatory process used, the FPS
brought out issues that needed to be addressed.
The power of reframing
The power of reframing in creating new knowledge sharing practices
became very evident as a result of this project. The ASK process did not
want to focus on decits but at the same time did not deny the experiences
of people as they were expressed. Instead of asking why the sta did not
share knowledge, the question was What were the times you felt you shared
knowledge with someone in your organization . . .? The process of reframing continued throughout the ASK process. Eventually, some members
were able to develop a natural habit of reframing in order to facilitate
knowledge sharing.
Appreciation as a facilitator for innovation
When stakeholders are appreciated and respected for what they bring to the
organizational arena and when their participation is genuinely sought and
secured, innovative and powerful future-present scenarios can be generated. As many researchers have shown recently, appreciation helps people
deal with the resistance to change issue present in most change eorts.

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Since there is no blaming of others or xing of responsibilities for the


wrongs done, participants are more willing to give ASK a chance to work.
The importance of getting to the core
By the end of the one-day workshop before the ASK event, it had become
evident that the knowledge ambassador facilitators had diculty getting to
the core of the stories. Finding out the true knowledge enablers was crucial
to the success of ASK, hence they needed a way to go further than the
surface reasons.
Eliciting deep conversation takes both time and skill. With only a limited
amount of time available during the interviews, the knowledge ambassadors had to make the best use of their time and elicit meaningful
responses from the interviewees.
To help the knowledge ambassadors conduct good interviews and elicit
deep conversation in a group setting, they were trained in small-group facilitation methods. This included techniques for asking questions without
intimidating; getting into greater depth of conversation successively, one
step at a time, without rushing, despite the lack of time; being mindful to
arm interviewees or group members for what they shared; not judging the
quality of responses unnecessarily; and ending the process by making sure
that the interviewees or group members shared what they wanted to share
and nothing was held back. Following this strategy helped in getting to the
core of the knowledge sharing goal.
An important role of the knowledge ambassadors
The ASK process assigns a key role for the knowledge ambassadors. They,
instead of the consultant, drive the process after the intervention. After all,
they are GCB employees who have a much better sense of the organization
than the consultant and will naturally have a signicant stake in the success
and long term survival of their organization. And nally, they may have
exibility and possess the subject knowledge of their specic operational
areas, thereby enabling them to coach fellow employees or colleagues for
follow-up work on the FPS.
Later at the ASK event, the consultant and the knowledge ambassadors
found that they needed to keep participants grounded in reality and specic
action mode, rather than the abstract and the general. Part of the success
of the ASK initiative depended upon the ability of the participants to visualize their future-present scenarios. The more real the future-present scenarios seemed, the more the participants felt they had a stake in realizing
them, in much the same way that someone works toward realizing a dream
she wants so badly she can taste it. As many of the future-present scenarios tended to become abstract, the knowledge ambassadors continuously

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113

reminded the participants of the need to be concrete and to think in terms


of the sensory. To aid the process, they were trained to ask variations of two
key facilitative questions: When you mentally put yourself in that situation, what does it look like? What do you hear? or, If the situation were
to change in a way you would like, what would that look like?
Grounding future-present scenarios
As mentioned in the previous chapter, it is important to help the participants visualize a concrete reality based on a full realization of the futurepresent scenarios. If a given FPS came true, would the stakeholders really
want to engage in that mode? For example, if the FPS that there be regular
weekly Friday late-afternoon meetings came true, would the members
really like that after a while? Perhaps some will not want to give up their
Friday afternoon. What was important was the need to have a forum to
communicate openly with a certain regularity. Hence, Mondays would have
been just as good as Fridays. In other words, special attention should be
paid to each element of the FPS. In this example, they are the need to have
face-to-face meetings, the day of the meeting (Monday or Friday), the time
of the meeting (low energy time versus high energy time), the composition
of participants (Who will attend? Will the boss be there?), the focus of
meetings (content of discussion), and the periodicity (How often? Daily,
weekly, or monthly?).
An important lesson to keep in mind is that an FPS may sound exciting,
appealing, or radical, yet it may not be based on an accurate identication
of knowledge enablers or a realistic assessment of their interaction with
knowledge infrastructure factors. In other words, one must distinguish
between social desirability and social feasibility. The former is a strong
motivator and may subtly encourage participants to pick action items that
look good or may win the approval of top management. The latter, social
feasibility, is more realistic and often less attractive and hence may not
gather much momentum in large settings such as those described in the
GCB example.
It is important to steer participants to FPS that are higher on social feasibility than social desirability, partly by making use of the constructing
the FPS checklist and the commitment, inspiration, and groundedness
model described in the previous chapter. An equally sound indicator for the
genuineness or authenticity of an FPS is the subjective intuition that the
participants, the knowledge ambassadors, or the key client contacts may
have about it. This is an area where consultants typically have limited
knowledge because they have not been part of the organizational system
long enough. However, consultants may make up for this by intentionally
encouraging or coaching the knowledge ambassadors and participants to

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

trust their intuition and by periodically rearming that doing so may not
necessarily negate the more rigorous process undertaken earlier to write
the FPS.
Closing of the event, but not the process
The ASK initiative does not have a well dened ending by design because
knowledge sharing never ends. The ASK initiative is more like the beginning of a new process, though the event has ended. It is important to keep
this lesson in mind because it is common practice for management or participants to believe that they have become a knowledge sharing entity
because the project has been completed. It is equally important to institute
or gain commitment for follow-up work for implementing the futurepresent scenarios.
The GCB employees felt dierently about ASK in comparison to other
activities they had done in the past. Some talked about an event of the previous year where everyone came together, but reported that they did not
have the same power or enthusiasm that they had for the ASK process.
They felt that the ASK process allowed them to use real data from real
life work experiences with plenty of specicity. Secondly, they liked the fact
that there were no blaming or xing responsibilities for what went wrong
because the ASK process was focused on what went right.
Several of the attendees highlighted the dierent climate of this session.
The free oating climate of armation of one another is something
unique to ASK and was especially unique to their experience.
Finally, they reported that they had learned and felt that everyone had
something to contribute to the knowledge sharing process. No matter
whether they were a vice-president or data processing sta, they were listened to.

CREATING KNOWLEDGE SHARING CULTURES IN


PRIVATE SECTOR ORGANIZATIONS
Creating this sustainable knowledge sharing culture in your organization
is easy, as long as you take the right framework and dedicate time and
commitment to the knowledge sharing culture. Both ITC and GCB
had the desire to create an environment where their employees and companies could thrive. Both were able to create sustained results by using the
Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge process. In the next chapter, we
shall explore two government organizations that experienced similar
results.

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115

NOTES
1. The term possibility proposition was used instead of future-present scenarios in some
case studies. The two terms are used interchangeably in this book.
2 This case study is borrowed from Thatchenkerys previous work, Appreciative Sharing of
Knowledge: Leveraging Knowledge Management for Strategic Change, Chagrin Falls,
Ohio: Taos Publishing, 2005. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher.

6.

Government sector case studies

The Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge approach is equally as applicable


in the government sector as it is in the private. In this chapter we include
two case studies the Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the
Another Federal Agency (AFA), a ctitious name to protect its identity. In
MARAD, the Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge approach was much
needed, since one third of the employees were eligible for retirement. Using
the ASK approach helped MARAD access and preserve the tacit knowledge that would otherwise have been lost. In the AFA study, we will see an
example of how a process group within the organization found value in the
appreciative method.

MARITIME ADMINISTRATION
MARAD was a good candidate for an Appreciative Sharing of
Knowledge analysis because the organization was about to enter into a
signicant knowledge management challenge with the potential of losing
a major segment of the collective tacit knowledge of its employees.
At the time of the study, over 35 percent of the employee population
was eligible to retire and thus the potential loss of knowledge was
signicant. The leadership of the organization recognized the importance
of retaining the tacit knowledge of employees and welcomed the opportunity to participate in an ASK initiative. The study was conducted by Dan
Eisen, Ursula Koerner, Julia Lissely, Anita Murphy, and Ray Pagliarini,
who were all George Mason University (GMU) students in the Organizational Learning graduate program at that time. The GMU team
engaged in this ASK initiative with the active support of the management
of MARAD.
MARAD was interested in knowledge management not only for capturing the tacit knowledge as people retired, but also for creating a proactive
way to manage information and knowledge for the future. As an agency of
the U.S. Department of Transportation, MARAD promotes the development and maintenance of an adequate, well-balanced United States
merchant marine sucient to carry the nations domestic waterborne commerce and a substantial portion of its waterborne foreign commerce, and
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Government sector case studies

117

the capability of serving as a naval and military auxiliary in time of war or


national emergency.
MARAD understands that the quality of its leaders and managers is
critical to its success as an organization. MARAD has a multifaceted
role in transportation. Its core mission is to ensure the continuance of
a healthy and viable maritime industry in the United States. This
has signicant benets for the US economy and is also essential for its
national security. A signicant element of MARADs mission is the
ability to work in and around the maritime and transportation system;
advocating, encouraging, supporting, and at times assisting elements of
the industry. MARADs key programs are externally focused on adding
value to maritime and transportation stakeholders and creating a seamless transportation system for the movement of goods. This requires that
a large proportion of MARAD employees have signicant expertise and
credibility in the maritime industry. It is very dicult to gain this expertise and credibility solely through course work or on-the-job training. It
often requires time spent working in the maritime industry. Therefore, in
MARADs human capital planning eorts (including its recruiting plans)
a key strategy is to have personnel entering MARAD from the maritime
and transportation industries at many levels, bringing fresh expertise to
the organization. At the same time, MARAD anticipates that it will
have attrition at many levels (much of it leaving to gain experience in the
transportation industry). Therefore, MARAD sees a healthy in and out
ow of personnel in its workforce as essential to adding value to the transportation system. It sees the process more as a brain circulation than a
brain drain.
MARAD, which turned 56 years old in 2006, comprises a headquarters
oce, ve regional oces, three National Defense Reserve Fleets, and the
United States Merchant Marine Academy, all geographically dispersed. At
one point in history, MARAD comprised over 2000 employees with oces
established in strategic countries around the world. At the time of writing
MARAD has less than 900 employees nationwide. As a federal agency
MARAD is no stranger to declining scope and responsibilities as well as a
declining workforce. These declining experiences are in part the foundation
of MARADs present culture. In fact, over a signicant period of time, the
leadership team and employees have survived the reduction of MARAD
without having a structured knowledge management program. Therefore,
it was refreshing to notice that the executive leadership team had recognized the critical impact of instituting a knowledge management program.

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

THE STEP BY STEP PROCESS


Step 1: Negotiating Top Management Commitment and Support
The leadership at MARAD was open to completing an ASK initiative.
After presenting them with a proposal, the George Mason University team
engaged in a discussion of knowledge sharing, attrition, and relationship
management. The leadership expressed their commitment to the success of
the project and gave the team full support in accessing the relevant information they needed.
Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

Step 2: Presenting the Appreciative Knowledge Sharing Model


A representative sample of the MARAD sta attended the storytelling
sessions. Seventeen employees represented various positions in the organization from administrative sta to managers. The participants were seated
four to a table to allow easy conversation. The GMU team gave a short
presentation to the participants as an overview of the ASK initiative, the
agenda for the session, the process for sharing stories, and next steps. The
GMU team members role played a storytelling scenario and asked the
participants what were some of the themes or core values they heard in the
story. After allowing for questions, the participants formed pairs and
began sharing stories. Each member of the team was available to answer
questions and to ensure that the participants were engaged in the activity.
When the storytelling concluded, the participants were asked to share
their stories. The participants identied themes from the stories and wrote

Government sector case studies

Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

119

them on sticky notes. The Mariner team members collected the sticky notes
and posted them on ip charts throughout the room. Each facilitator
helped a group post their themes.
Step 3: Identify Knowledge Enablers
The GMU team facilitated the identication of the knowledge enablers by
asking the group to look at each KE. The themes were combined, claried,
and categorized by consensus of the group. The original list contained 85
dierent themes and the categorizing process helped to narrow down the
Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

120

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

themes and eliminate duplicates. The GMU team helped the group to
identify overarching themes to shorten the list to a workable number. The
knowledge enablers identied for this group were:

Trust.
Respect.
Partnering.
Compassion.

Knowledge Enabler 1: Trust


How does MARAD encourage employees to share what they know? The
GMU team reviewed their knowledge enablers, such as the power of the
relationship between knowledge seeker, knowledge source, and the type of
knowledge being exchanged. Their interview with the employees and the
possibility proposition rankings identied how trust aected knowledge
sharing and how individuals assessed the trustworthiness of others when
seeking knowledge. The ASK interviews suggested that the magic ingredient that linked strong ties among and between employees and management
and encouraged knowledge sharing was the knowledge enabler of trust.
The study pointed to various types of trust that were instrumental in
the knowledge sharing process. It was evident from the interviews that
employees built their trust based on three factors: employee longevity in the
organization, long term relationships, and a family-centric culture. The
longevity of employment of the interviewees ranged from 6 months to
35 years. When asked why people stayed at MARAD many responded by
pointing to the family-like organizational climate. The knowledge enabler
of trust created the basis for knowledge sharing in this organization. They
were emphatic in pointing out that knowledge sharing could not happen in
MARAD without trust. It was found that the positive relationships among
employees resulted in a high level of group cohesion.
The knowledge enabler trust carried great weight in the possibility
proposition statements that were created later in the ASK initiative.
Leadership and trust were ranked second by the MARAD employees as an
immediate necessity for the organization. Employees felt that the leaders of
MARAD should establish clear performance standards, assign specic
tasks, and provide employees with increasing responsibilities.
Knowledge Enabler 2: Respect
What might be the role of respect in knowledge sharing? Data from interviews, focus groups, and possibility proposition statements from MARAD
discerned how respect aected knowledge sharing and how individuals

Government sector case studies

121

assessed the respect of others when seeking knowledge. The data showed
that respect had a major impact on knowledge transfers involving highly
tacit knowledge. The possibility proposition results by time-bound categories reected the importance that MARAD had placed on the knowledge
enabler, respect. Respect triggered the process of tacit knowledge sharing
in MARAD. Employees observed how information was given, received,
and used to benet both the receiver and giver.
What are the factors that a knowledge seeker uses to dene respect? In this
culture with sta longevity, the presence of an ongoing credible relationship
among individuals had an impact on respect and knowledge sharing. It
was MARADs belief that this level of respect initiated a systematic reaction
to knowledge sharing. Through the prioritized proposition statements, the
immediate future part of them showed that MARAD employees saw decision making and respect as a necessity. They reected that valuing
dierences throughout the organization would contribute to accomplishing
MARADs mission. In the short term perspective of a six month time frame,
organizational practices and respect were seen as number four in the rankings. The employees stated that teambuilding within an organization came
from the job being well accomplished. For the two year time frame,
MARAD management decided to meet with employees one-on-one as frequently as needed but at least once a quarter to discuss overall achievements
and areas of concern. This was shown through the proposition statement of
leadership and respect seen as number four in the rankings.
In MARAD, there was a shared understanding of the sustained tacit
knowledge sharing they had created and respect that they created a code of
behavior through which the exchange of tacit knowledge could happen on
a daily basis. Clearly, in MARAD respect was a knowledge enabler that
people owned and shared.
Knowledge Enabler 3: Partnering
The importance of partnering at MARAD was signicant in both explicit
and tacit knowledge exchanges. The possibility proposition statements
revealed that the employees who got the most useful knowledge did so
through trusted partnerships. Organizational components with strong
partnerships often had similar kinds of knowledge; they were aware of the
same people, ideas, and concepts. However, dierent partnerships had connections to dierent social network types of knowledge and ideas. The key
to eective knowledge sharing at MARAD was based on both strong and
dierent partnerships linked by partnership bond.
Knowledge sharing was partly accomplished through short and long
term teams/groups across multilevel organizational components. It was

122

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

common for employees to work together on projects and assignments


across departments. Partnering was very useful in achieving the goal of
improving the nal product. This knowledge sharing at various organizational levels developed ongoing partnerships between groups where
important knowledge was shared. Frequent partnering helped to accomplish a social construction of knowledge. MARAD through partnering was
functioning as an open system.
During the interviews, employees related that building networks for
sharing information was often based on employee longevity. Partnering
also helped the interviewees learn the dynamics of the dierent types of
people they work with, along with an understanding of each others
strengths and weaknesses. In MARAD employees built life-long partnership throughout the organization.
MARADs organizational components partnered together to preserve
the integrity of the mission of MARAD. MARAD has become the partner
of choice in the maritime community by partnering with various other
agencies. Its senior leadership took pride in identifying the talents and
strengths of its employees to build eective teams and worked together to
achieve agency goals and objectives. Partnering was also essential to complete and implement the responsibilities of the agency. The GMU team
found that MARADs commitment to success was marked by their outstanding support of their stakeholders. To do this, they maintained a best
practices database that was available to all employees.
Partnering was a very large part of the prioritized proposition statement
for the sixth month time frame and was shown in ve of the seven statements. This was seen in the example of decision making and partnering.
Employees felt that MARADs partnership with the industry, international
organizations, and other agencies had made it the partner of choice in the
maritime community. Over the next two years communication and partnering were still seen as a priority. The employees hoped that the database
would help all employees by beneting from the experiences and knowledge
of other MARAD employees.
The data analysis clearly suggested that partnering in MARAD fostered
knowledge sharing through various internal and external partnerships. The
longevity of MARAD employees had built a wealth of institutional knowledge that could be exchanged through partnering and sharing tacit knowledge both internally and externally.
Knowledge Enabler 4: Compassion
The knowledge enabler of compassion stems from the feeling of family
throughout MARADs employees. MARADs family-centric culture created

Government sector case studies

123

an enabling context that encouraged cooperation, sharing, loyalty, and compassion among employees. It was natural to wonder how this knowledge
enabler called compassion could facilitate the knowledge sharing at MARAD.
MARAD employees believed that compassion was the behavioral dimension
behind knowledge sharing, allowing people to reach out to one another. For
example, an interviewee said:
Compassion is shown when an individual is stuck on a task and other employees share their knowledge to help complete the project. There is an importance
of treating people as people and not just a source of information. When there is
misunderstanding employees engage in conversations to resolve the diculties.
The family-centric culture here enables employees to communicate eectively
during dicult conversations.

In MARAD, compassion was an indispensable part of developing open


and productive working environments. As one interviewee succinctly stated,
the atmosphere here undoubtedly creates a climate of compassion. It was
thus not surprising that compassion was ranked very highly in relation to
organizational practices, ranking as a priority. The data also revealed that
compassion was very important for leadership, who were very mindful of
the need to create an organizational climate that allowed employees to feel
that they belonged to the organization and that the powers that be would
take care of them in times of crisis or unusual circumstances.
Organizational practices and compassion were prioritized at the top of
the list of the possibility proposition statements. The employees wanted to
see the Maritime Administration provide employee friendly programs to
show that MARAD cared about its employees and that they were an
important part of the organization. Over the next two years employees
wanted MARAD to establish an environment that encouraged knowledge
sharing based on trust and respect for new and innovative ideas. The
employees ranked this second among the possibility proposition statements
and wanted to make sure that the environment would promote teaming and
help individuals to make a contribution to the team eorts or assignments.
Some examples of compassion were statements such as MARAD provides employee friendly programs, our leaders model empathy and sympathy, We practice team work through knowing our employees, sharing
concerns and accepting dierences, and MARAD builds camaraderie
between team members by creating formal teams with a exible structure.
Steps 4 and 5: Analyze the Expanded Data from Appreciative Interviews
using Knowledge Infrastructure Factors
Twenty-ve MARAD employees were individually interviewed by GMU
team members. They asked the participants questions to validate the four

124

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

knowledge enablers and to give them an opportunity to share their stories


and ideas. The 25 employees interviewed were not a part of the storytelling
session. It was the GMU teams intent to try to reach as many employees
as possible.
After the interviews were completed, the GMU team collected the data
and compiled them into various analytical formats. They engaged those who
helped in the process and arranged for a working session with MARAD
employees to jointly analyze the data. The nal group consisted of those
who participated in the storytelling exercise and those who were interviewed.
Step 6: Constructing Future-present Scenarios/Possibility Propositions
The GMU team dened the knowledge enablers and showcased stories featuring each KE. They explained the process for the session, and instructed
the group on writing possibility proposition statements. The group began
by considering each core value in relation to the KIFs. Divided into smaller
groups, each group was assigned one organizational factor for each core
value to work through the KIFs and create a possibility proposition. Each
group wrote their proposition statements on a sticky note in order to facilitate the process of grouping the data. Once the possibility propositions had
been written, each small group passed their draft statements to another
table for their feedback.
When the groups completed giving feedback regarding the possibility
propositions, the groups were allowed time to make changes to their statements. The GMU team then asked a representative from each table to read
each of their proposition statements to the rest of the group. They were also

Government sector case studies

Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

125

given time for questions and further explanation of the statements. No


questions emerged and the group validated each of the statements as they
were read.
Step 7: Consensually Validate and Rank Possibility Propositions
The possibility proposition statements were posted on charts throughout
the room. The participants walked around the room and validated each
proposition statement. Each chart also contained a ranking system. On a
scale of 1 to 5, the participants were asked to rank each statement on
Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

126

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

whether it was ideal, how much was already in place, and how soon did they
want this to happen. The participants were given dots to indicate their
choice and ranking. When the session concluded, the GMU team collected
the data and ranking.
Step 8: Form an Implementation Team
The GMU team used the collected data to create suggestions and recommendations for MARAD. After the session, the team returned to leadership with a summary of the project and recommendations for
implementation (Table 6.l). The recommendations were received favorably
and were in the process of being implemented at the time of writing.
Step

Action

Step 1

Negotiating top management commitment and support

Step 2

Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm

Step 3

Identication of knowledge enablers

Step 4

Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative


interviews designed and conducted by the ASK team

Step 5

Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge


infrastructure analysis

Step 6

Constructing future-present scenarios

Step 7

Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios

Step 8

Creating and mandating an implementation team

Implications
The knowledge enablers at MARAD represented the most signicant
strengths and opportunities to help create an ecient knowledge management system at MARAD. The employees as well as the senior management
understood that there was a real and immediate need for change. There was
a strong desire among many of the newer employees (i.e., employees with
05 years of MARAD experience) to contribute to the discussions
surrounding major change initiatives and reforms contemplated by
MARADs leadership. It was recognized that these ocers, after all, would
be the ones who would have to live with the implications of the initiatives
and reforms the longest.
Their desire to be part of the solution can be seen in the fact that

Government sector case studies

Table 6.1

127

Possibility propositions

(a) Implementation time frame: immediate


Organizational
Practices
Compassion

The Maritime Administration provides employee friendly


programs that say we care about you as an important part of our
organization. These human resource programs consist of
telecommuting, drug and alcohol counseling, job sharing, leave
donation, and family leave programs and medical/mental health
support.

Leadership
Trust

In our organization, leaders establish trust through


demonstrated concern for and interest in employees professional
development. Leaders establish clear performance standards and
assign specic tasks, providing employees with increasing
responsibility as they demonstrate success and ability with basic
tasks. In addition to midyear and annual performance
evaluations, leaders provide task specic feedback, providing
advice when sought and rewarding success through praise,
recognition, and increased responsibility. Employees feel valued,
appreciated, and believe their supervisors have their best interest
at heart.

Leadership
Compassion

Leaders are accepting of people as unique and worthy of respect


and demonstrate these qualities through open communication,
coaching, motivating, empathy, and sympathy to ensure
employee empowerment and success.

Decision
Making
Respect

The organization respects the qualications and competence of


its diverse sta. Valuing these dierences contributes to
accomplishing MARADs mission.

Leadership
Partnering

Leaders of MARAD work together to achieve agency goals and


objectives. Organizations partner together in order to protect the
integrity and mission of the agency. Leaders form workgroups to
develop innovative solutions to improve work processes, increase
customer satisfaction, and develop ways to increase employee
development and improve organizational communication.
Information is compiled from each organization to include
organizational highlights. This information is disseminated to all
employees through quarterly broadcast messages as well as
quarterly newsletters. Workgroups meet quarterly to review
overall eectiveness.

Leadership
Respect

Leaders earn respect by consistently treating people fairly. This


does not mean that all employees are treated the same. Leaders
meet with employees one-on-one as frequently as needed but
at least once a quarter to discuss overall achievements and areas
of concern. Both leaders and employees share concerns openly.
Titles are left at the door. Cultural dierences are honored.

128

Table 6.1

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

(continued)

(b) Implementation time frame: six months


Decision
Making
Partnering

MARADs partnership with industry, international organizations,


and other agencies has made us the partner of choice in the
maritime community. MARADs commitment to success is
marked by our outstanding support of our stakeholders through
the newly formed National Maritime Counsel.

Organizational
Practices
Partnering

MARAD supervisory and leadership personnel identify the talents


and strengths of employees to establish ways of developing high
performance teams. MARAD employees network and share
information with one another by partnering on work projects and
assignments. We will be aware of one anothers strengths and
weaknesses and work toward establishing high performing teams.

Communication
Partnering

MARAD maintains a best practices database that is available


to all employees. This database helps all employees, who benet
from the experiences and knowledge of other MARAD employees.

Organizational
Practices
Respect

Teambuilding within an organization comes from the job being


well done. Respect is earned among the members by the entire
team working together. Organizational respect allows for the
ecient and timely responses to nished work that challenges
the team and individuals on the team.

Incentives
Partnering

To complete or implement the responsibilities of the agency,


partnering is essential. This is accomplished by setting up various
short and longer term teams/groups on various issues at the oce,
agency, and stakeholder levels. Criteria have been established to
facilitate partnering at each level with the goal of improving the
nal product or decision. This teaming on various issues develops
partnerships between individuals and groups where signicant
knowledge is shared. Only through frequent and sincere partnering
experiences can we accomplish a social construction of knowledge.

Incentives
Trust

Trust is the basis for knowledge sharing in our organization. We


give credit to individuals and especially to the group through
broad recognition to validate their contribution. Credit is based
on the contribution to reaching agency goals and objectives. The
recognition of outputs for individuals and groups creates trust
among individuals and between groups and leads to higher eorts
and better results.

Communication
Respect

MARAD has a transparent hiring process. All MARAD vacancy


announcements require a free ow answer to a knowledge, skills
and abilities (KSA) for demonstrating their ability to communicate
with other sta and respect the opinions of others.

Government sector case studies

Table 6.1

129

(continued)

(c) Implementation time frame: two years


Communication
Trust

MARAD fosters a shared responsibility for failure and


nding subsequent solutions by formalizing accountability
for the manager and sta.

Incentives
Compassion

We have established an environment that encourages


knowledge sharing based on trust and respect for new and
innovative ideas. The environment promotes teaming and
helps individuals to make a contribution to the team eorts or
assignments. This includes being genuine and sincere to each
team member with empathy, sympathy, and empowerment.

Decision Making
Trust

MARAD employees and customers trust decisions made by


management, which are now listed on the MARAD intranet
in a timely manner. Management decisions consider the views
and ideas of all employees. In turn, management takes
ownership of decisions while empowering employees to
execute. If the outcomes turned out to be ineective,
management quickly corrects course.

Leadership
Respect

Leaders earn respect by consistently treating people fairly.


This does not mean that all employees are treated the same.
Leaders meet with employees one-on-one as frequently as
needed but at least once a quarter to discuss overall
achievements and areas of concern. Both leaders and
employees share concerns openly. Titles are left at the door.
Cultural dierences are honored.

Incentives
Respect

People are respected for speaking up and sharing. Multilevel


teaming has been established to promote the respect of
diverse ideas and concepts given the issue, activity, or
decision. We show consideration and appreciation for all
shared information and acknowledge that the nal product is
a joint eort. The opportunities to achieve success are much
greater if information is owing freely.

Communication
Partnering

MARAD maintains a best practices database that is


available to all employees. This database helps all employees
benet from the experiences and knowledge of other
MARAD employees.

several of the leadership team supported each ASK initiative to engage


employees at all levels in an Appreciative Inquiry about what was working
well at MARAD. Other key factors of their interest in helping can be
found in the possibility proposition statements. The propositions provided a road map for the creation of tacit knowledge which was critical
for the organization.

130

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Recommendations
The GMU teams recommendations focused on three levels of the organization: the individual, the group, and the organization as a whole.
Individual level
To sustain the knowledge enablers currently existing in MARAD, interviewees stressed the importance of a larger Upward Mobility Program to
strengthen and develop the emerging workforce and capture the tacit
knowledge of the retiring workforce. While there was some concern
over the transition of MARAD, most interviewees accepted change as a
natural part of a transition to a changing workforce. The Transportation
Leadership Program (TLP) was the major upward mobility avenue available to MARAD employees. Employees saw it as a core leadership development program but it tapped a small portion of leadership at MARAD.
There were a few cases of ongoing leader development with supervisors
that had informally developed in the upper levels of the organization. The
GMU team recommended a combination of Upward Mobility Programs
within the existing structure of MARAD. Examples included shadowing
programs, six month residence internships, personal interviews with senior
leaderships, leader network cadres, leaders knowledge sharing database,
intermodal teams with dierent inuence from public and private sectors,
and opportunities to partner outside the organization and across departmental divisions.
Group level
With the potential to lose a major segment of the collective tacit knowledge
as a result of retirement, interviewees voiced their thoughts, concerns,
and ideas particularly regarding internal transformation for MARAD.
Interviewees identied several internal transformation projects to support
senior leadership, such as commissioning an advisory group of MARAD
employees to think boldly and creatively about the organizations future
and to help senior leadership, design a program to enable MARAD to meet
the challenges ahead. They also put together a strong brieng program for
internal and external stakeholders.
Organizational level
For its transformation to be successful MARAD needed buy-in at all levels,
including bottom-up input and top-down ownership. The workforce and
mid-level managers needed to understand why MARAD needed to change
some of its day-to-day business practices through the knowledge enablers
of trust, compassion, respect, and partnering. The recommendation in this

Government sector case studies

131

context was that they focus on issues that continue to instill the knowledge
enablers. MARAD must consider stronger networks, better partnerships,
and increasing focus on sharing knowledge inside and outside MARAD,
removing the barriers to progress and eciency, and open the ow of ideas,
people, and information between the components. To assist in these recommendations, MARAD may consider appointing a cross-department
facilitator to help with both coordinating eorts and monitoring progress,
and perhaps even a formal review panel including both insiders and outsiders for launching this recommendation.
The following implementation guidelines were provided based on the prioritization of the possibility propositions across an immediate, six month,
and two year time frame. For the immediate time frame, it was recommended that MARAD expand its Upward Mobility Programs, organize
partnerships to improve work processes, increase customer satisfaction,
increase employee development, and improve organizational communication. For the six month time frame, the recommendations included
establishing criteria to facilitate partnering networks, establish internal
transformation advisory groups made up of a cross section of MARAD
employees, and create community of practice groups to discuss issues of
importance for the organization. For the two year time frame, the prioritized recommendations included establishing a knowledge management
intranet database to increase knowledge sharing, and initiating multilevel
partnering with local government and other maritime associates. As a
result of these recommendations based on ASK, members pledged that
they would strive to create an environment that encourages knowledge
sharing based on the knowledge enablers of trust, respect, compassion, and
partnering for new and innovative ideas.
Enabling the creation of tacit knowledge sharing at MARAD was about
creating the space to foster tacit knowledge. The four key knowledge
enablers at MARAD trust, respect, partnering, and compassion were
the ingredients to instill a knowledge vision, manage conversations, mobilize knowledge activists, and create the right context for knowledge sharing.
The ASK initiative has its own proposals to overcome the resistance to
change that would be a natural outcome of any change project. While it
would be very dicult to manage resistance to change due to the fact that
resistance is a way of expressing feelings of vulnerability, the AI/ASK model
helped MARAD sta express their concerns through conversations around
what was important and meaningful for organizational change. Using the
ASK method in MARAD, we were able to specically focus on what people
were doing well. The phrase overcoming resistance imposes an adversarial
relationship while resistance to change is more naturally occurring and an
internal emotional process where the key to deal with it is to understand it.

132

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Conclusion
MARAD served as an excellent client in which to implement an ASK initiative. Its 35 percent retirement eligibility rate and the lack of a structured
knowledge management program may have been the initial factors that
attracted the organization to engage an ASK process. But once started, the
unconditional support of the leadership and the extraordinary commitment of its sta allowed the ASK initiative to grow into a major change
possibility for the organization. The leadership was not only concerned
about the loss of tacit knowledge within the agency as large numbers of key
employees retire but also about the potential loss of relationships with the
maritime industry. In that context, engaging with the ASK initiative was a
smart decision.
Working with the client, the GMU team was able to discover four knowledge enablers: trust, respect, partnering, and compassion. MARADs
longevity among employees allowed long term relationships to evolve and
thus build trust. MARADs family-centric environment enhanced knowledge sharing, which was earned through respect. Partnering was critical to
achieving the agencys mission and goals. Finally, MARADs open and
productive work environment was based on this notion of compassion and
its important role in the agency.
As mentioned earlier, the GMU teams recommendations to MARAD
encompassed four types: individual, group, organizational, and time
bound. Individual recommendations included such items as a knowledge
sharing database and creating opportunities to partner outside MARAD.
Group recommendations centered around creating employee advisory
groups to encourage employees to think boldly and creatively about
MARADs future. Organizational recommendations focused on issues
that continued to instill the knowledge enablers such as developing
stronger networks, better partnerships, and increasing focus on sharing
knowledge internally and externally. The time-bound recommendations,
created by the employees participating in the focus groups, were subdivided
into three segments by way of implementation time span: immediate, six
months, and two years. In the immediate category, recommendations
included expanding Upward Mobility Programs to enhance knowledge
sharing while the six month time frame called for establishing and facilitating networks. The two year time span recommendations were for establishing a knowledge management intranet database to increase knowledge
sharing.

Government sector case studies

133

THE AFA
The AFA is the ctitious name of a US Federal Agency where the ASK initiative was undertaken by another GMU team. The Process Engineering
organization within the AFA is responsible for providing policy guidance
and direction to the various lines of business and sta oces of the AFA
on the best applicable information technology processes, practices, and
tools. This organizations mission is to provide agency policy and direction
in the areas of IT Strategic Planning, IT Investment Analysis, Process
Engineering, Information Management, and Information Security. This
mission was meant to be achieved by working with key constituents to
understand the information technology needs of the agency and by
teaming with other organizations to carry out the mission.
The Process Engineering division of the AFA decided to conduct an
ASK initiative in order to enhance process sharing across the agency. This
group was an advisory body only, and had no authority to mandate a
particular process or a process improvement technique. As a result, each
line of business and each sta oce had developed and followed its own
processes. There was no continuity of thought or constancy of purpose in
the processes used by the dierent lines of business. The sponsor stated that
the underlying issue might be a lack of trust, resulting in a lack of communication between this organization and the various lines of business.
The objective of using the ASK model was to nd and expand the
knowledge sharing practices that were already taking place and to help
develop an overarching knowledge sharing culture within the AFA. Since
the model was designed to bring people together, representatives from the
dierent groups were requested to get involved in the process. By helping
the participants to focus on their positive knowledge sharing experiences,
the GMU team wanted to create a space that would give them the desire
and ability to trust and communicate with each other in a new way. It was
hoped that the new experience would lay the groundwork for creating a
knowledge sharing culture and help achieve their goal of adopting
common processes. It was felt by both the GMU team and the AFA that
the Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge initiative would promote interaction and communication between management and team members, team
members themselves, and between dierent lines of business within the
agency.
The Process Engineering Division
The mission of the Process Engineering Division was to assist the
AFAs various programs to improve its management and the engineering

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

processes used to plan, procure, test, evaluate, and sustain both mission
critical and non-mission critical software intensive systems. The role of the
Process Engineering department was to identify, enhance, and promote the
adoption throughout the agency of the best applicable information technology processes, practices, and tools. In cooperation with other AFA lines
of business, Process Engineering developed plans that maximized the
eective use of IT in meeting the agencys business needs. It focused on
activities that cut across various lines of business with special emphasis on
those activities that had the most impact on the agencys ability to meet its
business goals. The immediate goal of Process Engineering was to enable
the agency to adopt the best applicable technology for improved safety,
eciency, security, and quality. Process Engineering had identied two key
activities that cut across all lines of business and directly addressed the
four major goals. They were Process Improvement and Safety and
Certication. The rst was based on the industry standard Capability
Maturity Model (CMM), which integrated the CMMs for Software,
Systems Engineering, and Software Acquisition. The purpose of the
second, the integrated safety and information security initiative, was to
explore the technical, programmatic, and economic eciencies to be
achieved by integrating safety and information security within a unied
system lifecycle.
From the beginning, the AFA project sponsor was very committed about
bringing sta together from all parts of the organization who were
impacted by the process improvement group. He personally took on the
responsibility of providing the GMU team with participants for all of the
phases. Making use of the exceptional support, the team was able to collect
data using techniques such as storytelling, interviews, and observation. The
team discussed a variety of questions and approaches, keeping in mind the
knowledge sharing aspect as well as the business of the client, process
improvement. The following questions were examples:
Think of a time when you had a positive experience sharing information about
a business process.
1.
2.
3.

What made it a positive experience?


What did you learn from that experience?
What motivated you to share the information?

The questions were intended to elicit stories from the participants about
positive knowledge sharing experiences such as the occasions when
sharing knowledge provided them with a sense of accomplishment and a
feeling of providing value to another person and to the organization. The

Government sector case studies

135

following are some quotes that highlight the salient features of the stories
shared:
As a telecommuter, I use technology to actively participate in online discussion
groups (chat rooms, discussion boards) in order to get ideas for current work in
progress.
The way we are organized helps us to see the bigger picture, understand how we
compare with other industries, and how we can do business better.
I came to work and told my colleagues about a safety exercise on terrorism that
I witnessed in my neighborhood. I shared it with my colleagues because I see my
work community as an extension of my home community.
At the AFA knowledge is power does not hold true. I share knowledge because
I dont feel threatened by doing so.

As the stories were shared, the GMU team captured key themes on ip
charts, taking care to verify the words and statements with the person
whose experience was being shared. The audience received the stories with
appreciation and respect. After all stories were shared, the process of identifying and clarifying the knowledge enablers began. There was a high level
of interest, discussion, and dialogue among the participants throughout
the process and they eventually came up with the following list of seven
knowledge enablers:

Ethical behavior Doing the right thing.


Time empowerment Ability to control ones time and make time for
knowledge sharing.
Relevance Help, usefulness, signicance, understood value of ones
work.
What is in it for us? Understanding the broad benets of ones work.
Sense of community Caring, sharing, trust and support.
Eective communication Asking and listening.
Resources Time, talent, sponsorship, and engagement of people.

The GMU team subsequently reduced the knowledge enablers to ve,


eliminating What is in it for us? and Eective communication since they
overlap with two knowledge infrastructure factors, incentives and communication, respectively. To expand and validate the knowledge enablers,
the GMU team formulated the interview questions and an interview protocol for the next phase. The purpose of the interviews was to validate the
knowledge enablers that were identied in the storytelling session and to

136

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

collect organizational stories about each of the knowledge enablers. The


GMU team asked the following information about each KE (the KE
resources is used here as an example):
1.
2.
3.

Several people in your organization have identied (resources) as a


knowledge enabler. Can you tell me something more about it?
Can you describe a time where you had the necessary (resources) to
share information?
What are the organizational factors that allowed you to (access these
resources)?

Several of the interviewees decided to share stories that were less than
positive and were undeterred by attempts to shift to an appreciative mode.
This represented only a few people and most interviewees, with a little
encouragement from the interviewers, were able to recall and tell positive
stories and experiences. The sharing of negative experiences was also
appreciated because they existed and came from a motivation to make the
tellers work life better. In the nal facilitated session, possibility scenarios
or possibility propositions were created. Invitees included members from
the initial session and all of those interviewed. The participants were
divided into groups and each worked with their own knowledge enabler to
create possibility propositions.
For the next step, the GMU team used a valencing or prioritizing technique to rank the propositions based on questions from the model that were
described earlier in the methodology section of this book.
1.
2.
3.

How important is this for the organization to achieve?


How much of this may already be present in the organization?
Realistically, how soon do you want this to happen?

After tabulating the scores, the team came up with 2 immediate, 10 short
term, and 16 long term propositions. The sponsor took responsibility for
assigning owners to the propositions of the immediate and short term time
spans. The following are some examples of possibility propositions from
the immediate term time category:
We communicate what we value in our formulation of goals and objectives.
Leaders foster a sense of community through their personal involvement with
their group, and by including and valuing everyone as a part of the team with a
role to play.

Government sector case studies

137

For the short term category, examples included statements such as:
We strive to identify key stakeholders in decisions, and proactively involve them
in the decision making process.
We value cross-organizational dialogue that supports cooperation and coordination to achieve documented corporate goals and objectives.
We publish results in performance reports and lessons learned.

The interview data suggested that the AFA has a strong meeting culture,
one where a great deal of time is spent in and running between meetings.
Interviewees shared the sentiment that if there were fewer meetings to
attend, there would be more time for people to get their day to day work
accomplished. Furthermore, this would provide them with additional time
and energy to participate in the knowledge sharing process.
It was also found that sta were concerned with how they used other
peoples time. For instance, a major inhibitor of knowledge sharing was
that if people did not know whether or not a certain piece of information
was relevant to another persons work then they would not just share automatically. Individuals were deciding to share or not to share based on
insucient knowledge and understanding of other peoples roles and
responsibilities within the organization. Sta would share only when they
had something that they knew was relevant to another person.
The interview data also suggested that the onus was on the leadership to
demonstrate the behavior that employees wanted to see in the organization.
If the leadership wanted their sta to share knowledge regularly, they too
needed to share knowledge regularly. The sta appeared to take cues from
leadership and emulate their behavior.
As mentioned earlier, some interviewees found it dicult to stay focused
on remaining positive and telling stories that positively reected knowledge
sharing within the organization. The interviewers armed such feelings
and did not challenge them. Instead the questions were reframed to something like this: If your situation were to change in a direction you would
like it to, what would that look like? If your experiences were to become
positive for you, what would they be?
During the process of valencing the possibility propositions, the team
uncovered interesting correlations in both the immediate and short term
possibility propositions. These were related to the knowledge infrastructure
factor of leadership. For example, here is a quote: Leaders foster a sense
of community through their personal involvement with their group, and
by including and valuing everyone as a part of the team with a role to play.
In essence, using the appreciative method, the team was able to identify the

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Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

existing organizational factors and individual motivators to knowledge


sharing and help the client come up with action plans to implement the
desired changes. The following are some such recommendations or action
plans:
1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Identify an action lead and implementation team for each immediate


and short term possibility proposition that was generated in the ASK
initiative.
Use regularly scheduled meetings as a means for updating the status of
the developed action plans. This is to prevent adding meeting time to
already busy schedules.
After 36 months, reevaluate the long term propositions to determine
which are still organizationally relevant. Evaluate, through a valencing
or other prioritization process, which propositions to work on next.
Review the newly bolstered long term propositions that now include
organizationally relevant action items, ideas, and suggestions that were
collected during the interview process.
Develop a strategy to gain executive support for implementing a knowledge sharing culture within the AFA. This support would consist of:

Ongoing communications from the top that talk about the


importance of the process to the future of the AFA.
Actions by senior leaders that demonstrate the desired behaviors
(walk the walk).
Starting with areas that the process group touches, involve
people in the ASK process and move to involve other areas (start
small and grow big).
Model the behaviors learned during the project (walk the walk).
Share what you are doing with the greater organization, through
various communication venues.
Celebrate success so that people are curious and interested and
want to be a part of what youre doing.

Overall, AFA employees cherished the opportunity to share knowledge


and it was up to the leaders to sustain the momentum built through the
ASK initiative. The ASK process helped empower the employees to take
action for the betterment of themselves, the process organization, and the
AFA.

7.

Public service case study

Employees of public service organizations may have more socially sensitive


motivations than those from for-prot, private sectors. Whether such
dierences would lead to dierent knowledge sharing challenges or not was
something we were not aware of when a GMU team began their ASK
initiative with one such organization. The international Public Service
Organization (PSO) showcased in this case study had its own knowledge
sharing challenge because its employees were geographically dispersed and
there was a signicant amount of turnover every few years. To the GMU
team, both of these features appeared to underscore the need for a formal
knowledge sharing program. Since not many people stayed at PSO for over
ve years communication was not free owing and people were not
bumping into each other at the water cooler. As a result, only a limited
amount of organizational history had become institutionalized. The PSO
therefore welcomed the opportunity to conduct a knowledge sharing
initiative.
In order to maintain the anonymity of the organization described in this
chapter, we are not able to write much about the history or mission of the
organization since doing so might reveal its identity. We can however share
that this was an internationally known public service organization, about
7500 in strength, with a cherished history and attracting highly committed
individuals who were interested in making a positive dierence in society.
The focus of the ASK initiative was to examine one particular division
within the headquarter organization of the PSO whose primary job was to
provide support for the eld.

DISCOVERING WHAT IS
Data collection at the PSO began with a two hour group session. Thirteen
Center sta participated in the session, representing all divisions and
including administrative assistants, professional sta, and management.
The GMU team set the stage by providing an introduction to Appreciative
Sharing of Knowledge methodology. They explained the process for surfacing stories of successful knowledge sharing and paired o the participants to interview each other. During the interview process they were asked
139

140

Step

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

1, 2, 3

4, 5, 6

What Is

What Might
Be

What
Could Be

What Will
Be

Outcome

Process

Infrastructure Factors

Key Themes

Identify Knowledge
Enablers

Vote
Action
ActionItems
Items
1.
1.
2.
2.
3.
3.
4.
4.

K1 K2 K3 K4

5.

Identify Five
Knowledge
Enablers

Create
FuturePresent
Scenarios

Prioritize
Actions

Create an
Action Plan

to share stories about moments at work when they felt most alive and
valued for the knowledge they were able to share, or times when colleagues
shared valuable knowledge with the interviewee. Twenty minutes were
allowed for the interviews, after which all participants shared the stories of
their partner with the group. As a story was recounted, the group was asked
to identify enabling themes that might have encouraged knowledge sharing
in that instance. A total of 30 dierent themes were uncovered, many of
which were repeated in other stories. After all of the stories had been
shared, the group consolidated the list into six potential knowledge
enablers:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Collaboration/sharing culture.
Empowerment.
Belief in the PSO mission.
Building relationships/community.
Responsiveness.
Reection/Reective.

There was a healthy debate between the two terms collaboration and
sharing culture. Some felt the PSO Center was a collaborative culture and

141

Public service case study

so could not separate the two terms. In addition, building relationships


and community were thought to be synonymous by some participants.
The GMU team decided to keep both terms for the time being and felt that
during Phase II of the interview process they could explore these terms
further. More details on these enablers are highlighted later in the chapter.

Step

CREATING WHAT MIGHT BE


1, 2, 3

4, 5, 6

What Is

What Might
Be

What
Could Be

What Will
Be

Identify Knowledge
Enablers

Vote

Outcome

Process

Infrastructure Factors

Key Themes

Action
ActionItems
Items
1.
1.
2.
2.
3.
3.
4.
4.

K1 K2 K3 K4

5.

Identify Five
Knowledge
Enablers

Create
FuturePresent
Scenarios

Prioritize
Actions

Create an
Action Plan

A week after the pilot event, one of the project sponsors at the Center sent
a broadcast message to Center sta thanking those who participated in the
group session and alerting everyone that the project team might be contacting them for individual 3045 minute interviews. The purpose of these
follow-up interviews was to validate the knowledge enablers uncovered
during the group session. All interviews were very informative and the
Center sta were enthusiastic about sharing their stories. Center sta
seemed very appreciative of their colleagues throughout the organization.
During the individual interviews the GMU team collected stories from
Center sta that would validate the knowledge enablers uncovered during
the group session. They also collected information regarding the inuence

142

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

of seven possible organizational infrastructure factors on the knowledge sharing experiences at the Center. Two of the prospective knowledge
enablers were combinations of terms, and the team wanted to verify either
the combined terms or the single most appropriate term.
As a result of the individual interviews, and subsequent data, four of the
six original knowledge enablers were validated along with ve of the proposed knowledge infrastructure factors. The team was also able to conrm
that two knowledge enablers with multiple terms could be reduced to one
term that most resonated with the employees who were interviewed.
After analyzing the interview data it was concluded that collaboration,
empowerment, belief in the PSO mission, and building relationships were the
four most critical knowledge enablers at the PSO Center. All three divisions
gave high marks to collaboration and empowerment. The interview data for
two of the divisions showed responsiveness with a higher reference level than
belief in the PSO mission. However, after analyzing the positive stories
further it was concluded that the response noted in the stories was due to
belief in the mission. The fourth knowledge enabler, building relationships,
was discussed in conjunction with collaboration. Participants collaborated
because they had built up relationships with other sta members.
In relation to the infrastructure factors, all divisions noted that leadership facilitated the critical knowledge enablers. All divisions connected
leadership to the knowledge enablers of collaboration, empowerment, and
belief in the mission.
While the data from the stories did not contain any specic incentives,
the general incentives were primarily satisfaction from a job well done and
belief in the mission or assisting everyone in doing a better job. A few weeks
later, the project team conducted a second group session with the PSO
Center sta to complete the data gathering process (steps 5 and 6 of the
ASK model). For this two hour session, every Center employee who had
participated in either the initial group session or one of the individual interviews was invited to attend. The purpose of the nal session was to present
the project teams ndings so far and to engage the group in the creation of
future-present scenarios or possibility propositions based on the stories
that were shared by the sta. The group generated scenarios during a 30
minute period by working in groups of two or three people, each group
focused on one of the knowledge enablers. The group developed 16 scenarios in the time they were allotted. During another approximately 15
minute period, everyone read and commented on the original set of scenarios that were arranged in a gallery along one wall of the conference
room that was used. Comments were intended to be appreciative that is,
written to help strengthen the scenario. The small groups then reconvened
to rene their scenarios.

143

Public service case study

Step

PRIORITIZING WHAT COULD BE


1, 2, 3

4, 5, 6

What Is

What Might
Be

What
Could Be

What Will
Be

Outcome

Process

Infrastructure Factors

Key Themes

Identify Knowledge
Enablers

Vote
Action
ActionItems
Items
1.
1.
2.
2.
3.
3.
4.
4.

K1 K2 K3 K4

5.

Identify Five
Knowledge
Enablers

Create
FuturePresent
Scenarios

Prioritize
Actions

Create an
Action Plan

After the possibility propositions had been created, they were rated against
two questions:
How much of an ideal is it?
5
4
VERY MUCH

How much of it may already be present?


5
4
3
A LOT

1
NOT MUCH
1
NOT MUCH

Based on these rankings, the top six are shaded in Table 7.1. PSO chose to
focus on these particular propositions as part of their action plan.
Being in PSO and working towards the mission collaborating with likeminded people is a celebration in itself, it is not just a job for us, it is our
passion and adventure. We believe that by working here we contribute our
little part in making our mission a reality, stated a member of sta, echoing
a theme in a majority of the interviews. Themes such as collaboration,

144

Table 7.1

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Possibility propositions

Strength

Future-Present Scenarios (Possibility Propositions)

Empowerment
Organizational Structure

The Center has a more equal role a seat at the table


in decision making within the agency.

Collaboration
Communication

Current sta benet from a tradition of open


houses held semi-annually at headquarters and
virtually on the internet. Former sta are
encouraged to attend the open houses.

Collaboration
Organizational Structure

Sta benet from a tradition of keeping in touch.

Belief in PSO
Technology

Implement live meeting software to enhance


knowledge sharing and collaboration with eld and
headquarters in next quarter, pilots already done in
two locations.

Building Relationships
Organizational Structure

The continued use of cross-functional teams (region


CIO, etc.) promotes relationship building and
knowledge sharing across organizational
boundaries for more eective use of resources.

Empowerment
Communication

Building wide work environment that empowers


communication across stovepipes, i.e. oce working
groups, informal socializing, Wednesday a.m.
doughnut with the regions.

Empowerment
Technology

Portable oce that is accessible anywhere.

Collaboration
Leadership

Sta are encouraged to work together in selfselected and self-driven groups and are valued for
their cooperative and productive work by actively
engaged leaders.

Belief in PSO Mission


Communication

Provide an eective means of information/


knowledge and policy dissemination at headquarters
and to the eld. Strengthen development by one
weekly email update to managers. Complete manual
by Oct. 1st (procedures/guidance). Standardize
cataloguing by providing Dewey decimal system
classication guide.

Building Relationships
Organizational Practices
and Routines

Center sta try to record knowledge and procedures


and pass them on through technologically
appropriate standard operating procedures.

Building Relationships
Communication

Center sta talk to each other about their passions


and skills and so they know where to go for
assistance (brown bags, minutes, unit meetings,

Public service case study

Table 7.1

145

(continued)

Strength

Future-Present Scenarios (Possibility Propositions)


cross-functional team meetings, info. briefs, round
tables, trip debriefs, training events).

Building Relationships
Leadership

Center managers encourage sta to voice opinions


and talk freely on a regular basis about issues that
are important to all.

Belief in PSO
Organizational
Practices and Routines

Center sta participate in regular brown bags and


happy hours organized with appropriate crosssections of the organization. Once a quarter meet
informally to share knowledge.

Empowerment
Leadership

Division chiefs (DC) encourage and support all sta


to take leadership responsibility.

Empowerment
Organizational Practices
and Routines

Self-organized team structure with latitude for


individuals to determine work schedules, including
working outside the building and standard work
hours.

Belief in PSO
Organizational Structure

Increase cross-unit communication, collaboration


via bi-monthly meetings and key shareholders. Print
out all weekly minutes (details) where all sta can
view.

empowerment, belief in the PSO mission, and building relationships, rst


articulated in the pilot session and later echoed throughout the interviews,
conrmed the observation that Center employees lived by these values.
Identifying the knowledge enablers and validating them through individual
interviews at the Center was therefore a highly positive armative act for
the GMU team. All of these knowledge enablers were so inter-connected
that one would not be able to exist without the other. In the section that
follows we found it appropriate to discuss each of these knowledge enablers
in detail and to describe excerpts from the numerous interesting stories that
the GMU team heard throughout the study.
Knowledge Enabler 1: Empowerment
We are all in it together was the most prevailing attitude of the management and employees of the PSO Center. It was the same dedication and
sense of togetherness which were the driving forces behind the knowledge
enabler of empowerment. Due to the nature of their work and the mission
they exist for, empowerment was very prevalent in PSO. In some ways it can

146

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

be considered the sequel to belief in PSOs mission. Almost all of the


employees who were interviewed felt that the Center had an egalitarian
style of leadership. This was not surprising since in an empowered organization such as the PSO the sta should not be expected to be told what to
do, but they should know what to do on their own. The management
trusted the employees at the Center and believed that they would put their
best eort into everything they do. One of the employees remarked,
Management knows that people here are not here to waste their time but
would get things done no matter what it takes.
Empowerment is evident when individuals in an organization gradually acquire the autonomy, freedom and authority to make appropriate
decisions within the domain of their inuence (Thatchenkery, 2005,
p. 53). At the Center employees collaborated actively and formed work
groups across dierent departments to handle specic issues or projects.
The associates were given freedom to utilize their time the best way they
thought and did not have to go through a lengthy red tape process to get
involved in work groups. To join in work groups they did not have to get
permission from their supervisors because supervisors trusted their
employees to carry their projects through. They do not micro manage,
they trust us to do our work, said another employee. Through a review
process one employee was encouraged to write a handbook to share her
knowledge. This became very popular within the PSO and proved to be
of worldwide use. In another instance an employee took the initiative to
put together catalogs of information resources available within the PSO
on compact discs which will help volunteers know what resources are
available within the Center when they go out to dierent geographical
locations. She later shared this with the training and recruiting sta, who
ended up using the CD for their purposes. The management acknowledged that as more freedom and decision making capacities were given
to their employees within the scope of their work, knowledge sharing happened more eectively.
It was crucial for the Center management to value employee suggestions and manage accordingly, and they were well aware of this. Most of
the employees at the Center had been volunteers in the eld before and
therefore knew the realities faced by the eld sta. As a result, they were
able to support the sta eectively and with empathy. As in any other
empowered organization, at the PSO Center too, employees felt responsible beyond their own job and wanted to make the whole organization
work better. They had a sense of ownership and satisfaction in their
accomplishments, which made them strive harder and share the knowledge that they had acquired in the process. Through empowerment the
Center management had been able to help release the untapped employee

Public service case study

147

creativity and motivation to solve business problems. I am not pigeonholed here and could utilize many of my skills to the fullest potential for
helping others, in contradiction to the earlier job I was in. There I would
be just asked to do my job and mind my own business and nothing more,
remarked an employee who used his skills in graphic designing to help
with many projects at the Center even though his job was not directly
related to those projects. Center sta with a strong sense of being empowered constantly worked at providing better service for the volunteers
around the world. Empowerment also relied upon the ecient coaching
of management, which helped employees take on more responsibility.
Further, Center management took proactive steps to make sure that
employees were kept up to date with information on what was happening in the eld. For example, the whole Center sta were involved in the
Annual Strategic Meetings and Annual Project Plan Reviews. This helped
employees respond eectively and creatively toward the challenges that
were brought by the eld sta. Thus empowerment was not just an
attractive alternative or an ideologically fancy concept for the Center
management, but a fundamental way the Center employees understood
and went about doing their daily work. It was indeed their mental model.
Knowledge Enabler 2: Collaboration
Stories from Center sta indicated collaboration as a strong knowledge
enabler which appeared to be a common practice in the way sta did their
work. During the initial group meeting with employees from the Center,
several participants shared stories in which collaboration was a knowledge
enabler in their work. One story mentioned exchanging ideas with colleagues over lunch. Other stories mentioned Center sta from dierent
areas working together to support workshops and other training activities
for volunteers. One story referred to the practice of sta sitting in cubicles
close together so there was easy access to colleagues. Proximity was often a
key factor in collaboration, and most Center sta worked on the same oor
in the headquarters.
Participants in the second phase of the project conrmed collaboration
as a driving force in knowledge sharing in the Center especially across
stovepipes. Collaboration occurred both formally and informally, both
across units within divisions and across divisions. In all three divisions, collaboration was mentioned as a major enabler for knowledge sharing. The
individual interviews revealed there was strong top management support
for collaboration among Center sta. Collaboration was seen as a necessity
for overcoming the PSOs ve year rule which restricted the length of
service for employees. One interviewee indicated that some sta stayed in

148

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

touch with predecessors to get their viewpoints based on the experience


they had here.
Center sta also collaborated with PSO sta in other parts of headquarters as well as in-country sta. In one case, the Director of Diversity
Recruitment related his collaboration with a member of the Center sta to
develop a diversity starter kit. The knowledge the Center had regarding the
experience of diverse groups of volunteers in the eld was used to help in
recruitment eorts. Because many of the Center sta interviewed were PSO
volunteers or worked in the eld with volunteers before coming to HQ,
there seemed to be an added appreciation for collaboration as well as for
knowledge sharing in general.
During the nal group session Center sta created 16 future-present scenarios, three of which focused on collaboration. Those three scenarios
demonstrated their interest in formally recognizing and developing collaboration among colleagues as well as maintaining relationships with former
sta. Other organizations have successfully done this through communities
of practice and the Center may choose to investigate that as a possible
implementation.
As an organization, the Center had an interest in further developing
competence in the area of collaboration. Because their role in supporting
volunteers in the eld was at the center of the PSOs mission, it would make
sense to continue to develop this competence to take advantage of all the
knowledge they collectively possessed, both in current and former sta.
Knowledge Enabler 3: Belief in the PSO Mission
During the rst phase of our project, the GMU team identied a key
knowledge enabler as belief in the PSO mission. In subsequent interviews
with sta members, the uniqueness of this organization became more
focused. They shared the historical context that is crucial to understanding
the culture of the PSO.
Many of the Center sta interviewed shared stories that conrmed their
strongly held belief that the PSO had a worthwhile purpose and role. In
addition to an acknowledgement of the overall PSO mission, the sta
acknowledged the specic missions of the Center, which were promoting
the use of core training fundamentals and standards, while at the same time
supporting the necessary exibility that enabled country-specic needs and
best practices to be honored.
The sta felt that leadership at the PSO Center strongly believed in its
mission. This was why one of the Deputy Directors formed a project team
to look at why the PSO was in a country, why it stayed, and why it left. The
Center wanted to insure that the PSO was adhering to its mission and that

Public service case study

149

it could respond quickly by having data at hand. Another sta member


shared that there was a celebratory culture there, such as the annual PSO
week. There was high value placed on recognition of its mission, womens
rights, ethnicity, gay rights, and so on. I can proclaim that the mission of
the Center is to provide support for those working in the eld. Yet another
sta member told us that I am very mindful of the necessities of eld volunteers and know that for many who work in remote areas the Center is
their only source of information as access to other sources is very limited.
I try to gather and disseminate information quickly.
Through organized meetings and training events, I get to share my
experiences as a returned volunteer. I have the opportunity to provide valuable information and can structure training programs that will make a great
contribution to the quality of training for new volunteers. I feel as though
I can also encourage those who may be interested in service with the PSO
as well, remarked one volunteer.
Another story shared was how a group left Philadelphia by bus for New
York City for a ight out of the country to an overseas post. However, the
ight was canceled due to the weather. The guest coordinator (rst time volunteer) stayed in constant contact with the travel agency, PSO Center oce,
and country desk sta. All employees worked diligently to make alternative arrangements and assist in this situation. Everyone at the Center
strongly believed in the mission of getting these volunteers to their post.
Finally, in another example, a project team performed extensive research
and developed a database on countries where the PSO was active. This
database will be used by leadership to make decisions on where the PSO
volunteers will be sent.
Each story conrmed to us that most sta members we interviewed
believed that their jobs were vital to allow the Center and the PSO to
strongly support its volunteers and the countries in which they serve.
Knowledge Enabler 4: Building Relationships
Building relationships was identied as a knowledge enabler for the PSO
Center. For example, a database manager told a story about how she was
responsible for designing, developing, and analyzing databases for Center
sta so her job revolved around building relationships. She stated that there
was very good open communication and understanding. Another administrative assistant focused on the importance of building relationships at the
Center. She said the Center worked to build a sense of community among
education program managers in the countries. The Center sta also acted
as facilitators and guides (springboards providing motivation), helping
program managers go from concept to working plan.

150

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

One employee shared the following lengthy but descriptive narrative


about building relationships:
The leadership of the Center promotes building relationships by inviting all PSO
Center employees to attend these meetings. Being exposed to individuals from
all departments and collaborating on the decisions helps to establish relationships. Informal relationships build trust that facilitates the solving of problems.
The time allotted to these meetings lets employees spend a substantial block of
time with each other. Individuals get to know each other through the exchange
of ideas. The open atmosphere builds relationships because there is no grandstanding and everyone can speak freely. The cross-channel style of communication builds relationships with members of other departments.

Building relationships was also central to the work of the group that provided the training necessary for PSO volunteers. This group stayed in
contact with other departments and built relationships so that they could
help each other in times of necessity. Knowledge sharing and trust were
actively promoted at the meetings.
The group responsible for data collection at the Center also held building relationships in high regard. The Center routinely put teams together,
which was supposed to help build relationships. The teams were crossfunctional, which helped build relationships due to exposure of individuals
to those from other departments. A Health and HIV/AIDS Specialist
recounted a story where two technology specialists from the Global Unit
volunteered to teach her how to use Blackboard collaborative software. The
specialist was trained and was ready to conduct a virtual follow-up workshop with participants in Africa using the new technology.
From the discussions with the Center employees and from the stories
they shared it was quite clear that the Center had a culture of knowledge
sharing and the employees strongly valued the necessity and importance of
knowledge sharing. This was an organization which already had much of
the needed positive energy in place for successful Appreciative Sharing
of Knowledge to happen. And it was also worth noting that the Center was
already undertaking many initiatives to channel this energy in the right
direction and to bring forth a culture which constantly encouraged and
enhanced the Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge.

CONCLUSION
The PSO Center had strong natural inclinations toward knowledge sharing
which was evident from the stories Center sta readily shared with the
GMU team demonstrating collaboration and empowerment. The Center

Public service case study

151

was unique in its mission to provide direct support to PSO in-country sta
and volunteers in the eld. It was abundantly clear that the men and women
who worked at the Center believed passionately in the PSOs mission. As one
sta member said, its not just a job. Finally, the ve year rule made knowledge sharing and retention all the more crucial. While the turnover in sta
created opportunities for new sta to constantly bring in new ideas, there
were also opportunities to tap into the experience of former employees.

8. Summary, conclusion, and


invitations
The most important asset an organization possesses is its intellectual
capital located mostly in its employees and on a more limited basis in its
databases and systems. The intellect of an organization includes (1) cognitive knowledge (or know what) (2) advanced skills (know how) (3) system
understanding and trained intuition (know why), and (4) self motivated
creativity (care why) (Quinn et al., 2005, p. 78). Organizations that have a
greater knowledge base are usually more successful in the market.
Companies that have a larger share of intellectual property and know how
to use it eectively get ahead in their core sectors. In addition, these companies are also able to recruit and retain better employees since they
command a higher place in the market and are held in a higher regard.
Given the importance of intellect to an organizations health and prosperity, knowledge sharing is very important and desirable. Knowledge will
grow at exponential rates when it is properly shared within an organization.
As one shares knowledge with other units, not only do those units gain
information (linear growth), they share it with others and feed back questions, amplications, and modications that add further value for the original sender, creating exponential total growth (Quinn et al., 2005, p. 79). In
order to properly stimulate intellectual growth, organizations must come
up with a plan that denes which information should and should not be
shared and how the organization plans to encourage knowledge sharing.
Best practices in R&D activities, process improvement projects, or
redesigned operations do not readily spread within organizations. Transfer
of practices tends to be sticky because of multiple factors, including the
nature of knowledge and the choices and attributes of its seekers and
providers (Mahoney and Williams, 2003, p. 679). The motivation to share
best practices and knowledge within an organization may be low. This
might be due to lack of monetary incentive to share, resistance to change,
or a desire to protect ones position within the organization.
There are also hurdles that need to be overcome related to the knowledge
itself. Knowledge is a cumulative process. Previous knowledge can be built
upon and impacts how well new information is assimilated. A person who
has no, or very little, prior knowledge of the subject being discussed will have
152

Summary, conclusion, and invitations

153

a much more dicult time learning and using any knowledge transferred to
them than a person who has had some previous exposure to and knowledge
of the subject (Javidian et al., 2005). However, obsolete previous knowledge
can also slow down the knowledge transfer process when the person is reluctant to adopt new knowledge in favor of the old. Lastly, the social relationship that exists between the knowledge sharer and the recipient also plays a
role in knowledge transfer. Knowledge is more readily transferred between
people who have prior knowledge of each other than it is between strangers.
In order for knowledge sharing to be successful, it is not enough for the
people involved wanting to share knowledge, they have to be excited about
the process. For many people the primary reason for sharing knowledge is
not that they expect to be repaid in the form of other knowledge, but a conviction that their individual knowledge is worth knowing, and that sharing
this knowledge with others will be benecial to their reputation (Hoof
et al., 2004, p. 1). There is some psychological benet to sharing knowledge
as the sharer may be held in higher esteem by the receiver of the knowledge
and may gain status as a result.
At a time when change is a must for organizations survival, Appreciative
Sharing of Knowledge is a refreshing approach in the critical eld of knowledge management. This book shares stories of appreciation and knowledge
sharing, gives you tips and tools to jump-start a knowledge sharing culture,
and leaves your organization with a culture that realizes its fullest potential.
Whether the organization be a corporation, nonprot, government agency,
or community of practice within a larger organization, all groups reap
signicant benets from Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge. It is a nonthreatening and accepting approach that makes people realize what they do
can make a dierence. The power of ASK is its simplicity. It can be used for
several other topics or issues related to knowledge management. For
example, implementing the future-present scenarios may require some form
of reorganization of the organization. Or, it might call for creating a team
based structure or attening of hierarchies. At this stage, ASK transcends
into traditional organization development or change management work
where the original Appreciative Inquiry approach might be applicable.
The simplicity of ASK should not mask the need to go through all the
steps as listed below (Table 8.1).
Rather than starting a knowledge management initiative that becomes
one more change for employees to get used to, ASK normally creates
an organic and self-perpetuating culture which is designed by members of
the organization and therefore is more of a custom t for a business
(Thatchenkery, 2005, p. 108). Following the above steps can help an organization reach an exceptional level of knowledge sharing and thereby create
value for all stakeholders.

154

Table 8.1

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Overview of ASK steps

Step

Action

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4

Negotiating top management commitment and support


Presenting the appreciative knowledge sharing paradigm
Identication of knowledge enablers
Expansion of knowledge enablers using appreciative interviews
designed and conducted by the ASK team
Thematic analysis of the data to undertake a knowledge infrastructure
analysis
Constructing future-present scenarios
Consensual validation of the future-present scenarios
Creating and mandating an implementation team

Step 5
Step 6
Step 7
Step 8

As you can see by the various applications of ASK in the private, public,
and service organizations, ASK is not a one size ts all approach. Rather,
it is a framework that allows for customized solutions to knowledge management challenges. There are a wide variety of ways to apply it so that it
makes sense in the organization in which you are working. Recognizing that
most organizations have the internal capabilities and talents to respond to
their constantly emerging challenges, ASK is a methodology that helps
bring those successful elements latent in the organization to the forefront.
Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge usually exists in some form in many
organizations, even though it is not known as such. One common example
is the communities of practice discussed earlier in this book. Many
organizations may comprise a network of interconnected communities of
practice each dealing with specic aspects such as the uniqueness of a longstanding client, manufacturing safety, or technical inventions. Knowledge
is created, shared, organized, revised, and passed on within and among
these communities. In a deep sense, it is by these communities that knowledge is owned in practice. Knowledge exists not just at the core of an
organization but on its peripheries as well. Communities of practice truly
become organizational assets when their core and their boundaries are
active in complementary ways. By recognizing that knowledge is dispersed
throughout the organization, particularly at the peripheries, CoP generates
an intentionally appreciative climate in organizations.
Our intention is for you to use this book to spark ideas and adapt them
to t your organization. We hope that you will have fun engaging with
ASK, and that it will provide long-standing results and culture shifts in
your organization.

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Index
After Action Review (AAR)
US Army 6, 40
Age of Enlightenment 24
Akkadians 14
appreciation
elements of 36, 49
and grand narratives 26
hermeneutics circle of 35
systems thinking 36
what is 32, 33
appreciative inquiry
socio-rationalist point of view 45
sociology of knowledge 45
appreciative intelligence 478
appreciative interviews 56, 57, 94, 123,
124, 154
appreciative knowledge sharing
paradigm 8, 513, 934, 119, 154
appreciative processes
Maslows hierarchy of needs 3740
appreciative system
general structure of 367
Arabic scholars 22
Argyris, C. 42, 65
Aristotle 1618, 22, 23
Greek explosion 16
Assyrians 14

Cheal, D. 27
Checkland, P. 359
Chief Knowledge Ocer (CKO) 9, 74,
81
Chowdhry, D. x
coee talk 87
collaborative software
Blackboard 150
Lotus Notes 2
commodication 24, 26
Communities of Practice (CoP) 14, 29,
53, 61, 62, 65, 69, 86, 106, 148,
153, 154
community involvement 82, 84
Comte, A. 27
Cooperrider, D. 6, 32, 447
Csikszentmihalyi, M. 44
Denning, S. 3031
doubting game 46
Ehin, C. 4, 13
Elbow, P. 46
emancipation, meta-narrative of 25
enlightened leadership 80

Babylonians 14
believing game 46
Bell, D. 27
Benedictine monasteries 22
best practices 778, 859, 122, 128,
148, 152
Bieler, L. 1920
Bitel, L. 21
Buckman Laboratories 29

flow 42, 44
Future-present scenarios
commitment 668
consensual validation 8, 51, 71, 106,
107, 125, 154
constructing 8, 64, 65, 66, 69, 103,
113, 124, 125, 154
generating 2, 42, 43
groundedness 66, 107, 113
inspiration 66, 107, 113
matrix for constructing 69

Capability Maturity Model 134


Case Western Reserve University 29,
44
Cashinahua Indians 25

Galatea eect 5, 33, 34, 59


Gergen, K.T. 6
Graham, H. 21
grand narratives 25, 26
161

162

Appreciative inquiry and knowledge management

Gurukul
Gurupupil relationship 15
Hinduism 14
Habermas, J. 26
Herzberg, F. 66
Hoof, B. 153
Hughes, K. 20
hunter-gatherers 4, 1214
Irish monasteries
early medieval 1921
Javidian, M. 153
Kierein, N. 5
Knowledge
combination 20, 29, 30, 90, 100, 130,
142
externalization 29, 30
internalization 29, 30
socialization 29, 30
tacit 2730, 99, 111, 116, 1212,
12032
knowledge ambassadors 93, 96, 98,
100, 101, 104, 107, 108, 110, 112,
113
knowledge concierge 80, 84, 85, 86
knowledge conversion process 29, 30
knowledge enablers
belief in mission 14042, 145, 148
building relationships 65, 69, 98, 99,
100, 102, 1056, 14041,
14950
collaboration 14043, 147, 148
collegiality 5660
compassion 120, 1223
eective communication 135
empowerment 98, 99, 100, 102, 105,
106, 140, 142, 1457, 150
informal interactions 82, 87
internal entrepreneurship 82
knowledge infrastructure analysis 8,
51, 59, 101, 124, 125, 154
opportunity for personal growth
56
participation 56, 60, 70
partnering 12022
respect 42, 65, 69, 99, 100, 102, 105,
106, 12021, 13032

responsiveness 14042
team philosophy 82
teamwork 568, 65, 69, 99, 100
trust 97, 120, 132
valuing autonomy 56
knowledge-hoarding, climate 3
knowledge management
practices 14
storytelling 29, 30, 54
knowledge poster 86
Knowledge sharing
9/11 Commission Report 1
American Revolution 24
appreciative 8, 13, 15, 16, 21, 23,
514, 82, 93, 94, 97, 118, 119,
154
Arabic Scholars 22
enlightenment 22, 24
historical Evolution 3
historical perspective 4, 12
prospective approach 5, 4043,
90
retrospective approach 6, 4043
two approaches to 2
knowledge vision 87, 131
learned helplessness 413
learned optimism 413
Lewin, K. 53, 66
lightning bolts 87
Locke, J. 234
Lyotard, J.-F. 246
Mahoney, J.T. 152
Marcel, G. 46
Maritime Administration (MARAD)
9, 11632
Maslow, A. 3840
Mausner, B. 66
McGrath, P. 1921
McGregor, D. 66, 107
mentoring 15, 31, 85
Mesopotamia 12, 14
middle ages 1921, 23
modernity 247
Moses 12
Murphy, D. 5
My Fair Lady 34
Nonaka, I. 2930

Index
OCroinin, D. 20
OFiaich, T. 20
organizational change 1, 7, 30, 32, 50,
54, 131
overcoming resistance 88, 131
performance appraisal 49, 845
performativity 26
Pfeer, J. 46
phoenicians 12
Plato 12, 16, 17
Platos dialogues 1718
Polanyi, M. 27
possibility propositions 73, 77, 79, 80,
83, 87, 88, 105, 118, 124, 125, 127,
131, 136, 137, 142, 1435
postmodernism 245, 43
power (author) 14
process engineering 1334
progress, meta-narratives of 25
protestant reformation 235
Pygmailion 5, 335, 59

Saint Thomas Aquinas 23


Schi, M. 100
scholasticism 22, 23
Schutz, A. 36
self actualization 26, 38
self-esteem 38, 40, 41
self-fullling prophecy 5, 33, 35
Seligman, M. 38, 41, 43, 44
Senge, P. 45
Socrates 12, 16, 17
soft systems methodology 36
springboard, the 3031
Srivastava, S. 6
Sumerians 14
Snyderman, B.B. 66
team facilitation 87
Thatchenkery, T. x, 6, 28, 47, 48,
6062, 64, 65, 67, 115, 146, 153
Theory Y 107
University of Lancaster 35
Upward Mobility Programs 13032

Quinn, J.B. 152


reality judgments 36
reciprocity 14
Reynolds, D. 5
Rogers, C. 66
Rosenthal, R. 5, 34, 35, 59
Rowe, G.J. 5
Ryan, Rev. J. 20

value judgments 36
Van Doren, C. 1418, 23
Veda 14
Vickers, G. 357
Walker, A. 32
Weick, K. 46, 47
World Bank 31

163