Gaza protest Amsterdam by Jos van Zetten (CC BY 2.0)

Not All Organizations Should Be Appreciated

Forrest ChristianChange, Theory 2 Comments

A few years ago, I was talking with Naga Kumar, who had been a colleague of David Cooperrider at Case Western when he was developing Appreciative Inquiry. He told me that while he like and used a lot of AI in his work, he parted ways with Cooperrider, who believed that AI was value neutral: there was something to appreciate in any organization.

Which always brings up the Nazi question: can you do AI with the Gestapo?

“Some organizations,” Naga told me, “should not be appreciated.”

The story came back to me as I was working with several different psycho-social tools (read: things that help you understand how people work together). It struck me that they were value neutral, that there was nothing stated explicitly about the values or value choices you should make.

And that’s possibly troubling.

I know that any psycho-social tool implies a certain valueset. But some are either higher or lower order values (can’t decide how this goes). Some seem to be more like Nuclear Physics: it’s just knowledge, and that knowledge can be used for any purpose. Healing cancer, say. Or obliterating a city.

Of course, if you are even asking these questions about either the tools that you use or the organization you are in, you’re going to lose your job. The worst thing that you can do is question conventions of your group. This will get you fired a lot faster than gross incompetence.

Case studies on that, anyone?

Image Credit: Gaza protest Amsterdam. © 2009 Jos van Zetten (CC BY 2.0)

Comments 2

  1. I know several people who have the ability to see the Michaelangelo (ideal) inside the block of rock (organization) and want to go at the rock full force to bring out the ideal as quickly as possible. However, organizations have a very small tolerance for change. These visionaries, unfortunately, have to be patient and tolerate chipping away at the edges of the rock and calling that success. Even though it doesn’t feel like success. I keep thinking that if these folks could get the ear and the trust of the right people at the top, perhaps they could have a bigger impact, but I don’t know that for sure.

  2. Post

    I think that Warren’s warnings about strengthening your culture are something for us to listen to. You can’t speed things up much faster than it is, and often we want to install what fits our decision making approach but which the culture is not prepared to support.

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