“If you want to go somewhere fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others”
~ African Proverb
3 Circles of Strengths Revolution
Whether working with individuals, organizations, or broader social systems, there are three primary tasks necessary in cultivating strength-based organizations:
(1) the elevation of strengths; (2) the alignment or connected magnification of strengths; and (3) the creation of strengths-based organizations to become positive institutions-- vehicles for elevating, magnifying, and reflecting our highest human strengths outward to the world.
With the aim to elevate strengths, the first circle highlights knowledge domains such as Positive Psychology and Positive Organizational Scholarship, the work on Appreciative Intelligence, and the leadership work on emotional intelligence and strengths-based management. Exciting tools and resources for this domain include the VIA strengths-survey, Best Self analysis, Resonant Leadership tools, strengths-finder surveys, and appreciative coaching methodologies. The focus of this domain of work is largely at the individual and small group or team levels and the applications range from corporate talent management, executive coaching, career and job crafting, strengths-based leadership education, and more.
The second circle goes beyond the lifting up of individual strengths and works with configurations and constellations of the whole. The primary work of this realm is to intensify and leverage existing positivity with an eye toward creating intentional transformational uses of a system’s positive core. Methodologies include intergenerational collaborations, the macro-management method of the AI Summit that brings together whole systems of 500 to 1000 people, the World Café model, Asset-Based Community Development, Future Search, and an exciting new business planning and strategy approaches such as SOAR (“strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results”).
The third circle represents the largest frontier for transforming our organizations. This level goes beyond the elevation of internal strengths, it involves the discovery and design of positive institutions—institutions that elevate, combine and magnify, and reflect our highest human strengths into the world. In business, for example, it echoes the call for sustainable value and the search for business to act as an agent of world benefit (BAWB). Tools for accomplishing these lofty aims include the bottom of the pyramid protocol, biomimicry, and the next generation AI Summit or “the sustainable design factory”.
However, at the very heart of each of these three spheres of work lies our capacity to see the world not as a problem-to-be-solved, but rather an invitation for inquiry into what gives life to a system when it is most alive. It is the very spirit of Appreciative Inquiry that drives the elevation, alignment, magnification, and reflection of strengths into the world.
Indeed, the biggest work before us as a global community is to help create positive institutions—institutions that elevate, connect and then help refract our higher human strengths, like a prism, into the world around us. We cannot do this important work alone, however, we need each other and the wisdom of the whole to help ensure that we are as effective as possible in our quest to create a flourishing and prosperous world that works for everyone.
In this spirit, the overarching question behind WAIC 2015, South Africa is: