Your yoga business is failing. You barely have enough clients to cover your costs, and you’re finding it difficult to survive in a competitive market. The usual strategy would be to examine what you are doing wrong. Perhaps you would look at a successful competitor and study what they are doing right and make changes to your business this way.
However, this process has limitations. Firstly, it involves castigating yourself and adopting a negative frame of mind by concentrating on faults. Secondly, what works for one person might not work for another; and thirdly, the best this tactic could deliver would be to make you as successful as your competitor, but not surpass them.
Appreciative Inquiry (A.I) addresses the shortcomings of traditional troubleshooting by focusing on what a business is doing right and building from there. It began as a form of action research in organizational development in the 70s at Case Western Reserve University, involving David Cooperrider, Suresh Srivasta, Frank Barret, John Carter and others.
The A.I. process can be broken down into four stages, according to The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry Sue Annis Hammond.
- Choosing a topic and creating the questions. For example, this could be ‘how to attract more clients’. Then you formulate questions to guide people to discover what has gone right in the past to find answers for what is needed in the future, e.g. you might ask your existing clients what they like about your teaching.
- Inquiry This is interviews and dialogues to obtain answers to your questions. It could be in the form of focus groups, written questionnaires or a meeting.
- Sharing the information. At first, the information you gather will be in an unorganized mass. However, you should be able to pick out some common threads of success.
- Creating provocative propositions. In this stage you change knowledge into action by “talking and dreaming about what could be, based on what has already happened”. You ask ‘what if’ questions and then change them into positive statements as if the future has been realised. Hammond suggests testing the provocative propositions against four criteria:
- Is the statement provocative? Does it stretch, challenge, or innovate?
This encourages creativity, nudging you in directions you have maybe never considered.
- Is it grounded in examples?
Basing the proposition on past experience and facts stops it from being a far-fetched dream.
- Is it what you want? Will you defend it or get passionate about it?
Your emotions greatly affect how successful a venture is.
- Is it stated in affirmative, bold terms and as though it were already happening?
Making positive statements in the present tense sends messages to the subconscious, helping to turn them into reality.
A.I. might not be the only method a yoga business uses to improve. Certainly, glaring mistakes need to be addressed. However, I believe its value lies on its emphasis on creativity, finding new ways to make a business more successful, plus people are usually more effectively motivated by the positive rather than the negative.
A.I. can be summarised thus:
- What we ASK determines what we DISCOVER
- What we DISCOVER determines how we TALK
- What we TALK ABOUT determines how we DREAM
- How we DREAM determines what we DESIGN AND CREATE