Appreciative Inquiry can be thought of as a four state process, discovery, dream, design, and destiny. Today the goal is to try to define what the goals of the dream phase are.
In the discovery phase we generated a conversation of what it was like to be at your best and the feelings that were associated with that moment in time and that is what we want to inject into the dream phase.
The dream phase brings the conversation to the entire organization. This is when everyone can participate in generating a new future. The future is created in a community dialogue that evolves from the single voice of each participant. The nutrient rich soup of conversation is then woven together into one collective story. The tapestry that is created in the dream phase should be inspirational resulting in greater employee engagement which drives a number of other positive results.
Obviously you just can’t get everyone in a room and tell them to be creative. An environment for dreaming has to be created. A dream environment might include small group activities that focus on taking the “discovered” conversation in a new direction. It might be small groups doing Imagineering or writing a play about the future any number of future focused activities that unleash the creative mind can be used. The “arts” tend to draw out of people a more satisfactory expression of the future (poetry, music, painting, acting, and dancing). Some people might call the experience “play”, however play with a purpose to create and express the future.
Once the format for Imagineering has been established pose a provocative question to the audience that expresses the ideal state in some future point in time. Use the question to establish a framework for exploration.
Amanda Trosten-Bloom & Diana Whitney define these seven steps in the dream phase:
1. Reflect on the core question
2. Engage in a dream dialogue
3. Clarify the collective dream
4. Creatively enact the dream
5. Determine common themes
6. Create an organizational dream map
7. Document the dream
(The power of appreciative inquiry: A practical guide to positive change)
The seven steps are about freely dreaming, expanding the dream, identifying the common themes in the dream, expressing what the dream will now look like, and documenting the remaining form. These are challenging steps to accomplish.