A Social Constructionist Perspective
New Horizons in Management series
Chapter 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 person’s positive attributes, a reality diﬀerent from the ‘problem person’ is created. The tradition itself transforms the person. Traditional applications of organizational change and knowledge management rely on ﬁnding and solving problems. The notion is that organizational systems have inherent ﬂaws that need to be ﬁxed through systematic problem solving and interventions. While this sort of deﬁcit 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...
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