How much positivism do we need?

Barbara Fredrickson and Marcial Losada have demonstrated that to be in top mental form the ratio between positive and negative mental states has to be at least 3 to 1.

Maintaining this ratio enormously affects our energy, resilience and capacity to be creative and to act.
However, a great part of actual management techniques concentrates more on the negative rather than the positive. What do we investigate more, success or failure? When something fails the tendency is clear, we insist on understanding what has happened to resolve the problem and to make sure it does not happen again. Analyzing problems come very naturally.

But what about the analysis of success? Normally, in the best of cases, we tend to congratulate those who have been successful and that is where the conversation ends. Our proposal is to analyze success, to question, not simply to congratulate: What have you done to have so much success?

It is reasonable to think that a firm that is in the market has many more successes than failures. The idea is to analyze at least three cases of success for each one of failure.

An obvious example is the famous SWOT. Strengths and Opportunities are positive visions while on the contrary Weaknesses and Threats are negative, or at least tend to create negativity and in many cases are accompanied by the projection of who is to blame.

A client told me one day: “if a problem arises and someone smiles it means that they already know who is to blame. As if knowing that solves anything.

Moreover, how much time do we spend on strengths and opportunities and how much on weaknesses and threats? In my own humble experience, teams investigated spend at least twice as much time on the negative part creating a ratio of 1-2, which is far from the 3-1 which is suggested by the study of Barbara and Marcial.

The alternative is to do a SOAR, Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results, the methodology of Jacqueline Stavros. Basically, it is about defining the result and to achieve it one aligns what we DO have -strengths-, towards what we DO want -aspirations-, in the context of the opportunities that the environment offers us.

One needs to bear in mind that the aligning of strengths not only generates performance but also transforms learning and with it the acquisition of new strengths.

If you have done a SWOT many times it is worth trying at least once a SOAR. You will like it and the energy produced enabling action will much greater.

On the web http://positivityratio.com/single.php you will find a test to discover your own ratio of positivity.

In this video, you will find the explanation of Barbara:

Indagar el éxito

Inquire into success

All of us have received and given congratulations to many people. Someone does a good job and we congratulate him. So far so good since the intention is good and we want to motivate the person.

What happens when we congratulate someone?  Normally he thanks us and that is the end of the conversation. The person feels good and some people may even feel a certain shyness and say phrases like “it really wasn´t anything….”

This article proposes another approach, an even better one.

When something goes “wrong” we insist on asking why, we want to analyze the causes of the mistake. It seems the most productive way to go. We oblige the person to justify himself. We become experts it what does not function. It is not at all clear that inquiring into the mistake leads to success. At best, it may lead us to making less mistakes.

What happens when success occurs? How can we generate a conversation that generates more success?

Our aim is to inquire into success by asking: What have done to have so much success?  This question generates a productive conversation. We are so unaccustomed to inquiring into success that the person does not know how to answer quickly. He needs to think and that is good thing.

He will realise the factors that have worked, “the best of what is”, in order to do it more and better. As a result, the person will learn about what DOES work and the essential aspects which have made it work. He will feel better than when you congratulate him because we are thinking of him as a source of learning. By asking him we are saying to him: I want to learn from you! This is recognition in capital letters.

Logically the person who is asking can continue to inquire relevant aspects as the conversation advances. The person who is asking the questions is learning a lot, he is learning how the persons he works with achieve success, the strengths they use and how they put into play the strengths and resources of the organization.

The person being interviewed values his talent and learns how to use it.

It is easier for a person to evolve positively by inquiring into success than by penalising his mistakes.

A very usual example and one that we all have experienced is when the school reports of our children arrive.

Normally there is a brief period of congratulations about what has been achieved to be followed immediately by questions regarding the results which have not been good. The child justifies himself and complains about the teacher, the subject, the exam, or any other circumstances; the creativeness shown tends to be high. However, the self-esteem falls at the same time as does the energy and the ambition.



Another way of confronting the situation is to inquire what he did to achieve such good results in those subjects that had good results. The child will begin to discover what led him to success and emotionally he will feel satisfied, increasing his self-esteem as he learns first-hand what his strengths are and how to use them.

At the end of the inquiry one can ask him: How can you use all this talent to improve this subject (the one with the bad result). He will surely discover how to do it.

To look at situations from abundance makes everything change.

An attractive image of the future

Fred Polak in his book “Image of the Future” argued that the rise and fall of imaged preceded the rise and fall of the civilizations that harbored them.

When a culture has a positive image of the future, science, art, commerce and all the other aspects of a culture flourish. However, when the image of the future loses strength and declines then the civilization does not survive for long.

I have discovered that the same dynamic happens in all sorts of organizations: a positive image of the future energizes us. When a company, department or team has an attractive vision of the future it generates energy, channeling the behavior, the conversations, the choices, the commitments and propelling us towards that image of the future. It is not that we are prophets it is simply that we use the best of what we have in pull in the same direction in a coordinated manner.

In general, we tend to think in a very different manner. The normal paradigm can be summarized as follows: If we make a good analysis it changes our way of thinking and thus our behavior. That is the reason of the enormous importance that is given to all sorts of analysis and assessments.

In Madavi we believe that one reaches further and arrives more quickly in a different way. If we have an attractive image of the future, which is ambitious and doable, then the sufficient energy to change our behavior surges up and mobilizes us into action.

When the image of the future is attractive, that is to say, when we consider that it is much better than what we presently have, both for the whole and for oneself, it generates an energy that propels us towards that “dream”, creating strategies, products, services, resources, talent and initiatives.

We always have an image of the future, be it negative or positive, be it attractive or one that causes rejection. This image is created by the internal conversations that occur in organizations. What is talked about in your organization? What image of the future is associated with these conversations? If you discover what it is you will have an idea of the sort of future that awaits you.

This is then the question: How does one generate a positive, ambitious and doable image of the future? How do we manage that there be a lot of people that share this image?

This image of the future is generated in the first two phases of appreciative inquiry: The Discovery and the Dream.

To discover means to agree upon “the best of what is”, that is to say; the strengths and resources of the organization as a whole and seeing it from abundance, from “what DO have”.  Normally the starting point is the problem or what we lack, “what we HAVE NOT”, the scarcity. If we start from what is scarce it is difficult to have a vision or image of the future which is highly positive.

The next step is to have a conversation amongst many of what our organization would be like if we used all our potential. An image of the future created in this way has all that is necessary to be highly motivating; to be ambitious and doable since it is based on “what we DO want”, which by definition is a lot.

This video explains the methodology: “Changing the way in which we change”

May the abundance be with you!

MADAVI Changing the way we change from Madavi on Vimeo.



Collective Intelligence and Jazz

Collective intelligence is a lot like Jazz. When jazz musicians interpret a piece, this has a base previously agreed upon, but the best begins when one musician departs from what has been previously established and the rest follow in an effective improvisation. That is when concerts gain their maximum intensity and connection with the public, when the musicians are at their most authentic and when they enjoy themselves the most.

In organizations leadership is valued and is given a vital role in all the facets of the organization, but it is the followers that make a leader great. In Jazz like in conversations the most important are the number twos, the followers.

The greatest virtue of a follower is the capacity to listen. To pay attention while the others play, to interpret the intention, the rhythm and the melody which arises without prior warning and use all his skill for the piece which another is leadering so that it becomes a success.

The follower is generous, multiplying and reliving the other’s lead. By offering all his capacity you can count on the capacity of all the others when it is considered appropriate. It is this characteristic of Jazz which makes it such a creative music and makes it impossible to listen live to the same piece twice.

In Jazz if a musician makes a mistake the others build on that mistake creating something beautiful and unexpected. It is a positive attitude towards what may happen. It is about thinking that what is occurring has potential, whatever it may be.

Jazz is a good example of collective intelligence and simultaneous collective action. Jazz has a balance between the chosen theme and the creativity of the present moment, a combination of leadership and freedom.

In a conversation listening is the sovereign, since it is listening that gives sense to speaking and what allows ideas to unite and develop and permits the flow of the conversation.

There are at least three unproductive ways to listen: the full glass, the broken glass and the dirty glass.

A person with the full glass is so full of his own ideas that he has no room for any others. When the other person finishes talking, he answers with his own booklet and instead of listening has simply waited for his turn to speak.

In the broken glass the liquid escapes and is not retained. There is a lack of concentration, a lack of real interest in the opinion of the other person.

In the dirty glass one type of liquid enters and changes into another. When our emotion is unproductive we only listen to that which corroborates our emotion. One thing is said but another is understood.

The follower is the most important person in a conversation. He listens with a clean, empty and unbroken glass. He takes notice when the other person has an idea and he makes an effort to understand it, especially if it does not conform. He also focuses on the abundance and concentrates on discovering what would be the benefits of carrying it out in an excellent manner. Next, he has a dialogue on how to attain those benefits and so reaching an unexpected result for all the participants in the conversation.

The follower, together with the rest of the followers, enters the mode of “Blue Thinking” so as to explore the maximum possibilities of the idea. To think in blue is to talk about “why yes” and “how yes”. It is to think creatively.

I recommend the book “Say Yes to The Mess” by Frank Barret.  It is the book in which I have found inspiration in Jazz.


Digitalizing culture

All firms that have started along the road to digitalization have found that the most difficult thing to digitalize is the existing “culture“.

The truth is simple: digital transformation has surpassed the periphery and floods with disruptions the value chain, the business model, the relationship with the client, the processes…. quite simply it has reached everything. It is no longer possible to fool oneself by creating a “Digital” department; one has to digitalize the culture.

“In the digital transformation the most difficult is the cultural change and changing the people”, Jesús Mantas, Global DG of consulting and processes at IBM.

Digitalizing the culture requires having a human team capable of creating new tendencies in businesses based on technology. A human team capable of changing the speed at which technology creates disruptions. A culture in which one of its main aspects is the capacity to change itself, in a permanent, continual and natural fashion.

In a Start-up this is straightforward: You sign up people who live, think and act in this way, people who have digitalization embodied in their own culture.

The question becomes more interesting when the company is travelling on the journey from the analogical to the digital and people are already onboard. Of course new profiles will have to be incorporated but that is not enough.

The persons who work in the “analogical” firm have innumerable strengths in the form of knowledge and capacities, many of which are essential for the business. How do you maintain the “best of what is” and at the same time generate a disruption in the culture? Changing the way in which we change.

The normal formula for change stresses the idea that if we offer a good analysis then we change the way we think and with it the way we behave. If this were like that, the sustainability of the planet would be assured.

In reality change works in a different manner. If we imagine a new future that we consider that is better for the group and for oneself, as well as, being appealing and at possible, we awaken a great amount of positive energy which we can use to modify our behavior.

What happens most often is that a few people give themselves the opportunity to imagine that future and always accompanied by brainy consultants who elaborate brilliant reports. Instead of changing the culture they frighten it. “Help what will become of me in this new world!!!”  With this image of the future installed in the employees one can only hope for one thing: Resistance.

We are looking for simply the opposite: a culture that leads us towards the strategy of digitalization.

What do we have to do for the culture to generate Digitalization?

We recommend two steps: The concentration of strengths and collective action.

Concentrating Strengths

The criterion to be used when selecting a team is the concentration of strengths in the form of capacities, knowledge and qualities.

To select the core/internal group it is useful to keep in mind these three criteria:

  • It needs to represent the system in its totality, a large group of people numbering between 30 y 500 (depending on the size of the company).
  • They accumulate between them the best of the know-how of the organization.
  • They should be people recognized for their positive energy.

To select the outer/external group it is advisable to bear in mind the following criteria:

  • They supply strengths and knowledge that compliments what already exists.
  • They have a digitalized culture.
  • They can become good fellow travelers.

The totality forms a “Full Power” team, with a high concentration of strengths capable of creating a digital future credible for the company in question.

The team has to be able to involve all the people in the organization because the digitalization becomes part of the job and is the responsibility of all the employees. It is a team that has capacity to execute due to its size, its ability to accumulate all the necessary strengths, its distribution throughout the whole organization, its social prestige, its shared vision and its capacity of execution. One has to inoculate the digitalization into the culture.

The next step is to have a Summit, a session which lasts three or four days, in which the team imagines a company totally digitalized and the way it influences many people, namely, the digitalization of the culture. The output of the Summit is the collective action towards a shared story of success.

Collective Action

One starts off by inquiring: The strengths, the know-how, the opportunities and the aspirations of the group. To inquire is to appreciate the potential which surrounds us with the aim of activating it. The result of the inquiry is the best of what is, namely, the raw material for the following exercise: imagining the company completely digitalized.

If we are capable of imagining a promising future, we have moved from resistance to change to desiring it: “I want to live in that world”. If there is something that influences significantly on our present behavior it is the image we have of the future. Culture goes from being a ballast to change to being a source of energy for action.

This image of the future will be ambitious and reachable because it has been created simultaneously by the participants, both the external as well as the internal.

Once a desired for future has been created it is time to bring it down to earth by creating a map of opportunities of that dream.

Each person chooses where they wish to put their energy and talent. It is not a question of obligations but rather of desired for action. Each team is assigned the experts most relevant to their area of opportunity in order to create “Full Power” teams, capable of creating doable prototypes as well as being innovative.

Once done, we have at our disposal a group of people, many of whom can transform the company through technology. Internal and external people with a common objective and a level of relationship capable of generating change. It is the new culture in which there are many thinking and acting simultaneously and leading the digitalization.

We have generated movement and collective action towards a common future. Now instead of pushing the organization it is a question of channeling that energy towards the best opportunities. It is the time to manage this movement coherently.

Exponential growth: case study

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is a company specializing in coffee located at Waterbury, Vermont.

Its growth has been exponential – it has multiplied its sales 34 times in ten years going from 137mm dollars to 4,700mm dollars, which is an increase of 3,400% -. This change was not merely financial since Green Mountain Coffee Roasters are ranked in the top 20 of Sustainable Company Actions. It is a strategy that we could call “Do Good to do Well.”

This is their story.

At the end of 1990 GMCR was growing at a good rate. It had tripled its sales force and doubled the size of its production plants. It was an exciting time for the organization. However, Bob Stiller, President and CEO, was planning a new phase and wanted to keep growing and achieve new goals. He wanted everything. He wanted his company to grow exponentially, to be sustainable, to reduce operational costs and create an ecosystem capable of contributing positively to society, from the coffee plant to the coffee cup.

He knew that to achieve his ambitions he would have to do things differently. This led him to plant the seed of Appreciative Inquiry. With this philosophy he managed an organizational change based on the alignment of strengths and aspirations and did so with all the stakeholders in the system, following the principle of Totality of Appreciative Inquiry. Bob Stiller states that “the process of Appreciative Inquiry has a personal significance for me because it allows me to construct starting from what is done well in my company.”

He has had exceptional results.


In June 2003, he carried out the first Summit of Appreciative Inquiry with 201 people simultaneously. The group was made up off employees, partners, consumers, and salespeople, members of the community, board members, and workers of socially responsible organizations. People of the community of all levels attended the event; the whole ecosystem was represented in one place.

Every process of Appreciative Inquiry starts defining the Affirmative Topic, that which you DO want to achieve. GMCR defined his Affirmative Topic in the following fashion in his first summit:

“Increasing our positive world benefit through phenomenal sustainable growth.”

During the Summit all the phases of AI were carried out – discovering the best of what is, imagining the best possible future, designing all the areas of opportunity and finally collective action – . This last phase, collective action is what generates change, namely, a lot of people moving in the same direction.

Such was the impact of the Summit that they decided to use Appreciative Inquiry as an essential element in their strategy and its execution. In reality in AI strategy and execution occur at the same time, thus creating the speed of the change. The following year, as every year, they repeated the Summit.

The second Summit was based on the following affirmative topic.

“Advance the personal and organizational effectiveness dimensions of growth- building our capacity for execution in alignment with our principles”

With this process they managed to generate a disruptive organizational change, which was both exponential and inclusive, involving the entire ecosystem in the organizational development.

The two most relevant factors for success has been the capacity of execution and having as a stake a higher purpose that goes further than simply the profit and loss accounts.

According to Stiller, the execution is the key  “the key to success has been the capacity to execute. Other companies can copy our product, but the capacity to work together as a team, (he is referring to the ecosystem as a whole), is what really differentiates us in the market”. Executing in a dynamic and synchronized fashion is a competitive advantage.

This is the opinion of Bob Stiller regarding purpose, “Green Mountain Coffee Roasters views profit as a means of achieving a higher purpose to do good for others around the world. The focus on making a difference in the world comes from an understanding that business and communities are dependent on each other for long-term successes”.

As a result of this vision GMCR has created its own ecosystem that includes all the participants in the chain of value, from the coffee producers to the companies in Asia and Europe that build the machines and the home appliances. GMCR is committed to the environmental and social challenges of the communities where they work. The company makes an effort to improve the land where it cultivates coffee as well as the land of the farmers. At the same time the relations between clients and suppliers are maintained just and transparent. This connecting link of confidence and support nurtures an ecosystem which feeds back upon itself; the communities support the company and the company supports the communities…

Some interesting facts…..

  • Financial growth: Between 2004 and 2014 sales have grown from 137mm to 4,700mm and profits from 54 mm to 1,815mm. An increase of 3,400% in sales and profits!
  • Green Mountain Coffee Roasters have invested in 2015 8.9mm in the development of communities and only in that fiscal year did they help more than 1,300 organizations to develop.
  • It has been recognized in the top 10 of the 100 Best Corporative Citizens during the last five years running, having been first in two of them.
  • The company compensates 100% of its direct greenhouse emissions and gives priority to the reduction of residuals, the responsible use of energy and the sustainability during the life cycle of its products.
  • Bob Stiller firmly believes in the positive impact that AI generates. So much so that its foundation donated 10mm dollars to Champlain College in order to establish AI as an essential part of the Business Studies curriculum.

It is a good example of “Do good to do well” and the only possible path to success in the long term.


Culture is stronger than strategy

If strategy is to maintain and improve then perhaps the current culture can be of great help.

When strategy requires changes in behavior then culture eats up strategy for breakfast.

What kind of culture do we need for fast change, which in most cases disrupts the environment? A culture that generates change and that feels uncomfortable when it does not change.

If this is true then the principal work of management would be to prioritize those changes proposed by people or groups and give them the necessary resources and time. That is to say to sponsor the most beneficial changes in order to make the strategy a reality. It is question of leadering the change which is generated by the culture, of riding the ball of energy instead of getting caught up in web of silent resistance.

This culture would have at least two capacities.

  •  The capacity to be appreciative, to see the best of what is: the strengths to which we have access, the opportunities, the resources, the potential…. all that which we have available to execute and this abundance generates ambition.
  • The capacity to create processes which mobilize simultaneously a large number of people and which permits that each person does what he or she should because that is what they want to do. In this fashion we generate collective action which is the only way to rapidly change culture. All the rest is theoretical.

Appreciative Inquiry: an emerging philosophy of management

Appreciative Inquiry is a philosophy and methodology of change based on strengths, created by David Cooperrider. It is concerned with appreciating the best of what exists: the strengths, resources, and opportunities. It focuses on exploring and discovering the moments of greatest excellence by inquiring and visualizing new potentials and opportunities from collective intelligence.

It is more than merely a tool, more than a methodology, it is a way of thinking and acting, it is a philosophy of change and organizational management.

It differs from methods based on changes in behavior in that Appreciative Inquiry does not focus on the change in people although that is an important and very visible collateral effect. Appreciative Inquiry is based on a collaborative discovery of what makes an organization more effective, from an economic, human and social point of view.

It is not a question of seeing the glass half full or half empty but investigating what made the water enter in for it to overflow.

Appreciative Inquiry aligns strengths towards aspirations, which are always greater and more motivating and demanding than the objectives. Ultimately one goes further and does so quicker.

There are countless examples of success in areas as different as strategic planning, mergers, customer service, process innovation in business, evaluations, teams, sales conventions, transversal cooperation, client orientation and many more.

How to achieve exceptional results

To see the glass half-full or half-empty is the old story of the pessimists and the optimists, although if we had to enter this dichotomy we would side with the optimists without a shadow of a doubt.

Fundamentally to see the glass half-full or half-empty is a static view of the situation. The optimist sees it from the “I like it” stance and the pessimist from the “I don’t like it” stance. But where is the action?

The dilemma in reality is much more interesting. From an appreciative point of view, the way to confront it is independent of the amount of water that there is at that moment. In reality the situation is already given whatever we say.

If the aim is to fill the glass, or even better, to fill up an even larger glass, the most productive path is to investigate “what made” the water enters the glass with the aim of increasing the flow until it spills over. To appreciate is to see the potential that surrounds us in order to activate it.

Appreciative inquiry is changing the way in which we change, concentrating our efforts in discovering “the best of what is” and to maximize the strengths and resources in the know how so as to achieve exceptional results. It is not worthwhile to only bet for a small gain.


Accelerate the speed of change

Focus on what functions

In 1984 an experiment was carried out on two groups of persons who were learning how to bowl. Both teams received the same training. They were filmed while they were playing but the recordings were edited in very different ways for each of the groups.

The first group were given a video which only included the moments in which they played badly, when they made mistakes. This is the traditional process of detecting errors, analysing them and resolving them.

The second group were given a video of their best moments, their moments of success, with the object of emphasising “the best of what is” in order to do it “more and better”.

Both groups improved but the second group, the one based on their success improved at twice the speed of the first.

To learn from the best moments, from the moments of maximum performance, is one of the pillars of Appreciative Inquiry.

At what speed does your organization need to advance?