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Notes from a Davidson classroom
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By John Syme

Chambers 2068 fills quickly. It’s quarter past noon, but class still feels fresh as morning. Students get settled. Knuckles crack, a Monster energy drink cracks open.

Professor of Psychology John Kello, dapper with a white goatee, calls the roll and launches the lesson. He is quiet enough to inspire careful attention, yet vigorous and concise enough that his points sink in on first hearing.

Kello’s manner mirrors his topic: “appreciative inquiry” as a discrete methodology in the field of organizational development consulting—which, it should be noted, he has been doing successfully with top professional clients for many years.

“What are we doing right?” is the starting place for appreciative inquiry, Kello posits. The question opens the way for facilitating discussion about best practices, action planning, a vision for the future, and designing and delivering that future.

“Traffic cops rarely use appreciative inquiry,” he notes. Moving on, he refers to an article he wrote in a 2006 International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, “Safety Professional as Change Agent.” He adds a self-deprecatory, professorial caveat regarding “what we think, what we know, and what we think we know!”

Discussion proceeds to the pragmatic and the specific, with real-world assurances for the liberal arts major who is targeting a business career: “Being a generalist keeps life interesting.”

Kello ticks down a list of attributes the successful organizational development consultant will have considered carefully: general cognition, relationship and verbal skills, diplomacy and listening abilities, conscientiousness, hardiness of self-esteem, integrity, and honesty. Next, he reviews proposal heuristics, interview pointers and, finally, a generous tip of the hat to the realities of networking: “The network will point you at a door, and maybe crack it.” The Chambers bell rings, right on cue, closing an hour and 15 minutes of appreciative inquiry.

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