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Seeing with new eyes

The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but seeing with new eyes.

Marcel Proust

The underground stream of idealism

Judging by what I have learned about men and women, I am convinced that far more idealistic aspiration exists than is ever evident. Just as the rivers we see are much less numerous than the underground streams, so the idealism that is visible is minor compared to what men and women carry in their hearts, unreleased or scarcely released. Mankind is waiting and longing for those who can accomplish the task of untying what is knotted and bringing the underground waters to the surface.

Albert Schweitzer

What we fail to notice

The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.

Ronald Laing

The passionate sense of the potential

If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never.



Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Albert Einstein


The sense of wonder, that is our sixth sense.

D.H. Lawrence

The spirit of inquiry

Why is uninhibited wonder something we generally restrict to children? If doing good inquiry is at the heart of organization development, why then so little talk of things like awe, curiosity, veneration, surprise, delight, amazement, and wonder — in short, everything that serves to infuse what OD has traditionally referred to as the “spirit of inquiry.”

David Cooperrider


You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.

Naguib Mahfouz (Nobel Prize Winner)

The future of OD

We have reached “the end of problem solving” as a mode of inquiry capable of inspiring, mobilizing and sustaining human system change, and the future of organization development belongs to methods that affirm, compel and accelerate anticipatory learning involving larger and larger levels of collectivity.

David Cooperrider

Imagination and innovation

The arduous task of intervention will give way to the speed of imagination and innovation; and instead of negation, criticism, and spiraling diagnosis, there will be discovery, dream and design. … And the metaphor speaking best to our primary task and role — “the child as the agent of inquiry” — is one where wonder, learning, and the dialogical imagination will be modus operandi.

David Cooperrider

Intergenerational dynamics

The most inspiring stories, the most passion-filled data, the most textured and well-illustrated example, the most daring images of possibility — were are conducted by the children. … The intergenerational dynamic of the dialogue made the data collection stage soar.

One is reminded of Margaret Mead’s hypothesis that the best societal learning has always occurred when three generations come together in contexts of discovery and valuing — the child, the elder, and the middle adult.

Where appreciation is alive and generations are re-connected through inquiry, hope grows.

David Cooperrider

Hope achieves the impossible

Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.

Charles Caleb Colton

The everlasting beginner

I have found that it does not help, in the long run, to begin my inquiries from the standpoint of the world as a problem to be solved. I am more effective, quite simply, as long as I can retain the spirit of inquiry of the everlasting beginner.

David Cooperrider

What’s really important?

We often spend so much time coping with problems along our path that we only have a dim or even inaccurate view of what’s really important to us.

Peter Senge

The limits of problem solving

The problem-solving approach directs attention to the “worst of what is,” constantly examining what is wrong with the organization. The assumption is that if the problems are fixed, then the desired future will automatically unfold.

In problem solving it is assumed that something is broken, fragmented, not whole, and that it needs to be fixed. Thus the function of problem solving is to integrate, stabilize, and help raise to its full potential the workings of the status quo.

By definition, a problem implies that one already has knowledge of what “should be;” thus one’s research is guided by an instrumental purpose tied to what is already known. In this sense, problem solving tends to be inherently conservative; as a form of research it tends to produce and reproduce a universe of knowledge that remains sealed.

David Cooperrider

A mind focused

I keep my mind focused on peace, harmony, health, love and abundance. Then, I can’t be distracted by doubt, anxiety or fear.

Edith Armstrong

Constructive change in Africa

[James Mageria of Vision Africa] has stated that Africa does not need to be fixed. It needs constant re-affirmation.

The most important resource we have for generating constructive change in Africa is our cooperative imagination and mind, and our capacity to unleash the imagination and mind of communities, churches, governments and individuals.

Sarone Ole Sena

Level of consciousness

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

Albert Einstein

Better results

Appreciative inquiry can get you such better results than seeking out and solving problems. That’s an interesting concept for me — and I imagine for most of you — because telephone companies are among the best problem solvers in the world. We trouble shoot everything. We concentrate enormous resources on correcting problems that have relatively minor impact on our overall service performance. When used continually and over a long period of time, this approach can lead to a negative culture. If you combine a negative culture with all the challenges we face today, it would be easy to convince ourselves that we have too many problems to overcome — to slip into a paralyzing sense of hopelessness.

And yet if we flip the coin, we have so much to be excited about. … We can if we just turn ourselves around and start looking at our jobs — and ourselves — differently; if we kill negative talk and celebrate our successes. … In the long run, what is more likely to be more useful: Demoralizing a successful workforce by concentrating on their failures or helping them over their lasts few hurdles by building a bridge with their successes?

Thomas White
President, GTE Telephone Operations

At odds with dominant culture

The appreciative paradigm, for many, is culturally at odds with the popular negativism and professional vocabularies of deficit that permeate society.

David Cooperrider

Speak what you choose

Speak only that which you choose to have come into manifestation now and continuously.

Robert Tennyson Stevenson

Our happiness

The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our disposition and not our circumstances.

Martha Washington

Freedom to choose

Everything can be taken from us but one thing — the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.

Viktor Frankl

Cynicism in the young

A cynical young person is almost the saddest sight to see because it means that he or she has gone from knowing nothing to believing in nothing.

Maya Angelou

The minority view as a cultural resource

On social constructionism:

The primary emphasis is on multiplicity. If you reduce the languages of the culture to a single mode, if all perspectives are reduced to one, then you truncate the options for action. Constructionism is concerned with the minority view because it is a minority view — the deviant, the unusual — one which offers something new as a cultural resource.

Kenneth J. Gergen

The loving person

Love is the only way to grasp another human being … to see the essential traits and features … [the] potential in him which is not yet actualized but ought to be actualized … By his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities.

Viktor Frankel

Astounding ourselves

If we all did the things we are capable of doing we would literally astound ourselves.

Thomas Alva Edison

Changing the world

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

The good of the whole

We are members of a great body. We must consider that we were born for the good of the whole.

4 B.C. – 65 A.D.

Teach them to yearn

If you want to build a ship, then don’t drum up men to gather wood, give orders, and divide the work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the far and endless sea.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I have a strategic plan?

Martin Luther King did not say, “I have a strategic plan.” Instead, he shouted, “I have a DREAM!,” and, he created a crusade.

Unknown source, provided by Kathy Wells

Two ways to live your life

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

Albert Einstein

It is a calamity not to dream

It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. It lies in having no goal to reach. It is not a calamity to die with dreams unfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream. It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace not to have any stars to reach. Not failure, but low aim, is the real sin.

Benjamin Mays
via Pablo Eisenberg

Being the change

We must be the change we wish to see in the world.


The contagion of example

Nothing is so contagious as an example. We never do great good or great evil without bringing about more of the same on the part of others.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. (Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.)

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson, quoted in Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech

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