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Tap into the wisdom of existing employees when you buy a business

Changes Ahead Sign

So you've done your due diligence, the papers are signed and you are now the proud owner of a new business, a big investment. 

You've probably bought the business because you can see room for improvement. Even so, it's a good idea to find out what does work (and how it works) before rushing to make changes.

It will also be useful to find out about the many ideas for improvements that staff may have that didn't get a hearing under the old management.

An approach that gives you the opportunity to kill three birds with one stone is 'appreciative inquiry'.

Using this approach you can find out about what works, harness existing ideas and energy for change and improvement, and make plans for the future with (rather than for) everyone.

Appreciative inquiry can be seen as an in-house version of crowdsourcing. And to work well it needs to adhere to some of the same principles, particularly that of volunteerism.

1) Voluntary attendance

Ideally people are invited to attend the appreciative inquiry event. The event topic, the nature of the event and the invitation have to be sufficiently compelling that people prioritise being there of their own volition. 

The event topic, the nature of the event and the invitation have to be sufficiently compelling that people prioritise being there of their own volition

2) Voluntary participation

The voluntarism principle needs to extend to participation in any and every particular activity or discussion that is planned for the day. We never know what may be going on in people's lives to make some topic of discussion unbearable. 

3) Voluntary contribution

Calling on collective intelligence is a key feature of large group processes. However, people are free to choose whether and what to contribute, so the event needs to create an atmosphere where people feel safe and trusting and so desire to share information and dreams and to build connection and intimacy.

And of course the general principle doesn't hold in every case; sometimes expert knowledge is more valuable and accurate than 'the general view'.

4) Voluntary further action

At some point there is a shift from to action planning. Often this involves forming project or work groups to progress activity.

And the groups need members. Again. group membership needs to be voluntary. The desire to contribute to changing things for the future needs to stem from the motivation and community built during the day. 

By using appreciative inquiry in this way you are essentially creating a form of in-house crowd-sourcing around the challenges of organisational change or adaptation. 

The ideal outcome of an appreciative inquiry event is that everyone is so affected by the event process, discussions, and aspirations that they are motivated to make small changes in their own behaviour on a day-to-day basis that will aggregate to a bigger shift, and even transformation within the organisation as a whole. 

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