What our collective minds could do together!

Have you ever been in the company of a group of people that you think, collectively, could solve – or at least make some serious headway- on some of the world’s most wicked problems?

From the field of positive psychology, appreciative inquiry focuses on building on what works in an organization.

I had such a priviledge on Wednesday when classmates from my MA Leadership program gathered at the University of Guelph to share the results of their Master’s research projects. While the 10-15 minute presentation window allowed for a variety of research papers, findings and insights to be presented, it did not nearly do justice to the depth of their research.

Since I have asked my friends and classmates to guest post on this blog to provide you with a much fuller picture of their findings, here are a few over-arching themes to whet your appetite.

Leadership Tips & Findings Hot off the Presses


  • North American leaders need to be far more tech-savvy because a tsunami of new technology is coming. Our leaders are ill-prepared and our cumbersome and expensive governance mechanisms slow our ability to anticipate, innovate and respond to change. Research by @skardiel.
  • Leaders under-communicate vision and do not use available technologies appropriately. In particular, difficult to navigate, busy web-sites are not effectively communicating key policies. Take steps to overcome language barriers and to make critical information easier to access on your web-site.


  • Projects rarely unfold in a linear fashion. Elements of data gathering, solutions and implementation take place at all stages of the process. Stay ‘edgy’ and be open to emergent change throughout the process.


Employee engagement research shows only 20% of the working population is fully engaged.

  • Appreciative inquiry can build on existing strengths and enhance positive workplace momentum. Do you build on success or focus on disfunction?
  • Coaching interventions work and can build engagement. Are you investing in coaching your people for excellence? Research by TrueBlissCoach also on Twitter @TrueBlissCoach.
  • Invest in career development to engage and retain your key players. Primary research by @lisaw33 showed that career development is positively correlated with affective commitment for fundraisers. In fact, career development opportunities are more important than traditional incentives for retaining and engaging key staff.

Increased commitment = higher engagement = lower turnover.
Don’t skimp on your people!


  • Build macro-level trust between organizations (or departments) with formal and informal governance mechanisms. Inter-personal trust is insufficient to solve the macro trust problems our society now faces.  (Guess whose presentation this one was? @DTORourke)
  • Similarly, investing in people through coaching and career development (above) are considered  Transaction Specific Investments. They build trust within an organization because they signal a long-term commitment in the individual (goodwill trust) and they build that person’s capacity (competence trust).

Thank you so much to my classmates for their excellent presentations. I still always learn so much from all of you. Looking forward to those guest posts!

Published by Dominique O'Rourke

Public Affairs professional, City Councillor, MA Leadership graduate, problem solver and lifelong learner.

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