The following guest blog is from Dr Elspeth McAdam, Retired Consultant Child and Family Psychiatrist & Organisational Coach. Elspeth’s blog is a reflection on her experiences of using Appreciative Inquiry in healthcare.
The old English adage – “You learn by your mistakes” has been a travesty to humanity. The more you go over what you did wrong, the more you become an expert in how to do the wrong thing! Each time you repeat the action/activity you automatically go through what your “body“ knows and you have to stop and think about what not to do. By closely examining excellent practice, on the other hand, you are looking at what has worked brilliantly, so subsequently you may act in the same way. In-depth questioning about what made it work so well can help others understand how to repeat it. Whilst going through these details of the excellent practice, the skills and abilities used should be identified, named and given to the person who accomplished it. Once these skills are named and accepted by the person who performed them, they then become a resource to that person, as well as a learning item for the observers.
The other valuable resource that comes from Appreciative Inquiry is to DREAM. REMEMBER EVERY PROBLEM IS A FRUSTRATED DREAM. If you did not have dreams of good practice you would have no problems! So instead of dissecting the problem, have a dream about how you would like it to have gone. Remember to dream as if you are living it at that moment, so speak in the present tense.
Let’s dream, with all the staff present, about what an excellent ward round looks like. What is each of us doing; how did we prepare for it; how are we talking to the patients; how we teaching? What explanations are we giving the patients/staff/students etc? Talk as if you are doing it in the now. If you are working with a larger group, divide the group into smaller groups of 6, so everyone has a chance to speak their ideas. Dream what an ideal hand-over and ward-round looks like. Imagine it is now 2018, and all the current problems are solved. What are we doing so well now? When we follow this process, the past difficulties become part of the process of creating the dream. This gives us new ideas from “the frustrated dream” to inform our “future-present”. E.g. we learnt a lot from that, now we do it this way… The more detailed the dream the more likely it is to be lived in the future.