Mac Odell shares with us a process which he has used to help people understand the power and potential of working with Appreciative Inquiry even on large-scale "problems".
"Problem to Opportunity Exercise."
I ask participants to give me the absolutely worst, most horrible, difficult, hopeless problem they can think of -- anywhere in life or work. Often they come up with things like HIV/AIDS, urban violence, corruption, civil war (as in Nepal).. things like that. So we do a quick 'problem tree' analysis of root causes and its impacts/fruits.. and I ask them the chances of solving it, and to draw a face that represents their feelings about... from which I usually get misearable sad face with tears...
Then I say, "OK, let's flip this into an opportunity.. What's the opposite look like?" Defining the 'problem' as it's opposite, we take that as the topic and go on to do a 40 min. 4D analysis coming up with action plan and personal commitments... always full of energy and fun.. sometimes even skits and dances... Whereupon I do a quick "Opportunity Tree Analysis" and ask for new pictures of faces reflecting how they feel about it all... for which I get, of course, lots of smiling, happy faces and great optimism. Then I ask, "OK, what happened? Did the problem go away? Did the world change during the last 40 min.?" And that opens a lively discussion on the heart of AI, how changing our language, our questions, changes reality... that we have the power to change the world through the questions we ask, through the approach we take... and that leads us into taking their organizational 'problems,' issues, hangups, headaches, and hopeless situations and building an AI workshop around them.
It's an eye-opener... powerful stuff... and I can assure you that I never get any further questions about how AI doesn't really deal with problems....