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Reframing the question: critical to integrative leadership

By Sandy Wolfe Wood, Master of Public Affairs Candidate, Humphrey School of Public Affairs & 2012 - 13 CIL Student Leadership Team Member

In our Nov 30th CIL Student Leadership Team meeting, Dave Dorman, Coordinator of Leadership Development for the UMN Office of Human Resources and an active participant in the UMN Art of Hosting Community of Practice, shared his knowledge of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) --a means of digging more deeply into the possibilities of a group or organization. The approach relies primarily on reframing a question to provide a different perspective on a given situation: he described the following steps to AI: 1) discovery: appreciate what "is"; 2) dream: imagine what might be; 3) design: determine what should be; and 4) delivery: create what will be.

As a designer, I'm very familiar with this process; we call it design thinking. The same process is used every time a designer takes on a new project. (Designers add an additional step: prototyping and iteration--failure ultimate teaches us to be successful).

Reframing is the beginning of any design process. A designer begins by asking many questions, and builds in time for observation and research; and as a designer assembles information, she might come to define the problem very differently than how it was originally presented to her. Turning the question on its head, and looking at it from various angles is the beginning of innovative thinking.

I recently showed a video at a design event which I think is a stellar example of innovative thinking. It begins with reframing the problem at hand. I would argue that helping people look at a problem in new ways is the very definition of integrative leadership. Watch the video and let me know what you think!

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