Last time, we began our tour of David Cooperrider’s “Three Circles of Strength” framework: if Circle 1 involves elevating strengths, Circle 2 progresses to multiplying them into – in Cooperrider’s words – “macro combinations and configurations.”

Let’s look at an example cited by Professor Cooperrider: a $4 billion trucking company had unwittingly starved itself and its employees of opportunities by focusing almost exclusively on the problematic. Using Appreciative Inquiry, one of its executives arranged for no less than sixty 500-person AI summits over the course of just two years, tapping into the strengths of more than 10,000 executives and dockworkers, truck drivers and managers, teamsters and customers, in the process. The result? An entrenched and wasteful system of rigidly siloed operations was transformed, producing an astonishingly high performance system that resulted in the stock price soaring from $14 to $55 per share in two years.

Cooperrider writes:

“True innovation happens when strong, multidisciplinary groups come together, build a collaborative and appreciative interchange, and explore the intersection of their different points of strength. Moreover, this macrominded ability to connect ideas, people, and resources from across boundaries paves the way for something even more inspiring in management.”

Circle 3 is now a real possibility, magnifying and refracting the strengths that were multiplied in Circle 3 into the wider society. Positive institutions spread the highest human strengths beyond their own borders into the social world: take for example, GE’s eco-imagination initiative, which aimed to develop greener products and reduce waste to zero. It reverberated into a veritable sustainability revolution, itself becoming an agent of ecological change within society on an international scale.

The last circle is in effect sustainable value creation, bringing what is meaningful outside – like customers and communities – right into the room, and the return for both the company and the community can be truly extraordinary.

Think of the circles as overlapping, an ongoing process. As Cooperrider puts it:

“Strengths soar when there’s a purpose bigger than the organisation.”

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