Follow the Energy

One of the consistent themes I have seen in everything from improvised scenes on stage to creative collaboration sessions and entire organizations is that when people follow the energy of what is most compelling and engaging they are more successful. Appreciative Inquiry is based on the principle that in every human system something works, and if we tap into the energy of what is working we will likely tap into what people care about and their generative capacity to create positive futures. Just as plants grow toward the sunlight so, too, do human systems grow toward their generative core. This does not mean that we ignore obvious problems, or put on rose colored glasses that only reveal the positive. It means that we use the generative energy of what drives us to co-create new and better possibilities.

In an improvised scene generativity is fostered by the practice of saying, “Yes, and . . .” or accepting a fellow players idea (or “offer”) and building on it with something that heightens and explores what is most interesting. In creative collaboration, it plays out similarly when people come together to generate new possibilities by building on each idea, rather than finding every flow, and in organizational systems it means following the people, processes and products that are generating most interest and attention, as well as revenue. In our personal and professional lives, it also means not laboring over relationships and projects that simply are not coming to life, or life-giving. I regularly have opportunities to relearn this lesson, and each time I have discovered that when I move on from a situation that is no longer generative, it frees up additional energy and resources for even more fruitful possibilities.

For more on the relationship between improvisation and appreciate inquiry, see my article at