Sometimes our business is disrupted by outside forces, and sometimes we realise that things need to change. We look out into the world and see a whole lot of new ideas, opportunities and threats for us to respond to in our efforts to drive success.

In these moments, many businesses get sucked in to the ‘shiny things’ syndrome. If it is new, different and exciting, then it is the answer to all of our problems. How many times have you heard how things like CRM, social media and the cloud would revolutionise your business?

When we get drawn into this neomania—this manic love of the new—we forget what has made us successful up until now. Among this race to the exciting future, we often make fundamental judgement errors that impact upon long- and short-term performance.

Appreciative inquiry

The past may be more important to your success than thinking about your future.

A great business is not only successful; it knows why it is successful. At times of disruption and change, this key narrative of the business is critical to reconnect with. There’s a need to pay attention to what has worked and what has ensured both survival and success to this point—this is appreciative inquiry, or AI.

Sometimes the best thing to do is go back to basics and appreciate what has gotten you to here.

3 questions to help immediately improve your business

Ask yourself, your colleagues and employees:

1. What do we do really well?

2. What special skills or knowledge do we have?

3. What do our customers love about what we are doing?

Imagine, based upon this approach, if you simply amplified the good stuff in your business and stopped doing the bad? The process of AI sets you up to ask what is working, rather than just focusing on the bright and shiny things and the stuff that isn’t working so well.

Asking questions and appreciating what is going right in your business is fundamental to building a successful future.

The problem with ‘bright and shiny’ things is that we often discount those elements that we should appreciate. We also fall into the trap of affective forecasting—we are excited by the new stuff, so we overestimate its potential positive impact on the business. This leads to much of the disappointment and undershoot that happens with most corporate change projects.

So when the call of the ‘new’ hits your business, stop and look back to move forward.

How to use your appreciative inquiry

  • Understand your organisation’s success story to date.
  • Ask what is working in the business, and understand why.
  • Amplify what is working, and eliminate what is not.
  • Logically evaluate the new and innovative, removing overblown expectations and emotion.

To move to a successful future, perhaps it’s time to appreciate your past.