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The library of essays of Proakatemia

Appreciative Inquiry

Kirjoittanut: Ella Muja - tiimistä FLIP Solutions.

Esseen tyyppi: Akateeminen essee / 3 esseepistettä.
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 10 minuuttia.

Written by: Ella Muja, Kamil Wojcik, and Saana Keränen

Starting with Veikko’s special: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4h4CLy4R8U 


This essay is aiming to share Flip Solutions’ experience with the appreciative inquiry system and implementation process during our two training sessions. This essay explains what appreciative inquiry is and how the team used it. It also outlines what steps were followed and how the training sessions were facilitated. At the end, team members reflected on the process and outcomes. 

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
– Albert Einstein

Appreciative inquiry (AI) is a framework originating from positive psychology first developed by David Cooperrider and colleagues at Case Western Reserve University in early 1980’s. Cooperrider has been assigned to do research about the Cleveland Clinic and find out what’s wrong. After observing an exceptionally positive performance in one of the clinic’s unit, decision to change the direction of the study has been made. The focus from what’s wrong had been shifted to what’s great. As the research went on, the theory has been created simultaneously and soon new possibilities for how to utilize the theory will be developed. 

Rethinking our approach to how we see things is crucial. AI suggests shifting the focus from the negative and instead paying attention and noticing the positives. Multiple research projects like, “The Placebo effect: The Power of Our Own Images of Ourselves”, “The Pygmalion Studies: The Impact of Another’s Image of Us” or “Internal Dialogue,” all show the power of the mindset. It is very likely that our attitude towards ourselves and different situations or organizations, the processes, and changes that one may encounter in life will determine the outcome. The attitude not only affects the outcome, but the whole experience. When a person performing a task holds a self-image of success and confidence, they are more likely to have better results than a person with poor self-image. 

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” – Albert Einstein 

Taking this theory forward, it’s more difficult to accomplish something that one hasn’t envisioned first. Just like organizations are an expression of the human imagination. First, a person or group of people had to dream up what it would look like even if it was a blurry dream. Using this method can be used to boost innovation, help with strategic planning, and organizational culture development to name a few. A problem-solving approach is at its core negative since it implies judgment and criticism. 

Usual problem-solving approach: 

  • What’s wrong with this team? 
  • Why isn’t this working? 
  • Whose fault, is it? 

Instead try to replace with: 

  • When did this team performed at its best? 
  • What external/internal factors help to create the best practices? 
  • How can these (positive) conditions be developed for future success? 

Simple steps: 

  1. Define – the scope: What’s the desired outcome? At first, it’s important to agree what this project will be about. What is the goal and purpose? By establishing common understanding, it will allow people to focus on generative dialogue and value creation throughout the process. 
  2. Discover – appreciate: What is good? What are the existing strengths? This step can be described as a brainstorming session where participants can share stories about their assets and best practices. 
  3. Dream – What could work in the future based on the stories just shared? Is there a possibility to create a vision with a strong foundation of shared strengths? Are there any new possibilities to build on? 
  4. Design – What actions are necessary to accomplish these dreams? In this step of the process, it’s necessary to take implementation approach based on the discover and dream steps. What must be done to turn stories(discoveries) and visions(dreams) into the reality. 
  5. Act – usually this step is under the name “Deploy.” It’s valuable to have separate steps for action. After a good session of sharing stories and dreaming up the future it’s easy to get distracted. That’s why in this phase necessary roles, responsibilities together with specific action points and deadlines will be shared.

The training sessions  

The topic of the sessions was the community’s relocation to TAMK’s main campus, also known as Kuntokatu, and how it will impact our team, the community, and the greater TAMK network. Initially, it was planned to fit into one training session, however, after running out of time and feeling rushed, a second one was scheduled to follow through with the remainder of the tool. 

In the first session, Flip focused on Define, Discover, Dream and Design, with the objective of leaving Act for the board of Proakatemia. The topic has gained negative traction and Flip had the objective to change attitudes and help others see the benefits and positives of moving by using the AI tool to create concrete solutions and ideas for the board. Below is a short outline of the phases and what Flip came up with. 

Define: the positive aspects of moving to TAMK Kuntokatu for both Flip and the community, focusing on the opportunities it will provide. 

Discover: listing all of the things Flip appreciates and recognizes as strengths within Proakatemia and the moving process. 

  • Resources like the library, Tamko, restaurant, study counselor 
  • Chance to impact TAMK’s overall energy 
  • New chances for community teams to expand their connections 
  • There’s a strong network at TAMK and new contacts 
  • Pushes us out of our bubble 
  • Brand new premises to enjoy 
  • Transparency of Proakatemia to outsiders 
  • Closer to normal students  
  • We have been included in the moving process, opinions are valued 
  • Ability to share team learning methodology with TAMK 
  • Chance to learn about large organization’s hierarchy 

Dream: creating a future vision and list of opportunities and dreams for Proakatemia to grow 

  • Creating our own sports team and using the SportUni spaces 
  • Cooperating with other students to develop projects, possible employees 
  • Positive social influence for TAMK 
  • Projektori in our own spaces again 
  • International visibility grows 
  • Value creation 
  • Hall of Fame 2.0 (descriptions, transpareny, useful) 
  • Some community events open to all of TAMK  
  • Becoming the heart of Kuntokatu 
  • Proakatemia founds their own company 
  • More possibilities (running TAMK events and projects) 
  • Feeling part of a larger community, team, and TAMK 
  • Recognized and respected as entrepreneurs still 
  • Help TAMK define their own strategy or paragon – helping with the overall energy 
  • People would want to actually work and spend time in the premises 


Design phase 

As mentioned above, there are five stages to utilizing the appreciative inquiry tool. During Flip’s two training sessions, the first four stages were completed with the objective of leaving the board of Proakatemia, or JoRy, to complete the final stage.  

The design phase, or actions, has been broken down into four main categories:  

  1. Feeling part of teams, Proakatemia’s community, and TAMK 
  2. Value creation 
  3. Becoming the heart of Kuntokatu 
  4. New possibilities 

    Feeling part of Proakatemia teams, community and TAMK. 

Since one of the three pillars of Proakatemia’s strategy is focused on building and developing networks and communities, this first category is crucial (Board of Proakatemia 2022). Every teampreneur belongs to a team company, Proakatemia’s community, and the larger TAMK umbrella, which proves how imperative it is to have a plan for the future of all three. Within the main category, there are four subcategories with various actions and ideas to make it clearer.  

  1. Open house event (Kick-off party) for TAMK – this would be a more official event other than the housewarming party to increase networking possibilities and launch the idea of Proakatemia being in Kuntokatu.
      1. Have the project team built by JoRy and coaches to create a positive kick-off event at Kuntokatu together with TAMK’s community 
      2. Invite only – due to the space limitations in our new premises, the event should be invite only and ideally have representatives from each department. 
      3. Teams or teampreneurs would visit the various faculties and departments at TAMK to introduce ourselves and invite them to the event. 
  1. Building a new Hall of Fame – this update would create transparency and ensure that the Hall of Fame would be useful to the community and TAMK. 
      1. Adding a short description of why these people were selected to the Hall of Fame. 
      2. General updates – better pictures with cohesive backgrounds, QR codes connected to their LinkedIn profile on each picture, archiving the old hall of fame  
      3. Description of Hall of Fame – what does it mean, why it’s given and to whom. This would make it easier for first year students and visitors to understand the award and benefit of it. 
  1. Encourage other teams to discuss the move to Kuntokatu 
      1. Attitude changes from the top (coaches and JoRy) will then trickle down to teams and individuals to put a stop to complaints, negativity, and neglect. 
      2. Pajas – having each team hold a training session about the move and the new opportunities that come with it will bring mutual understanding to the community. One method is by using the Appreciative Inquiry process like Flip did.  
  1. Vuosikello with TAMK events included 
      1. Clear guidelines – the annual clock would not only have Proakatemia events, but also large TAMK events and it would be clearly stated which Proakatemia events are open to all TAMK students. 

        Value creation

A core part of the studies at Proakatemia comes from projects and making money, however, Flip is challenging each project and team to also consider value creation alongside making money. The TAMK network is large and there are students and staff from all skill levels and backgrounds which can be a strong asset to Proakatemia projects. Employing and utilizing TAMK students is an excellent way to develop projects and knowledge and create value at the same time. 

  1. TAMK hiring program 
      1. Creating an app or platform (Intra? Slack?) where projects are shared and it’s easy for TAMK students to connect with opportunities or open positions. 
        1. Important to include people who are mostly studying online or at different locations like Mediapolis or Hervanta Campus 
      2. Project notice board/wall that would reflect what’s in intra 
      3. Bridge team (new small team) to connect TAMK students to projects, innovate and boost project opportunities 
        1. This could also be a responsibility for the IRT 
  1. Organizing workshops for TAMK 
      1. Sharing team learning methods with TAMK’s staff and students (example: opening pajas to other students) 
      2. Open houses or chances for TAMK members to learn about different projects or hear about the Proakatemia way of life 
  1. Proakatemia’s own alumni symbol 
      1. Such as – Lyyra / graduation hat / something that we could be recognized by after graduation (Gucci hat for Emilia, eventually Chanel bag) 

        Becoming the heart of Kuntokatu 3 

With Proakatemia’s relocation to the TAMK main campus, there is a strong possibility for the Proakatemia community to become the real heart of the campus. By bringing a new energy that the main campus desires and positive attitudes, TAMK can largely benefit from our presence. Our premises can be the dream floor, the people within our community can provide other students with possibilities, and we can remain open-minded.  

  1. Organize events for TAMK  
      1. By taking responsibility or organizing and preparing events for TAMK, we can accelerate the integration process and remove the responsibility from TAMK staff, who already have limited resources. This can also create possible projects for teams. 
      2. Research what events are at TAMK and figure out which can be run by Proakatemia, or if there is the possibility to at least have a Proakatemia representative included in the planning process. 
  1. Help to define TAMK’s paragon 
      1. Integrating ourselves further into the future of TAMK and their decisions will secure our spot in the network. 
      2. Use the same methods and tools for Proakatemia’s strategy and build a paragon or strategy for and with TAMK. 

        New possibilities 

The last category highlights new possibilities that Proakatemia has when entering TAMK. This means physical resources such as the library, Tamko, an onsite restaurant, and sport facilities, but also the chance to develop projects even further and increase what teampreneurs can learn in their 3,5 years at Proakatemia. This is the easiest category to focus on when using the AI tool since it is all about new opportunities and positive growth.  

  1. Own sports team for Proakatemia 
      1. Sports during the daytime as part of the curriculum to encourage healthy competition. This requires that someone would learn how to reserve the SportUni spaces. 
  1. Utilizing other skills in the community of TAMK 
      1. Info list – all of the departments or study programs in TAMK and who the contact person is (Proakatemia General channel’s Info bank)  
      2. Inviting teachers / students to pajas as specialists to learn from  
  1. Listing spaces at TAMK  
      1. Creating a list or map that highlights spaces we can use or may be the most helpful (video recording, podcasts, labs etc) 


The action points made above are organized to aid JoRy with implementation and make it easier to assign the tasks timelines and people to complete the tasks. Although there is an extensive and thorough list, not all of the actions need to be implemented, but they should all be considered in some way, and Flip would hope that some of the actions would be taken forward to develop Proakatemia more and ease the transition of moving to the new premises. With the help of the organizational moving team that is being built by the board, many of these actions could fall into their area of responsibility. 


Reflection – AI as a tool

  The primary advantage of AI is the simple approach that helps people pay attention to already existing positive aspects of their environment. As mentioned earlier in this essay, mindsets can have a great impact on outcomes. When we have negative expectations, we tend to only see negative outcomes. When we create positive expectations and assumptions about the future, that not only helps us see the positive but also motivates us to take action and change our behavior towards that positive change.  

A possible disadvantage of AI is the risk of taking it too far. An important thing is to remember that AI is just a tool among many others and it shouldn’t be the only perspective development. Deficiencies and issues are a part of reality and at times there will be a need to discuss problems as they are. Focusing solely on appreciation can create an environment where individuals feel there isn’t room to bring up and discuss challenges.  


Reflection – Our experience  

Overall, our team felt that these two workshops were a positive experience. Concerning practical matters, we all agreed that the decision to continue the work to a second workshop was a good idea. Especially the “dream” and “design” parts can take quite a bit of time and it’s a good idea not to rush them. When we gave ourselves time to throw around ideas and dreams, we clearly saw the value of the tool and were able to create a positive and more dynamic look on the subject. Using the tool helped to stay focused on the positive and see opportunities in the move that we had not seen before. In many ways the move has felt like something we haven’t had much say in, but this tool helped the team see that we can have an effect on many things as long as we take action.  

To implement this tool even better in the future, the workshops could be more structured and planned out. If the plan had been from the start to use two paja’s for this tool, we could have divided the work more equally between the two and set more supporting questions. As a team Flip is used to having a lot of open dialogue and usually letting the conversation flow freely works for us, however – this time some felt that we were getting off topic too easily. When using this tool with a team or a group that is not as used to having long dialogues, we all agreed that it would be important to have a more visible structure. 

AI is a helpful tool to implement in teams, organizations and even in an individual’s everyday life. For some, looking at the positives in life comes naturally but for others it requires a more conscious effort. Especially for the latter, using a practical tool like AI that shows immediate results can be very effective in finding motivation. We know that using this tool helped Flip gain new perspective concerning the move and we hope that JoRy and through that our whole community can benefit from it as well.  




Board of Proakatemia. 2022. Strategy of Proakatemia: Paragon of new entrepreneurship.   

Mohr, B. & Watkins, J.M. 2002 The Essentials of Appreciative Inquiry: A Roadmap for Creating Positive Futures  

  • Katrina Cirule

    Such an excellent insight into the Appreciative Inquiry tool! It seems like your discussion went rather deep, and the ideas are inspirational. I especially resonated with the part about seeking positive opportunities, while still having space to raise challenges. Thank you Flip for sharing the experience, this will definitely come in handy for the operations of Jory, the Moving Project team, and the community altogether 🙂

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