Professional Development – Session 1A

Subject: “Appreciative Inquiry – engaging staff to create a breakthrough Innovative Workplace” 

Abstract: Building on Strengths for an Innovative Workplace, Moving from Limitations to Possibilities.  We live in a rapidly changing world that is challenging leaders in all sectors, private, public and non-profit, to find new ways to build capacity in their organization to achieve strategic success.  We need new thinking and new ways to engage everyone in the organization to think beyond what they are currently doing and to have innovation as a core positive value. In this world change is a constant.
Most leaders understand that in this post-industrial society the real sustainable asset of an organization is the human capital and herein is the real opportunity. Or is it? If that is the case then, why is it that there is so much focus on what is not working in organizations than what is working? Why do leaders say I want my people to think outside the box, to be innovative, only to fall short of achieving a level of involvement that can make a difference in the organization.

Most organizations have developed an amazing capacity to fix problems, to make improvements that lead to transitional change and to have programs that focus on employee engagement. Few though are working to their strengths, to understanding their positive core by engaging the whole system and using those strengths to build capacity for transformative change through sustained innovation and meaningful employee engagement. The focus in most organization has been and still is on solving problems rather than on appreciating what is working and finding ways to enhance that which is working to build capacity for success and thereby diminish the limitations. A friend of mine said that this overconcentration on fixing problems is like trying to improve a highway by patching potholes. You see this all the time on our roads, with crews dispatched to throw tarmac in a pot hole only to have that same pothole back again in the spring when the weather changes.

This strengths based change process, known as Appreciative Inquiry is gaining traction with progressive leaders as they see the possibilities through new thinking and engaging the whole system in planning for a better future. Organizations are using Appreciative Inquiry as a way to capture what is often the latent knowledge that exists within employees and channeling that energy to focus on a range of areas from strategy setting, to innovation and operational processes. The fundamental premise of Appreciative Inquiry is that human systems move in the direction of what is being focused on either operationally or strategically. If the focus is “problem solving” then that is the direction the organization takes. If it is on innovation with infinite possibilities, then that becomes the focus. 
This presentation at the Canadian Public Sector Quality Fair will discuss how a strengths based focus leads to sustaining innovation, through involving employees at all levels in the organization to work to a better organizational future for the benefit of all. 

Career Profile: Dan Corbett understands leadership and how to help leaders build organizational capacity for strategic success. His strength is in understanding how to align an organization for a better future. His focus is to work with leaders on the power of positive change, by aligning organizational vision and employee energy on what has to be done, for future success. He knows the reality of leadership, having served as President  & CEO in the public and not-for-profit sectors and from senior executive roles in the private sector. He has lead executive team workshops and been a speaker and panelist at conferences and seminars in Canada and internationally.

In the private sector his executive profile includes corporate work as a senior executive with a Canadian owned group headquartered in Toronto, with nine manufacturing locations in North America and one in Chile. As the Vice-President Human Resources he led the re-positioning of the company’s corporate human resource programs to meet market competitiveness issues. He designed and led strategies to align a newly acquired business in the USA and a new manufacturing plant in Chile; implemented a corporate leadership competency and succession plan; and redesigned the company’s corporate compensation and pay for success programs.

In his role as President   & CEO of the National Quality Institute, Dan provided national leadership on business excellence issues working with senior leaders in both the public sector and the private sector. As a hands-on CEO, he promoted NQI as the Canadian voice for
Excellence and Healthy Workplace. He positioned the Canada Awards for Excellence as the national recognition program for organizations and championed the innovative Healthy Workplace program as a key employee engagement program.

Prior to NQI, Dan was President & CEO of St. Lawrence College, an Ontario post-secondary organization that has a mandate to design and deliver learning to meet the needs of employers in the province. During his tenure, he led the financial rehabilitation of the College and set a strategic focus on quality as a way to differentiate the College. This led to the College becoming the first post-secondary organization in North America to achieve ISO 9001 certification and to achieving top ranking on College system performance indicators.   

He is currently working as a consultant utilizing  strengths based change processes to build organizational capacity and leadership success. He works primarily with leaders in non- profit and public sector organizations on strategies to build capacity for change and for innovative workplaces through meaningful engagement of people.    

His volunteer work includes being Vice-Chair of FOCUS Kingston. FOCUS Kingston is a community based group which has a mandate to develop and implement an integrated sustainability plan, called Sustainable Kingston, which provides a framework, goals and actions
for future growth in the community.

Dan Corbett
62 Livingston Ave.
Kingston ON K7L 4L4
Ph. 613.549.3613