Deficit Vocabulary & KM

I have been fascinated by Appreciative Inquiry ever since I stumbled upon it in the com-prac yahoo groups as a potential tool to conduct visioning exercises. The idea is very powerful and I see parallels between their work and what Marcus Buckingham of the Gallup Institute had to say in “Now Discover Your Strengths”. The fundamental idea of AI and the Gallup’s work is to begin focussing on strengths. Both of them attack the futility of focussing on “deficit vocabulary”.
Cooperrider and Diana Whitney write about the “cultural consequences of deficit discourse”. They refer to vocabulary used by mental health professionals like impulsive personality, narcissism,anti-social personality, reactive depressive, codependent, self-alienated, type-A,paranoid, stressed, repressed, authoritarian, midlife crisis etc.,They go on to argue that that this vocabulary influences our actions and hence the outcome. From a change management perspective every anti-story about previous attempts at KM seems to be peppered with deficit phrases like “Just another initiative”, “So,I should spend more time in the office” and so on. No matter what we do to manage change, the “water cooler” stories exchanged may make or break adoption. The authors quote Gergen:
“As I am proposing, when the culture is furnished with a professionally rationalized language of mental deficit and people are increasingly understood according to this language, the population of “patients” expands. This population, in turn, forces the profession to extend its vocabulary, and thus the array of mental deficit terms available for cultural use “
Anti-stories would breed more such stories and that in turn would make change all the more difficult and lead to more empty portals. AI as a technique to address myths and anti-stories seems promising .
You can read the full paper on AI at


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