Mark S. Meritt

Mark S. Meritt

Learn about Songs By You founder and facilitator Mark S. Meritt by reading his bio at Potluck.com.

Appreciative Inquiry is the approach that drives Songs By You’s facilitated songwriting process.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is both a methodology for producing positive change as well as a mindset, a way of perceiving and understanding the world around us so as to always encourage positive change. Its goal is to bring life to human systems, and all that it does is based on a basic principle: find the best of what exists, then do more of it. This points to the two meanings of the word “appreciative” — to recognize and value something, as when we appreciate a person or a work of art, and to grow in value, as when an investment appreciates.

It’s a simple idea, but few are more powerful, and it’s surprisingly foreign to typical ways of thinking. We often find ourselves caught up in problem-solving, identifying what’s wrong and trying to fix it. But doing so never guarantees that we’ll get what we really want, only that we might get a break from something we don’t want. Indeed, systems disciplines tell us that such a focus is generally likely to address only symptoms rather than root causes, causing any break from our problems usually to be a brief one.

Shifting into appreciative mode, we get in touch with what we most want. The questions we now ask help us study what works, the seeds of success, so that we can increase the capacities that help satisfy our needs. This is often our best opportunity to find leverage points for systemic, positive change. By doing this cyclically, we can generate sustainable change in desired directions. Indeed, the process can be seen as an example of evolution itself, selecting the fittest from a pool of variation, carrying it forward, building on it to generate novelties which are then subject to further selection.

Originating as an organizational development framework, Appreciative Inquiry has helped countless businesses and groups achieve breakthroughs in positive change. No wonder, though, tapping as it does into our universe’s key creative processes, that AI can be used effectively to generate positive solutions in any situation requiring creative thinking.

Emergent Associates, LLC — a coaching, consulting and training company Mark co-founded — discovered many novel ways to apply Appreciative Inquiry. Forms ranged from full AIs down to 10-minute versions, with many levels in between, and they incorporated knowledge and practices from psychology, communication and beyond. Subjects included personal growth, project development and artistic creation. Given its organizational origins, AI has been especially effective as the basis for engaging in these efforts collaboratively.

Building off of that work, Mark’s Potluck Creative Arts specialized in the adaptation and application of Appreciative Inquiry for artistic creation, to which AI lends itself beautifully. Mark innovated AI-based approaches for creativity coaching, custom works and collaborative creativity workshops, including a songwriting workshop which formed the basis for the facilitated songwriting process he uses for Songs By You.