Author:  Laiza N. Otero, MSOD, Organization Development Consultant

What’s a vision board? In a nutshell, a vision board is a visual representation of one’s desired future with the goal of “if I can see it I can achieve it.”  One of the many things I love about vision boards is how they beautifully intersect with the philosophy of Appreciative Inquiry (AI). Following are some AI and vision board basics to help you celebrate 2018 and welcome 2019.  Happy New Year!

AI 101

AI is defined as a “cooperative, coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the world around them…AI involves the art and practice of asking unconditionally positive questions that strengthen a systems’ capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential” (Cooperrider & Whitney, 2005, p. 8).  More succinctly, AI offers a dialogic and strengths-based approach to change that challenges one to appreciate strengths (Discovery), dream what might be (Dream), envision possibilities (Design), and take action (Destiny).  This is ideologically different from diagnostics models that focus on assessing deficits, threats, and root-causes and developing rigid prescriptions for “fixing” organizations.

The above is not to say that AI does not create a space to learn about challenges and concerns. However, it reframes how that content is brought and integrated into the conversation by acknowledging the information and then shifting the focus to exploring the opportunities they present towards an ideal or positive future. So whether I am consulting with leaders, teams, or individuals I always come in with an appreciative stance to help them in their change journeys.[1]   And perhaps, this is where my appreciation for vision boards comes from — they are a place to capture dreams and envision what should be – the Dream and Design stages of the AI cycle.  Furthermore, one can argue that vision boards are a natural application of two of AI’s core principles:  the anticipatory and positive principles.

The anticipatory principle is based on the belief that the “image of the future guides what might be called the current behavior of any organism or organization” (Cooperrider, Whitney, & Stavros, 2003, p. 9).  A vision board is just that, an individual’s, or organizational, image of the future that seeks to compel movement from the system towards it. In addition, the positive principle asserts that “people and organizations move in the direction of their inquiries” (Cooperrider, Whitney, & Stavros, 2003, p. 9).  So as 2018 comes to an end and 2019 enters, what better time than the two coming weeks to get crafty and design your own vision board.

Basics of Vision Boards

Creating a vision board is as simple or complicated as you want it to be. The following is a basic framework for creating a board that you can modify to your own liking or needs, with very little technology involved. 

Also, please don’t stress yourself to try to create the perfect board.  I believe vision boards are meant to be dynamic and revised periodically to ensure that the vision it shows continues to be relevant and inspirational to you. 

Materials:

  • A piece of paper, cardboard, or wood for the background (you can choose any size you want)
  • Scissors, glue and/or tape, and writing supplies (e.g. markers, crayons, pens, or pencils)
  • Assortment of print magazines and documents
    • Tip: if you’re wondering where to find magazines at low to no cost, check with your doctor’s office – they usually have tons of magazines and what better way to recycle them.  You can also send a request to your family, friends, and work colleagues for any old magazines they’ve been meaning to get rid of.

Instructions:

  • The ultimate goal is to capture on paper your hopes and dreams for 2019 in a fun, mixed media way.
  • Before you start cutting and gluing anything, begin by reflecting on where you are now and where you want to be by the end of 2019 (or any date of your choosing). You may want to do this a couple of days ahead of the board session, and feel free to use any of the following sample questions to guide the reflection:
    • Who is your core, authentic self?
    • What are the key highlights of your life up to now?
    • What has brought you to where you are now?
    • What are your current strengths?
    • What motivates and energizes you?
    • What does your ideal future for 2019 look like?
    • What’s the big picture and the key milestones – personally and/or professionally?
    • How will you have grown personally and/or professionally?
  • Now you’re ready to start looking through the print materials for words and images that capture that image of your ideal future – cut them out and glue them on the background paper or cardboard.
    • Tip: give yourself at least two hours to work on the board; and if it helps, play music in the background to help create an ambience of creativity and mindfulness – or savor the moment in complete, exquisite silence.
  • You may write or draw directly on the paper and add as many embellishments as your heart desires. For example, you can write down a favorite poem, song, or quote that inspires you; or add different textures, cut-outs, or three-dimensional elements.
  • When finished, display the board in a visible location in your home or work; and review it periodically and at the end of the year (or set time period).
    • Tips:
      • Take a picture and save it to your phone or computer.
      • Share the final board with someone you trust and feel comfortable with, walk them through it – it’s good practice in how to tell your personal story to others. Ask for their thoughts and reflections.
      • Consider using the vision board during a session with a leadership or life coach.

References

  • Cooperrider, D. & Whitney, D. (2005). Appreciative inquiry: a positive revolution in change. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
  • Cooperrider, D., Whitney, D, & Stavros, J. (2003). Appreciative inquiry handbook: the first in an series of AI workbooks for leaders of change. Bedford Heights, OH:  Lakeshore Communications, Inc.

For additional information about AI, visit the Appreciative Inquiry Commons website (https://appreciativeinquiry.champlain.edu).

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