A few weeks ago, I experienced the NYC Thanksgiving Day Parade as a bystander on Central Park West for the first time in my life. I highly recommend it as a healing tonic for the soul. For me it was a great illustration of the Anticipatory Principle in Appreciative Inquiry practice, noting the energy of the crowd awaiting Santa Claus’ appearance with his message of magic. That last balloon with Santa waving at the crowd, a fitting encore to the other larger than life cartoon balloons, festive bands from around the nation, and diverse mix of people of all ages, races, religions to represent the fabric of humanity, like a warm blanket to counter the wintry chill. We stood together, unified in our exhilaration and community as parade zealots completely immersed in our anticipation of the next float, some waiting for Tony Bennett, others for Maddie & Tae or Sarah McLachlan; all excited to spot their favorite entertainer for this year’s parade.
A group gathered as we stood on the corner of Central Park West and 67th. A man standing next behind us shared that he had a daughter in the parade. She was selected as one of two musicians across the state of New York and one of each state’s selected musicians, to march and play her tuba, in the Macy’s American All Star band. Activated by his story, a team began to form, focused on its clear dual-fold mission to spot “Andrea” in time to hoist her Dad, Al, up on a chair, and steady him as he waved to her, and secondly, for all of those surrounding him to capture the moment on video and photos that we would send to his phone afterwards. When she approached us in her Macy’s red and white uniform, playing her tuba loudly, we all screamed “Andrea” and snapped away as Al called to her from our makeshift platform. Several of us took note of the loving exchange between father and daughter; a teenage smirky smile from her, a beaming ear-to-ear one from him. Our little group basked in that moment of meaning, relishing in the photos and teasing Al about his gushiness and unabashed pride.
This is the power of the anticipatory principle. It unites people, it excites people, it activates people to dive in to make things happen. We willingly contributed to something good, something with an emotional charge; the anticipation of a parent bubbling over with pride for his daughter which we happily supported. A small thing you may say, yet a powerful message that could be amplified and applied in our day to day lives.
Imagine this principle at work at your company when you ponder your next innovation and as you enact your strategic planning activities. In the spirit of anticipation and conjuring a compelling vision of the future, consider it as a force that gathers energy, that you embody and carry with you rather than a goal or a destination. During Appreciative Inquiry’s 4-D process, all that is co-created builds to an anticipatory image, a vision born from a story or several with common themes that invoke hope, connection, purpose and meaning.
The Anticipatory Principle sets positive change in motion, focused on an imagined future, and a “believing” energy carries the day. “Anticipating Andrea” can be a mantra for a parade and it can inspire a call to action for a company’s mission, innovation or challenge. It starts with a story that connects our hearts, talents and all-hands in commitment to make something that we deem positive and collectively inspiring come to fruition.
Margaret Wheatley describes vision similarly, as a field, “a power not a place, an influence, not a destination”. It harnesses positive power inspired by pride, palpable emotion and a meaningful story.
During this season of hope and in anticipation of the new year, what heart-centered belief are you conceiving for your future? In what ways can you invite others to add their gifts to the vision and perhaps more meaningful, to share their presence with you in bringing it to life, to co-create anticipatory magic, pride, and good will?
Remember the mantra of the Anticipatory Principle, “what you believe, you conceive” – a hopeful reminder for all of us.