I am so delighted and filled with gratitude when my clients, or my prospective clients, spontaneously say to me in a somewhat surprised tone:

“You have really helped me think this through.”

“I hadn’t seen it quite like that before.”

“I’m now seeing possibilities I hadn’t considered.”

“You’ve opened me up to a new way of thinking.”

Developmental Conversations

I’m delighted because that kind of feedback tells me our conversation has helped the client progress her thinking.  Together, we’ve created a developmental conversation.  The conversation has constructed something new for both of us.  She has some insights about her situation and me, and I have new insights about my situation and her.  And, I’m grateful because she was open to the inquiry.  She was receptive. She wanted to find a new way.  She was willing to explore and discover. Our generative conversation created the new possibilities.

appreciative inquiry design processOn the surface, Polymash is an app development agency.  But scratch a little below the surface and you’ll find that what we really do is develop people, and their ideas, and ultimately develop innovation behaviors.  We know that through our inquiry-based approach to our client engagements, we help them express that which they want to express.  We begin conversations with our goal to guide them so that eventually clients are able to express what they are wanting to achieve in the most positive way; they express what delights them; what they aspire to; and what brings life to their purpose in life and business. In our app development, we tap into the highest potential for people and for product. Our experience has been that people dig deep to contribute to something larger than themselves, something that allows their voice and creativity to rise to the top.  That’s how innovations happen. That’s how great design and user experience (UX) emerge organically.

Innovation Behaviors

When we come to a project with the mindset of people development over product development, we are focused on the human experience over the technological solution.  Our mindset, when we engage with clients, is that we want them to realize that through engagement with their apps, they can positively impact their user-base. Our Wild Dolphins iPad app and FilmOneFest iPad and smartphone apps are two examples where the inquiry-based approach resulted in not only producing highly attractive apps with great entertainment and utility, but also developed entire client teams involved in gathering all the content for the apps.  Teams can evolve to new heights in their relationships and productivity.  And, apps have the potential to create innovation behaviors among their customers – the users.

In the case of Wild Dolphins, we had members of the organization saying that being part of the content creation for the app was the best experience in their career to date.  They were amazed at how everyone just wanted to jump in and Wild Dolphins Appreciative Inquirycontribute.  They said productivity increased and leadership emerged where they had not seen it before.  New, innovation behaviors that have come from the app users have been greater awareness of what endangers the species, and what new, innovation behaviors they can adopt to help protect wild dolphins.  The Wild Dolphins‘ client wanted to put their mission into the world and be a force for good by bringing awareness to the positive human behaviors that will help protect dolphins in the wild.

FilmOneFest II app was also community-wide effort, where we engaged with various stakeholders whose content and ideas would be included in the app – filmmakers, film critics, sponsors, volunteers, business people. The articulated goal was to be able to show the one-minute films selected for viewing at the one-day film festival to help promote the filmmakers,  the event and the town.  What emerged from our inquiry was a whole new innovative approach to help promote the event and attract new filmmakers for future film festivals and an entirely innovative way of having filmmakers participate in all future events.

Greatest Energy and Excitements

Our approach to our work is grounded in a special kind of inquiry:  Appreciative Inquiry.  By “Inquiry,” we mean asking carefully crafted questions that to seek to expand the thinking and enlarge the conversation and its potential.  By “Appreciative,” we mean inquiring through a lens that seeks to appreciate or  “increase in value” whatever the topic of the inquiry is.  So applying the Appreciative Inquiry framework, we engage with our clients through a lens that looks for what is to be valued, successful and appreciated.  Energy and engagement result.  Creativity is unleashed and innovations pop up from unexpected sources.

What if, instead of looking for “the pain points and problems” in clients’ situations, we inquired into areas of “greatest energy and excitements.”  What if we stopped thinking and acting from a position of “what we lack and our weaknesses” and instead began to focus on “past successes, current best assets and individual and collective strengths?”  When you inquire from that perspective, shift happens!

To learn more and apply Appreciative Inquiry, download our iPad app Embracing Change which leads users through change.  To learn more about the principles of Appreciative Inquiry as a method of inquiry that results in stories of personal and professional triumph, download our smartphone and iPad app Appreciative Inquiry – an Introduction.






We are pleased to announce that our free FilmOneFest iPad app is now available on the iTunes iPad app store.

FilmOneFest is a celebration of one-minute films as an art form, also a film festival held in Atlantic Highlands, NJ, and the FilmOneFest iPad app is a collection of one-minute films from filmmakers all around the world with supporting stories, artists’ statements, and interviews. To find out more:

[button link=”” type=”icon” icon=”notice”]Visit the FilmOneFest Home Page[/button]

We’ve just posted video of your FilmOneFest app, and the momentum is growing ahead of the actual event in July. The app is turning out great, but what makes a real difference is of course the content, so a big thanks to the film makers.

If you’d like to read about the interview process, Robyn has posted on how she used the Appreciative Inquiry process to interview film makers in the making of this app, check out her post at

Our vision for the app was to have more than just a list of one-minute films that you could see on You Tube or Vimeo. We wanted the world to learn more about the artists and their visions for their art. We wanted to give greater context and meaning to the content in the app that the users could connect to.

Read more

In this interview, Mimi Cross, author of the recently released Crankamacallit iPad app, talks about her experience in creating an interactive children’s story in this new medium.

[box type=”bio”]

  • The interview was designed in an appreciative inquiry format,and conducted by Robyn Stratton.
  • Music by Mimi Cross and Kevin Salem
  • [/box]

    Please note we’ve just posted the Crankamacallit Demo Reel

    [button id =”vid1″ link=””]The Crankamacallit Home Page[/button]

    We just released Version 1.2, with enhanced audio tips, Social Media integration, improved navigation and more… Thanks for all the great suggestion to make this app a hit!

    Press Release from PRWeb
    Version 1.2 of this innovative iPad app provides
    step-by-step coaching of change management skills with additional audio
    and video tips to strengthen business leadership, transform everyday
    relationships, and facilitate the design and sustainability of visionary

    So, what’s new?

    The new release of Embracing Change improves on some of the original
    interactive features making this app experience even more immersive and


    • A step-by-step, clearly structured practice
    • Audio coaching and training tips *** NEW
    • Social media integration *** NEW
    • Guided approach to story telling
    • Text edit tool to respond to step-by-step questions and record insights inside the app
    • Ability to share notes with others



    • Interactive graphics of models of change
    • Enhanced usability and navigation *** NEW
    • Scrollable slide shows
    • 360 work flow panorama
    • Inspirational quotes, beautiful imagery and graphics
    • Instructional videos
    • Supports both Landscape and Portrait orientations



    Please note: This app was replaced in early 2018

    This app had a great 6-year run since it’s launch in 2012. Nonetheless, we’ve been focused on creating great universal web experiences and have launched other resources to take the app’s place.

    We’ve recently launched a brand new site with both free and paid in-depth training courses on creating positive change, at home, at work, and in your communities. So please visit our new site at


    We are extremely pleased that Axiom News has just released an article on our recently released “Embracing Change” app. Below a brief excerpt, to read the full article follow this link.

    [box]Last year, Stratton-Berkessel published the book Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions: 21 Strength-Based Workshops. Since then she became intrigued by the use of tablets like the iPad to consume content. She says she started to see some business applications come out for tablet devices, and thought about how great it would be to turn one of her workshops into an app. [/box]

    Glad to share that “Embracing Change” climbed into the top 100 it’s first week out, and we have not started our marketing campaign yet. Stay tuned:)

    1.) Learn to Focus on the DOs, and let the DONTs take care of themselves

    You go into a team innovation meeting, and spend the first 30 minutes analysing what is wrong with the current state.

    Has this happened in your team? Does this create the right environment to innovate in? Observe the mood, energy, body language of such meetings…

    Woman with Hat

    Image by JB Photo via Flickr

    Image by JB Photo via Flickr

    Innovation is about what is possible, about inspiration, about a positive mindset, and the language we use directly impacts our ability to contribute. Gripe sessions get in the way. Positivity engages.

    Broadening our horizons to focus on the possible rather than on what constrains us is difficult enough without focusing on what is wrong with the current state, and it requires a disciplined use of affirmative, additive, positivie language. What we focus on grows, and if we focus on all that is wrong with the current state it is much more difficult to shift to thinking about what is possible.

    Susan Mazza at Random Acts Of Leadership recently had an (as usual) inspiring post about self-destructive behaviors of people trying to protect their jobs in this economic downturn, and she suggested 5 things one should STOP doing, as well as 10 behaviors to START doing… I absolutely love her post, AND I feel the language she uses has the potential to be even more powerful by primarily focusing on what to START doing, and allowing STOPS to take care of themselves.

    2.) Learn to Reframe your Language

    In fact I think that reframing our language has tremendous potential, let’s take an airline example:

    Would you rather go into a meeting where the agenda is to discuss “Lost Baggage Customer Complaints”, or would you feel more energized to discuss “Achieving Optimal Customer Arrival Experience”? A successful outcome of creating an optimal customer arrival experince would almost certainly address anything that would need to be done to eliminate lost baggage.

    Develop the skill to stop and deliberately review your language, emails, agendas. Ask yourself: How can I reframe this to shift the focus on the positive, the strenghts of our organization, colleagues, resources? Will my language engage people? Will it inspire positivity rather than focus on something negative?

    3.) Innovation and Collaboration – Venting Optional

    In “Six Thinking Hats” approach there is a view that “venting” is a catharsis necessary and useful to move forward: I disagree. Rather I agree with Peter Drucker‘s philosophy on the role of leadership as cultivating one’s strenghts in a way that makes ones weaknesses irrelevant. As in the airline example, issues that need to be addressed or fixed will still allow discussion, disagreements and a certain amount of “venting”, but it should not be allowed to have central focus, and will almost certainly be seen as a negative once everyone is already focusing on how to move forward.

    4.) Our Language Reflects Our Emotions, And Our Emotions Reflect Our Language

    Our reality is shaped and co-constructed by our perceptions, emotions and our language. Recognizing that positive language yields positive emotions can be a great contributor and enabler in the innovation process. Therefore, learn how to harness the power of positivity, in order to translate it into language we use constructively when dealing with each other.

    Robyn at writes on the Practice of Positivity:

    Positive emotions increase our thought-action repertoire creating a broadening effect that opens us up to generativity, to creativity and to each other.

    5.) Develop and  cultivate a “Yeah, and…” perspective, for yourself and your team

    Gary Bertwhistle in his post over at Innovation Tools perfectly illustrates how language is important to promote and cultivate good ideas:

    While working in New Zealand recently, I met the CEO of a large manufacturing company. Although he agreed with my philosophies around leading innovation, he was one of those “yeah but” guys.

    As I presented my keynote, he would very politely ask questions which always began with “Yeah, but…” After he’d done it a few times, I shared with the audience an intriguing part of leadership that starts with language. I challenged the audience (and indirectly this CEO) to answer the question – are you a “yeah but” guy or a “yeah and” guy?

    You see, if whenever you are reviewing a new idea, and the first thought that comes into your mind is “Yeah but…”, you’re basically putting a full stop straight on the end of the idea.

    Do you have examples of where language played a part in setting the right tone for a meeting? Where reframing the language of the  agenda resulted in a more energized and productive discussion?

    Twitter Trumps Online Conference – Six Steps For Using Twitter For Your Conference Or Event

    I recently read the below post by Jeff Hurt (@JeffHurt) about the use of Twitter at conferences.

    My wife and I own a groupware collaboration company with a multi-input chat feature using hand-held wireless keyboards (see our partner site Positive Matrix), and we have been pondering how the advent of advanced Twitter tools is shaping the future of participatory and collaborative workshops.

    We will be posting more on this topic.

    I recently attended the American Society of Association Professionals (ASAE) three-day online conference for small staff associations. With 22,000 members, nearly 50% of them from small-staff associations, many consider ASAE the “go-to” association for association leaders.

    For three days, I joined coworkers in our “War Room” (conference room) to view the PPT on our large plasma screen (ASAE chose not to use the webinar portion), interact with the live chat, listen to the audio on the conference phone and talk with one another during the presentation. Many of us brought our mobile devices too so we could answer email, chat and send tweets as needed. This was a familiar setting and situation, as I plan similar events for our own members.

    Once the conference began, the dynamics in the room were amazing: we were listening to the presentation, debriefing comments as they were being said, typing in the live chat and sending tweets. Those walking by our War Room saw a frenzied team in hyper-overdrive, on high alert, working and talking at once.

    On day one, we sat through two painful presentations: one very disorganized and one with some inaccurate and outdated information. Both of these presentations dealt with low-cost or free technology strategies and web tools.

    On day two, we decided to turn to the Twittersphere to see if other social media mavens and gurus agreed with what ASAE was presenting. As we tweeted ASAE positions or statements, the Twitter and social media pros began to respond to us with facts, data, reports and articles contradicting what ASAE had said. Some of their responses were:

    • @ replies (replies directly to us) or
    • DM (private direct text messages).
    • And some were RT (retweets) where I reposted their tweet to the entire Twittersphere.

    I was hoping someone from ASAE was listening, following our conversations, or had their Google Alerts or TweetBeep set so they would know we were tweeting about them. No one from ASAE replied.

    While this conversation occurred on Twitter, something else was happening in Facebook (FB). My Twitter updates my FB status with each tweet and my 180+ friends were posting comments on my FB page about my online conference experiences. My friends, family and colleagues–many nonprofit employees and volunteers themselves–started sharing their negative feelings about ASAE. The floodgates had been opened.

    On the final day of the online conference, we live tweeted the presentation and watched the power of Twitter at work. The final presenter, more polished and charismatic than the others, began to make broad brushstrokes about generational behavior and offended two of my colleagues. It went down hill from there as his slidedeck contained information that was three-ten years old, especially when discussing social media applications.

    The passion in the room was hot. Two of us immediately begin to tweet statements by the presenter. Here’s where the magic and mystic of the Twitterverse began. The following are some of the tweets I posted and received during the last two days of the ASAE conference.

    My Tweet: ASAE Online conf presenter: ASAE feels need 2 control Peer2Peer conversations & social media on website so they limit it. Huh? Really? Sad.

    Response Chirp, chirp: DMA nonprofit social media conf last week top tip: get past fear not bing n control Ur passionate fans will support U said a tweet from Austin.

    Chirp, chirp: Mobile media to reach and engage people, success stories said a tweet from DC with a tinyurl to a video of a presentation from 1/09.

    Chirp, chirp: Brand should involve customer engagement, transparency, listening, honesty said a tweet from United Kingdom with a tinyurl to an article written that day.

    Tweet: ASAE online presenters: Recommending listservs & vbulletin 2 small nonprofits 4 way to max webiste? How 1980’s. ASAE: time 2 reinvent urself

    Chirp, chirp: Your kidding, right? WordPress would be a better choice than that said a tweet from Chicago

    Chirp, chirp: Here’s a list of free or low cost website platforms that are better than listservs said a tweet from NYC with a tinyurl to a blog posting.

    Tweet: ASAE presenter recommends tell a friend link on every pg of website 4 sm nonprofits. Hmm perhaps he means widgets like share this?

    Chirp, chirp: Soc Media tie 2 behavior & revolution n trusted references not tell a friend said a tweet from Atlanta with a tinyurl to a presentation from a recent Social Media Conference in San Francisco.

    Chirp, chirp: Disagree. Better ways to “share this” info than “tell a friend” said a tweet from tech guru in OKC.

    Chirp, chirp: Disagree. New tools to use for sharing information said a tweet from Singapore with a tinyurl to a list of references.

    Tweet: ASAE online conf mrktg session promoting gen differences 4 mrktg = creating diff mrktg pieces based on audience age. Agree or disagree?

    Chirp, chirp: Disagree. Check 12/08 report from Pew Charity &Trust on tech use by age said tweet from San Francisco that included a tinyurl to the report.

    Chirp, chirp: Disagree. Social media crosses all generations. Myth that it’s only for youth said a tweet from a Florida researcher with a tinyurl to a 1/09 PPT presentation.

    At the end of the last day, we were all amazed at our Twitter experience. We felt connected to a new breed of professionals, the Twitterati, like never before and we saw the amazing power of instant feedback from social media applications like Twitter.

    Looking back on this experience, here are some tips that I recommend for those planning conferences and events both online and face to face.

    1. Embrace and use DIMTY and WIIFM from the beginning!

    Attendees are more finicky than ever and will not sit passively if you try to sell outdated, poorly organized or inaccurate information. If they don’t experience DIMTY (Do I Matter To You: survey them before you create the content) and WIIFM (What Is In This For Me) quickly, they will leave. Use Twitter to start collecting information early. Ask followers questions and ask them to RT your questions to others. You’ll get replies from people with real time information. Use PollDaddy to set up Twitter polls and get results. This will benefit your content development and help establish more followers as well.

    2. Establish a hashtag for your event so that your followers can easily watch and search the conversations.

    Hashtags are a pound sign followed by a term. Example: MPI established #meetdifferent for their recent MD09 conference. Hashtags help keep track of tweets that are all part of a single subject, event or topic. First, follow @hashtags on Twitter. They will follow you back automatically and your hashtags will be tracked. Next, start using hashtags in your tweets, preceding key words. It can be helpful to do a little research first, to find out if the subject you’re tweeting already has an established hashtag. You don’t need to do anything special to use a hashtag, just make one up and tell folks to use it if you want them to tag their tweets for your event or discussion. If you head to Twitter Search and type in the full hashtag, you can track all the tweets related to that term. Or go to and put in your hashtags words and follow the tweets using that hashtag.

    3. Start using Twitter weeks, even months, before your event to build followers, buzz and energy. Use it during and after the event as well.

    Link your Twitter account to your Web site and include it in all your electronic and print marketing materials. Invite people to begin following you and send tweets with information more than just press releases or marketing several times a day. Start retweeting (RT) what some of your followers tweet. A RT is like paying someone a compliment and will get you passionate, avid supporters. Send tweets during the event as reminders, announcements and any changes. Ask the CEO and Executive Director to tweet a couple times a day as well to their followers.

    4. Encourage your attendees to tweet during the live event.

    Encourage your attendees to send tweets during the event and create a TwitterFountain which mashes Twitter tweets and Flckr images, collected with your established #hashtag. Put your TwitterFountain on your event home page for everyone to see. As Tweeps tweet their thoughts and comments about your event, they’ll build more followers for you and they’ll engage in Peer2Peer learning as well. Also, consider projecting the live text or Twitter stream during the presentation with an application like Wifitti. (They have a beta that’s even cooler.) All you need is a live internet connection, laptop and LCD projector and you’re set to project everyone’s comments and questions. We’ve used it successfully for large meetings to engage our audience with immediate

    5. Let your employees have a personality as they send tweets.

    Assign your Twitter account to one employee and empower him/her to tweet for the organization. Don’t assign multiple people to one account, your audience will see that and cry foul. Turn your employee into your evangelists and ask them to help you in the process. Associations and companies, it’s time to drop the top-down reign of control and allow your employees to have a personality and share it with the world. Let them have a sense of humor. Don’t try to control the brand because you can’t with Twitter and most social media apps. If you do try to control it, your Tweeps will turn on you.

    6. Use transparency and honesty, and apologize quickly when you’re wrong.

    Attendees will no longer swallow their truth when angered or frustrated and will turn to social media to let everyone know what you’ve done. On the flip side, do it right, and they’ll become avid supporters. If you offend an attendee, hide behind a brand, spin poor planning or don’t engage the attendee, don’t expect them to keep quiet. WOM has moved to WOI (Word of Internet) and there are many more eyes that can read what’s being posted. Apologize quick and fast or risk the wrath of many.

    Use these tips and you’ll see a new kind of buzz emerge for your conference and event. The Twittersphere is very patient to beginners so go ahead and give it a try.

    By the way, I’ve been an ASAE member for two years and a constituent of their services for more than 12 years. I also recently signed up to follow ASAE’s Twitterfeed from their Technology Conference, which was “outed” by members for not being transparent, honest or having a personality. (See Why All The Secrecy? A Story Of Attempted Brand Jacking for ASAE’s ongoing failed attempts at using Twitter in social media.) We’ll see if they get it right for future conferences or events.

    About the Author: Jeff Hurt is Director of Education & Events for National Association of Dental Plans and has worked in events/nonprofit arena for more than 20 years including Keep America Beautiful as a consultant/trainer/writer, Keep Texas Beautiful, Education Coordinator, Professional Development Manger for Meetings Professional Internationa and Professional Development Manger for Promotional Products Association International. He has also served on the Board of Directors for Black Tie in North Texas and as a volunteer for several other local charities and organizations.

    Technorati Tags: twitter, collaboration, tool, conference, zing, positive matrix, appreciative inquiry