Bright Spots

This month’s newsletter topic was prompted by my friend Duncan Smith, one of Australia’s most experienced D&I consultants, when he shared a link from the Heath Brothers called ‘Bright Spots’.

In a nut shell ‘Bright Spots’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbLNOS7MxFc)
refers to evaluating what is working within an organisational structure and figuring out how to clone it. This methodology has similarities to the fundamentals of Appreciative Enquiry which encourages us to focus on strengths rather than problems. In Cross Cultural interventions as well as many other domains, it is often the case that we identify what is not working and focus on that rather than seeking solutions and replicating the practices that are. To quote the Heath brothers,

“This is the first step to fixing everything from addiction to corporate malaise. A problem may look hopelessly complex. But there’s a game plan that can yield movement on even the toughest issues. And it starts with locating a bright spot — a ray of hope.”

A great example of this methodology involved a senior employee of Save the Children who was sent to Vietnam to open an office to fight malnutrition and was given 6 months to make significant inroads. With minimal staff and meagre resources, he was tasked with solving a complex issue with multiple causes. Naturally the initial response based on expert advice, was to tackle some of the main causes of malnutrition which include poverty, education and sanitation.

Ignoring the experts whose focus was on the macro picture and the problems faced, this employee decided to approach the issue from a different perspective. Firstly, he sought information from the mothers of a village regarding nutrition and complied data on the weight and measurements of children within the village. Working with the mothers, he then analysed the data and identified the children that were well nourished and how that was being achieved. Three practices were found to be linked to healthy children; feeding the children smaller portions more frequently, having the parents assist the children to eat and including foods that were not well regarded in the community but provided proteins and nutrients. The leader found the ‘Bright Spots’- what was working within the families of children, who despite being impoverished were not malnourished. He then found a way to clone that by giving the community of the village guidelines and practices to feed their children to maximise nutrition. The program was scaled and eventually reached 2.2 million people in 265 villages and became a national model for reducing malnutrition in Vietnam.

For me this highlights the ways in which finding ‘ Bright Spots’ and being solution focused can lead us towards innovation and growth. In what ways can you utilise this type of thinking? Are there ‘Bright Spots’ which could be areas or performers in your organisation that can be replicated to deliver better outcomes and growth?

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