Between the noses [appreciative inquiry #013]



In my opinion, two important representatives of AI sourcing in Europe are Griet Bouwen and René Bouwen. Within our AI100 learning journey, we are very proud they are available to inspire our students on their opening day.

Griet is to be admired for ‘doing AI’ on a large scale in the Belgian society. She was co-founder of an impressive emerging AI-network around empowering people to enter the labour market again. Afterwards she memorized her valuable experiences in her book book ‘Leiden naar Talent en Bezieling’ (‘Leading towards Talent and Inspiration’). Until today she is constantly active in AI-practices like generative journalism.

René is – besides being Griet’s oncle – emeritus professor at Leuven University, Faculty of Organizational Psychology.  René Bouwen can be considered a true source of the emerging Appreciative Inquiry movement in Europe. The story goes that when René hosted a ‘positive psychology’ presentation by David Cooperrider, in the early 90’s in Leuven, the audience of fellow professors in psychology responded with cynical laughter.  Apparently, René survived (as well as Cooperrider did) and nowadays Leuven can be seen as the place to be for studying organizational development on a social constructionist basis.

When René is teaching, he invites his students to practice High Quality Communication. Within René’s perspective, the essential ingredient of Appreciative Inquiry is not merely the focus on the positive; it is about the Quality of the Relational Practice: together we construct connections, out of which future is being produced – generative connections, as he calls it.

Furthermore, René tells us, knowledge is not a substance, something we have, but it is something we create in interaction, all the time. Subsequently he presents his brilliant one-liner, summarizing all his wisdom into one beautiful saying:

“Knowledge is not something between the ears, it’s something between the noses.”

(And because we have only one nose, now you know where to find knowledge…)

Being a co-creator himself, René ends his lecture with the following quote by Sheila McNamee: ‘There is no method, just watch the relationship’.


When did you take part in ‘high quality communication’ and what happened afterwards?
What would you like to see growing in your community, or family?

You’ve just read one of the 110 chapters of my book Appreciative Inquiries of the 3.0 Kind. Find out more (and a special pre-ordering offer) on