Appreciative Inquiry is a solution focused approach that facilitates and creates the opportunity for the group or individual to allow wisdom to reveal itself.

Most change processes are based on problem-solving processes. With the problem solving approach, we start by asking “what’s the problem”. When we do that, we focus energy on what we want less of and work to “fix” things.

Appreciative Inquiry is based on a different set of assumptions. Here are some of them:

You create more effective organizations by focusing on what you want more of, not what you want less of.

Whatever you want more of already exists, even if only in small quantities

It’s easier to create change by amplifying the positive qualities of a group or organization than by trying to fix the negative qualities

Through the act of inquiry we create the social realities we are trying to understand

Getting people to inquire together into the best examples of what they want more of creates it’s own momentum toward creating more positive organizations

AI is based on a deceptively simple premise: that organizations grow in the direction of what they repeatedly ask questions about and focus their attention on. AI does not focus on changing people. Instead, it invites people to engage in building the kinds of organizations they want to live in. That’s hard to resist.

Appreciative Inquiry has been effectively applied in the following ways:

  • Building common vision where one is currently lacking
  • Creating openness and rapport between people and groups who don’t trust each other
  • Developing new approaches to human resource issues that will be well accepted by organizational members and lead to positive change
  • Creating a positive work climate where a negative one previously prevailed
  • Discovering, understanding and amplifying the positive forces already existing in organizations
  • Accelerating the development of new teams
  • An alternative to conventional team building processes for existing teams
  • Community development in various ways

The Appreciative Inquiry approach is often worked out in practice by using the ‘4-D’ model:

Appreciative InquiryDiscover-people talk to one another, often via structured interviews, to discover the times when the organisation is at its best. These stories are told as richly as possible.

Dream-the dream phase is where people are encouraged to envision the organization as if the peak moments discovered in the ‘discover’ phase were the norm rather than exceptional.

Design-the team is empowered to design ways of creating the organization dreamed

Deliver-the final phase is to implement the changes.

The theory of Appreciative Inquiry was developed by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in a paper they published in 1986.

If you would like to read more about Appreciative Inquiry:

AI Success Stories

Five Theories of Change Embedded in Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry Commons

When is Appreciative Inquiry Transformational?