Appreciative Inquiry



What is Appreciative Inquiry?

Appreciative inquiry is a way of looking at organizational change, which focuses on doing more of what is already working, rather than focusing on fixing problems. It mobilizes strategic change by focusing on the core strengths of an organization, then using those strengths to reshape the future.

Ai is both a high-participation learning process to identify and disseminate best practices, and a way of managing and working that fosters positive communications and can result in the formation of deep and meaningful relationships.

Ai was developed by David Cooperrider and his associates as Case Western Reserve university in the mid-eighties.




Read a practical case study here.



How it works

Appreciative Inquiry begins with analyzing the positive core of an organization (or a person) and then links this knowledge to the heart of the strategic change agenda.

The very act of asking a question influences the worldview of the person who is asked. Because human systems move toward what they persistently ask questions about, Appreciative Inquiry involves the deliberate discovery of everything that gives a system “life” when it is most effective in performance and human systems.

When we link the positive core directly to a strategic agenda, changes never though possible are rapidly mobilized while simultaneously building enthusiasm, corporate confidence, and human energy.

Comparison with problem-focused approaches

Problem solving Appreciative Inquiry
What to fix What to grow
Thinks in terms of: problems, symptoms, causes, solutions, action plan, intervention Thinks in terms of: what’s already working, what’s better, what’s possible
Breaks things into pieces & specialties, guaranteeing fragmented responses “Problem focus” implies that there is an ideal. Ai starts by focusing on that ideal and its roots in what is already good.
Slow! Take s lot of positive emotion to make real change Expands vision of preferred future. Creates new energy.
Assumes organizations are made up of problems to be overcome Assumes organizations are sources of infinite capacity and imagination

The AI process

Contact us for a demonstration of the model.

Typical Ai Start up

  • Choose the topic: combine themes from generic interview with research questions
  • Agree on desired outcomes and critical success factors
  • Agree on how to get there
  • Develop draft interview protocol
  • Practice interviews; develop interview guidelines
  • Plan for collecting & “analyzing” data
  • Plan for how the process will drive change

Six generic questions to start

  1. What have been your best experiences at work? A time when….
  2. What do you value about… yourself, work, organization
  3. What do you think is the core life-giving factor or value of your organization – which it wouldn’t be the same without?
  4. If you had three wishes for your organization, what would they be?
  5. What achievements are you (and your team) proud of?
  6. Apart from the money, what makes it worth coming to work?

Why it works

  • It doesn’t focus on changing people, which leads to relief that the message isn’t about what they’ve done wrong or have to stop doing.
  • Instead, people get into a positive, energized state because you’re focusing on what’s good about their work.
  • It invites people to engage in building the kinds of organizations and communities that they want to live in.
  • It helps everyone see the need for change, explore new possibilities, and contribute to solutions.
  • It’s easier to see your vision of the future vividly when it has roots in your past experiences, rather than trying to start with a blank canvas.
  • It means you won’t be throwing out the good stuff that’s already there when you start to build your new organization
  • Through alignment of formal and informal structures with purpose and principles, it translates shared vision into reality and belief into practice.

Underlying principles

  • In every human system something works.
  • What we focus on, and the language we use, becomes our reality.
  • Reality is created in the moment and there are multiple realities. It is important to value the differences.
  • The act of asking questions influences the group in some way.
  • People have more confidence & comfort to move to an unknown future when they carry forward parts of the past.
  • What we carry forward should be what is best about the past.

Provocative Propositions

As part of the Dream stage, we take the best of what currently happens and determine the circumstances that made that possible. We then write one or more “provocative proposition” which describe the idealized future in which the best happens all the time, and serve as a reminder to focus on it.

Checklist for determining a provocative proposition:

  • Is it provocative? Does it stretch, challenge or innovate?
  • Is it developed from real-life examples?
  • Do people feel passionate enough about it to defend it?
  • Is it stated in bold, positive terms and in the present tense?

What Next?

Would you like to:

  • Increase staff engagement?
  • Engage the whole of your organization, including customers, service users and other stakeholders, in visioning the future direction?
  • Introduce an appreciative coaching and mentoring culture?
  • Hold a highly effective and morale raising team building event

Read a practical case study here.

Call Mind Strategies on 0825381584 for a consultation.