Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an organizational development process or philosophy that engages individuals within an organizational system in its renewal, change and focused performance.
Appreciative Inquiry was adopted from work done by earlier action research theorists and practitioners and further developed by David Cooperrider of Case Western Reserve University. It is now a commonly accepted practice in the evaluation of organizational development strategy and implementation of organizational effectiveness tactics.
Appreciative Inquiry is a particular way of asking questions and envisioning the future that fosters positive relationships and builds on the basic goodness in a person, a situation, or an organization. In so doing, it enhances a system's capacity for collaboration and change.0#cite_note-0" Appreciative Inquiry utilizes a cycle of 4 processes focusing on:
DISCOVER: The identification of organizational processes that work well.
DREAM: The envisioning of processes that would work well in the future.
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DESIGN: Planning and prioritizing processes that would work well.
DESTINY (or DELIVER): The implementation (execution) of the proposed design.1#cite_note-1" 2#cite_note-2"
The basic idea is to build organizations around what works, rather than trying to fix what doesn't. It is the opposite of problem solving. Instead of focusing gaps and inadequacies to find blame and remediate skills or practices, AI focuses on how to create more of the occasional exceptional performance that is occurring because a core of strengths is aligned. The approach acknowledges the contribution of individuals, in order to increase trust and organizational alignment. The method aims to create meaning by drawing from stories of concrete successes and lends itself to cross-industrial social activities. It can be enjoyable and natural to many managers, who are often sociable people.
There are a variety of approaches to implementing Appreciative Inquiry, including mass-mobilized interviews and a large, diverse gathering called an Appreciative Inquiry Summit (Ludema, Whitney, Mohr and Griffin, 2003). Both approaches involve bringing very large, diverse groups of people together to study and build upon the best in an organization or community.
The basic philosophy of AI is also found in other positively oriented approaches to individual change as well as organizational change. As noted above, " AI ...fosters positive relationships and builds on the basic goodness in a person, or a situation ...." The idea of building on strength, rather than just focusing on faults and weakness is a powerful idea in use in mentoring programs, and excellent performance evaluations. It is the basic idea behind teaching "micro-affirmations" as well as teaching about micro-inequities. (See Microinequity Rowe Micro-Affirmations and Micro-inequities in the Journal of the International Ombudsman Association, Volume 1, Number 1, March 2008.)
AI has been used extensively to foster change in businesses (a variety of sectors), health care systems, social profit organizations, educational institutions, communities, local governments, and religious institutions.
Appreciative inquiry (AI) is a major breakthrough in organization development, training and development and in "problem solving," in general. AI is based on the assertion that "problems" are often the result of our own perspectives and perceptions of phenomena, eg, if we look at a certain priority as a "problem," then we tend to constrain our ability to effectively address the priority and to continue to develop in our lives and work.
AI is a philosophy so a variety of models, tools and techniques can be derived from that philosophy. For example, one AI-based approach to strategic planning includes identification of our best times during the best situations in the past in an organization, wishing and thinking about what worked best then, visioning what we want in the future, and building from what worked best in order to work toward our vision. The approach has revolutionized many practices, including strategic planning and organization development.
The following links are by no means a complete list of online resources about AI. Like any other topic in the Library, the following links are to resources that can help to get you started in learning more about this topic.
Appreciative Inquiry Commons
AI : the Quest
Appreciative Inquiry Resources
Appreciative Inquiry and Community Development
Appreciative Inquiry 5D Spiral of Development
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Taos Institute on Appreciative Inquiry
Appreciative Enquiry..." . . . it is through language that we create the world, because it's nothing until we describe it.Â And when we describe it, we create distinctions that govern our actions.Â To put it another way, we do not describe the world we see, but we see the world we describe."Â Â -Â Joseph Jaworski
As it has evolved, there are a number of ways in which to conduct an Appreciative Inquiry (AI)Team Building but the processes all tend to follow a common path of four phases: Discovery (conducting appreciative interviews and identifying the themes and life-giving forces), Dream (developing provocative propositions for the future), Design (integrating wishes for the future with plans for needed changes to structure, systems and processes) and Destiny (making it happen and making it sustainable over time
Appreciative enquiry is a new way of approaching problem solving, team-building and solution development.
Appreciative Inquiry works from a set of assumptions.
1. In every society, organisation or group, something works well.
2. What we focus on, becomes our reality.
3. Reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple realities.
4. The act of asking questions of a person, or group influences the group/person in some way.
5. People have more confidence to journey to the future (the unknown) when they carry forward parts of the past (the known).
6. If we carry forward parts of the past, they should be what is best about our past.
7. It is important to value differences.
8. The language we use creates our reality and experience.
The Appreciativer Inquiry Way...
While these may seem obvious, we know from our own experience that we can look at what isn't working and start problem solving. This pulls us backwards/downwards rather than forwards.Â If we focus on difficulties in the past, people become self defensive and feel that life is hopeless.Â
When we ask them about their successes, they become enthusiastic and start to hope again and explore possibility.
Appreciative Inquiry '5-D' Cycle
Discovery: The Appreciative Inquiry approach to personal, or organisational, change is to begin by looking for what is working -APPRECIATING the best of our experience.
Dream: This is to consider what might be - ENVISIONING RESULTS
Design: What should be the ideal? - CO-CONSTRUCTING
Destiny: How to empower, learn & adjust or improvise -Â SUSTAINING
Do-It: Action towards achievement - Commitment, response, action
The tangible result of the Appreciative Inquiry process is a series of statements that describe where the person or organisation wants to be, based on the best moments of where they have been.
Because these statements are based in real experience and history, people know how to repeat their success. They have created before, they can create once again. The purpose is to reconnect with the life giving forces-what is working, and then go beyond that to, what could be if we expanded our paradigm of possibility.
What is Appreciative Inquiry?
from A Positive Revolution in Change: Appreciative Inquiry by David L. Cooperrider and Diana Whitney.
Ap-pre'ci-ate, v., 1. valuing; the act of recognizing the best in people or the world around us; affirming past and present strengths, successes, and potentials; to perceive those things that give life (health, vitality, excellence) to living systems 2. to increase in value, e.g. the economy has appreciated in value. Synonyms: VALUING, PRIZING, ESTEEMING, and HONORING.
In-quire' (kwir), v., 1. the act of exploration and discovery. 2. To ask questions; to be open to seeing new potentials and possibilities. Synonyms: DISCOVERY, SEARCH, and SYSTEMATIC EXPLORATION, STUDY.
Appreciative Inquiry is about the coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives "life" to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves, in a central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system's capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential. It centrally involves the mobilization of inquiry through the crafting of the "unconditional positive question" often-involving hundreds or sometimes thousands of people. In AI the arduous task of intervention gives way to the speed of imagination and innovation; instead of negation, criticism, and spiraling diagnosis, there is discovery, dream, and design. AI seeks, fundamentally, to build a constructive union between a whole people and the massive entirety of what people talk about as past and present capacities: achievements, assets, unexplored potentials, innovations, strengths, elevated thoughts, opportunities, benchmarks, high point moments, lived values, traditions, strategic competencies, stories, expressions of wisdom, insights into the deeper corporate spirit or soul-- and visions of valued and possible futures. Taking all of these together as a gestalt, AI deliberately, in everything it does, seeks to work from accounts of this "positive change core"-and it assumes that every living system has many untapped and rich and inspiring accounts of the positive. Link the energy of this core directly to any change agenda and changes never thought possible are suddenly and democratically mobilized.
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What is Appreciative Inquiry?
Appreciative Inquiry is the study and exploration of what gives life to human systems when they are at their best. It is an organization development methodology based on the assumption that inquiry into and dialogue about strengths, successes, values, hopes and dreams is itself transformational.
It is founded on the following set of beliefs about human nature and human organizing:
â€¢ People individually and collectively have unique gifts, skills and contributions to bring to life.
â€¢ Organizations are human social systems, sources of unlimited relational capacity, created and lived in language.
â€¢ The images we hold of the future are socially created and, once articulated, serve to guide individual and collective actions.
Through human communication (inquiry and dialogue) people can shift their attention and action away from problem analysis to lift up worthy ideals and productive possibilities for the future.
In short, Appreciative Inquiry suggests that human organizing and change, at its best, is a relational process of inquiry, grounded in affirmation and appreciation.
One way to understand Appreciative Inquiry is to consider the meaning of its two words. Each word alone has implications for the practice of organization change. The power of Appreciative Inquiry, however, is the by-product of the two words working together. Like hydrogen and oxygen that combine to make water - the most nurturing substance on earth - "appreciation" and "inquiry" combined produce a powerful, vital approach to leadership and organization change.
Appreciation: Recognition and Value Added
Appreciation has to do with recognition, with valuing and with gratitude. The word "appreciate" is a verb that carries a double meaning. It refers to both the act of recognition and the act of enhancing value. Definitions include:
â€¢ to recognize the best in people and the world around us;
â€¢ to perceive those things which give life, health, vitality and excellence to living human systems;
â€¢ to affirm past and present strengths, successes, assets and potentials;
â€¢ to increase in value (e.g., the investment has appreciated in value).
Indeed, organizations, businesses and communities can benefit by greater appreciation. Around the global, people hunger for recognition. They want to work from their strengths on tasks they find of value. Executives and managers long to lead from their values. They seek ways to integrate their greatest passions into their daily work. And organizations strive regularly to enhance their value to shareholders, employees and the world at large.
Inquiry: Exploration and Discovery
Appreciative Inquiry is about more than appreciation, recognition, and enhancement of value. It's also about inquiry.
Inquiry refers to the acts of exploration and discovery. It implies a quest for new possibilities, being in a state of unknowing, wonder and a willingness to learn. It implies an openness to change. The word "inquire" also a verb means:
â€¢ to ask questions;
â€¢ to study;
â€¢ to search, explore, delve into or investigate
Inquiry is a learning process for organizations as well as for individuals. Seldom do we search, explore or study what we already know with certainty. We ask questions about and query into areas unfamiliar to us. The act of inquiry requires sincere curiosity and openness to new possibilities, new directions and new understandings. We cannot have "all the answers," "know what is right," or "be certain" when we are engaged in inquiry. The spirit of inquiry is the spirit of learning.
How Does Appreciative Inquiry Work?
The process used to generate the power of Appreciative Inquiry is the 4-D Cycle. Based on the notion that human systems - people, teams, organizations and communities - grow and change in the direction of what they study, Appreciative Inquiry works by focusing the attention of an organization on its most positive potential - its positive core. The positive core is the essential nature of the organization at its best - people's collective wisdom about the organization's tangible and intangible strengths, capabilities, resources, potentials and assets.
The Appreciative Inquiry 4-D cycle unleashes the energy of the positive core for transformation and sustainable success.
Affirmative Topic Choice: The 4-D Cycle begins with the thoughtful identification of what is to be studied - affirmative topics. Since human systems move in the direction of what they study, the choice of what to study - what to focus organizational attention on - is both essential and strategic. The topics that are selected provide a framework for collecting stories, discovering and sharing best practices, and creating a knowledge-rich work environment. They become the organization's agenda for learning and innovation.
Once selected, affirmative topics such as "inspired leadership," "optimal margins," or "culture as competitive advantage" guide the 4-D Cycle of Discovery, Dream, Design and Destiny.
Discovery: The Discovery phase is a diligent and extensive search to understand the "best of what is" and "what has been." It begins with the collaborative act of crafting appreciative interview questions and constructing an appreciative interview guide. Appreciative Inquiry questions are written as affirmative probes into an organization's positive core, in the topic areas selected. They are written to generate stories, to enrich the images and inner dialogue within the organization, and to bring the positive core more fully into focus.
The results of Discovery include:
â€¢ The formation of new relationships and alliances, that bridge across traditional barriers.
â€¢ A rich description or mapping of the organization s positive core.
â€¢ Organization-wide sharing and learning from stories of best practices, golden innovations and exemplary actions.
â€¢ Greatly enhanced organizational knowledge and collective wisdom.
These results, in turn, inspire the emergence of organic, unplanned changes - well before implementation of the more "planful" phases of the 4-D cycle.
Dream: The Dream phase is an energizing exploration of "what might be:" a time for people to explore their hopes and dreams for their work, their working relationships, their organization, and the world at large. It is a time for groups of people to engage in thinking big, thinking out of the box, and thinking out of the boundaries of what has been in the past.
The intent of the Dream phase is to identify and spread generative, affirmative, and hopeful images of the future. Typically this is accomplished in large group forums, where unusual combinations of stakeholders explore:
â€¢ Creative images of the organization s most positive potentials
â€¢ Innovative strategic visions
â€¢ An elevated sense of purpose.
Design: The Design phase involves making choices about "what should be" within an organization or system. It is a conscious re-creation or transformation, through which such things as systems, structures, strategies, processes and images will become more fully aligned with the organization's positive past (Discovery) and highest potential (Dream).
Destiny: The Destiny phase initiates a series of inspired actions that support ongoing learning and innovation - or "what will be." Since the entire 4-D Cycle provides an open forum for employees to contribute and step forward in the service of the organization, change occurs in all phases of an Appreciative Inquiry process. The Destiny phase, however, focuses specifically on personal and organizational commitments and paths forward. The result of destiny is generally an extensive array of changes throughout the organization in areas such as:
â€¢ Management practices
â€¢ HR processes
â€¢ Customer service systems
â€¢ Work processes and structures
In many cases, the 4-D Cycle provides the framework for ongoing activities. Thus, the cycle begins again . . . and again . . . and again.
Why Does Appreciative Inquiry Work?
Appreciative Inquiry works because it treats people like people, and not like machines. People are social. We create our identities and our knowledge in relation to one another. We are curious. We like to tell stories and listen to stories. We pass on our values, beliefs and wisdom in stories. We like to learn and to use what we learn to be our best. And we delight in doing well in the eyes of those we care about and respect. Appreciative Inquiry enables leaders to create natural human organizations - knowledge rich, strength based, adaptable, learning organizations.
Appreciative Inquiry Consulting
AI Consulting, LLC offers a collaborative, strength-based approach to strategic change and transformation. At the heart of our practice is Appreciative Inquiry (AI), an approach that draws on the strengths and values of an organization in order to implement its change agenda and achieve its highest goals. AI Consulting has the greatest concentration of AI expertise and our consultants span the globe. Among them are the thought leaders, authors, and founders of AI. Our whole-systems approach, global reach, and collaborative partnerships are reflected in our success stories.
AI Consulting combines features of a large consulting firm, a knowledge web, an alliance of change agents, and a socially responsible business entity. We are a principle-driven organization, valuing integrity, learning, generosity, and the common good. Our leading-edge design makes us highly flexible and responsive to client needs. We always seek to enhance the core strengths that "give life" to an organization while growing its economic vitality, ecological integrity and organizational health.
Â www.aiconsulting.org/ -
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a process for catalyzing positive change developed at Case Western Reserve University by David Cooperrider, a professor of Organizational Behavior at their Weatherhead School of Management. As a graduate student, Cooperrider noticed that most organizational change was driven by consultants going into an organization and looking for problems and then attempting to fix them. He decided to see what happened if he took the opposite approach.
During his graduate thesis work, Cooperrider went into the Cleveland Clinic and, rather than seek out what needed fixing, he sought out what was working well. He then developed a structured process to concentrate information about these success factors in what is called the "positive core" and to then amplify that positive core throughout the organization. The experiment was a great success and Cooperrider went on to establish the process as Appreciative Inquiry.
Appreciative Inquiry is both a specific methodology and a perspective and has been defined as the study of what gives life to human systems when they are at their best. As such it ties deeply into fields such as Positive Psychology and Flow which, like AI, stand in contrast to our culture's typical "problem-based" or "deficit-based" mindset.
To understand the phrase more deeply, we need simply look at the two words that make it up.
Appreciate has two meanings: to look for the best in something and to increase something in value, such as when a stock or real estate appreciates.
Inquiry means to seek understanding using a process based on provocative questions.
So the idea is that provocative questions are used to draw out powerful success stories and identify the factors that are already working well within a human system. We can then use this understanding to help bring about what people want more of (as opposed to the usual cultural focus on reducing what they want less of).
The specific methodology of Appreciative Inquiry gives us the tools to do this, while involving both left and right brains, and exploring the past, present and future. It consists of five main phases:
Affirmative Topic Choice - An interview is carried out using several provocative questions and, from the clients' responses, several themes are chosen as the focal points for the rest of the inquiry process.
Discovery - Further provocative questions are explored regarding each of the Affirmative Topics and, from the clients' responses, several themes are again chosen. These themes, a virtual DNA sample of the system at its best, reflect its central success factors - its best strengths, talents, assets, values and ideals - and are known as its "positive core".
Dream - Creative processes are used to verbally and/or experientially explore what the future might be like if the positive core were more thoroughly enacted throughout the system and to examine, looking back from that vantage point, what must have happened in order for it to have reached such an optimal state.
Design - The system is organized into an architecture, and preferences chosen for each element of that structure, that will enable further enactment of the positive core and lessons from the Dream phase throughout the system. "Provocative Propositions," in which clients put in writing broad goals or ideas that will help encourage the organization to move in the direction of optimization, may also be developed.
Destiny - Concrete plans are made and supporting resources put in place for enacting the chosen preferences in the service of amplifying the positive core and making the clients' dreams a reality.
Notice how these phases, in many ways, mimic the evolutionary process. That which is working best in a system is selected for and then those successful elements of the system become the raw material for its next stages of development. Thus, I like to consider Apprecative Inquiry a process for facilitating and accelerating evolutionary processes.
Appreciative Inquiry has now been used to aid optimization in many large companies such as British Airways and Verizon, in schools such as at UC Berkeley, and even in whole cities such as in the Imagine Chicago project. It has also been adapted for use with families, individuals, and in many other settings. In developing my company, Emergent Associates, we synthesized a number of other tools and methods within a framework deeply based in Appreciative Inquiry to create our unique coaching and consulting process.
Though a simple and enjoyable process for clients to experience, Appreciative Inquiry ties into fields as diverse as evolution, chaos theory, Systems Thinking, and other systems sciences. A quote from 3&creativeASIN=1576752267&creative=373489&camp=211189"The Power of Appreciative Inquiry: A Practical Guide to Positive Change sums up the mindset of this field well. "We are not saying to deny or ignore problems. What we are saying is that if you want to transform a situation, a relationship, an organization, or community, focusing on strengths is much more effective than focusing on problems."
The underlying belief of today's paradigm is that there is one best way to do things; one perfect way for an organization to be formed; one preferred way for employees to perform; one acceptable way for people to behave. We have been trained and educated from an early age to look for things in our human organizations that are not the best, perfect or preferred so that we can to fix them. We are a world of problem solvers.
Our basic assumption of problem solving seems to be that "organizations are problems to be solved." The process traditionally involves: (1) identifying the key problems; (2) analyzing the causes; (3) locating logical solutions; and, (4) developing an action plan. The result, change happens through a linear process that assumes we can "repair" human beings and organizations much as we might repair our car or computer. If we fix the problems, the organization will succeed.
While this problem solving mentality has dominated business for years and led to some success, we are starting to see the limitations of this approach. The problem-solving approach directs attention to the "worst of what is," constantly examining what is wrong with the organization. This continuous focus can have some very limiting and unintended consequences:
We assume that because we know the problem, we must know the solution. No innovation.
The organization creates no visions/images of the future.
Breakthrough changes happens slowly, if at all, because we put attention on yesterday's causes.
Visionless voice leading to organizational fatigue. "Not another problem to deal with!"
Weakened fabric of relationships, defensiveness &blameâ€¦the creation of a negative culture.
However, recent advances in the sciences and other related fields of study are causing a shift in how we understand the world. This new research and experience is leading us to an entirely new way of thinking about our organizations and how we improve them. There is a BETTER way!
A Positive Change Model
The fact is that our organizations are not predictable machines, but rather human constructions that are molded and changed by the images that human beings have of them. If we think that our organization is dysfunctional, unhealthy, and a bad place to work, most of what we see will be the behaviors, attitudes, and values that prove us right. If, on the other hand, we look for those things in our organizations that are healthy, creative, and supportive, we will begin to see an entirely different organization. We actually have a choice on what we focus on and Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a method that can help us see the true potential or our organization. In contrast to the problem solving approach, the underlying assumption of Appreciative Inquiry is that "organizations are solutions to be embraced."
To appreciate means to value - to understand those things that are worth valuing. To inquire means to study, to ask questions, to search. AI is, therefore, a capacity building approach that selectively seeks to locate, highlight, and illuminate the life-giving forces within an organization or community. AI seeks out the best of "what is" to help ignite the collective imagination of "what might be".Â The aim is to generate new knowledge that expands the "realm of the possible" and helps people envision a collectively desired future and to carry forth that vision in ways which successfully translates images of possibility into reality, and belief into practice. AI is not a methodology. It is a philosophy, an orientation to change, and a way of seeing and being in the world!Â
AI 4-D Model
Tirawa Consulting uses a change process, called the 4-D Model (see below), that: (1) Discovers what gives life to an organization; what is happening when the organization is at its best; (2) Dreams about what might be; what the world is calling the organization to be; (3) Designs ways to create the ideal as articulated by the whole organization; and, (4) Delivers through an on-going and iterative processes. This is not a static solution but rather a dynamic process of continuous change.
The 4-D Model has been used successfully in multiple cultures, in all sizes of organizations, working in every sector of relief and development, at every level of the organization. The 4-D Model has also produced tremendous results in the governmental and business sectors as well.Â
Tirawa Consulting can help integrate AI into your strategic change agenda and work with you to design a solution that will involve your people, identify your strengths, and chart a course for unbelievable transformation! Here are just a few examples of how AI can be used to drive your organization to higher levels of performance:
Team building &development
Feedback &performance management
Partnership creation / relationship building
Many other applications