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Appreciative Inquiry Summary

Understanding and Using Appreciative Inquiry

David Wells

on 30 January 2014

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Transcript of Appreciative Inquiry Summary

Recognizing Strength
The world we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of consciousness at which we created them.
We must learn to see the world anew.
-Albert Einstein
Words create the worlds in which we operate

our questions direct our discoveries
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of incredulity...it was the spring of hope.
Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains
The life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
- Western business tradition that stresses:
testing one viewpoint against another
- Most people are trained to manage like this
can we change?
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.
5 Principles of AI:
Poetic or Open Book
Pygmalion Effect
Change a teacher’s image of a
student, and their behavior changes toward the student, improving student performance
Placebo Effect
Vivid visualization of one’s performance
guides physical performance.

Internal Conversations
Studies of pre and post operative
patients. Difference in recovery
between positive and negative

the appreciative inquiry model
1. In every human system, something works.
2. What we focus on, and the language we use, becomes our reality.
3. The act of asking questions influences the group in some way.
4. People have more confidence & comfort to move to an unknown future when they carry forward parts of the past.
5. What we carry forward should be what is best about the past.
and the genius of positive change
Business Counsel for Sustainable Development
Areas for Application
Appreciative Inquiry Pushes the Right Buttons
So when we tell change leaders in organisations that the traditional leader-led, top-down initiated-and-deployed plans for change have a low probability of sustained success, we now can tell them scientifically why. Those plans pose the threat of uncertainty and the promise of little or no reward to most people in the organisation. The prefrontal cortex of every individual knows just what to do. However, include me in your deliberation and planning, acknowledge me with a warm smile and ask my opinion about things I feel proud about, and my prefrontal cortex will open totally different neural pathways. This will trigger positive responses that encourage creative thought, communication and action.I will enjoy this and the reward I will get is a chemical release that makes me feel good. I will seek to repeat this interaction with you. I trust and support you, dear leader. If we listen to each other we will go far together and so will this organisation that we have constructed together. We will grow and prosper if we all nurture our organisation towards a common vision that we all have created.
-charles dickens
Two worlds
Charles Dickens
Jean-Jacques Rousseau's 1762 treatise, The Social Contract
Hobbes in Leviathan
Could leading change be all about strengths?
Questions to ask:
Why would strength connected to strength...create change?
We know strengths perform, but how do they help us transform?
How does focusing on strengths improve our theories of change?
AI argues that it is worth paying attention to how we ask questions because:
the asking of questions already begins to transform and change the capacity of the human system we seek to understand.
It does not focus on changing people, which leads to relief that the message is not about what they have 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.
Why It Works
What have been your best experiences at work? A time when…
What do you value about… yourself, work, organization?
What do you think is the core life-giving factor or value of your organization –which it wouldn't be the same without?
If you had three wishes for your organization, what would they be?
What achievements are you (and/or your team) proud of?
Apart from the money, what makes it worth coming into work?
Six Generic Example Questions
Constructionist principle
- words create worlds and become our focus or reality, human knowledge and organizational destiny are interwoven. Organizations must be understood as human constructs.
Poetic Principle
- Organizations are like poetry or open books, we have find what we want and what we focus on expands. It is constantly being co-authored.
Anticipatory Principle
- Since we create mental pictures in our mind, changing what the image of the future is for the organization, draws the org towards those positive images.
Positive Principle
- momentum for change requires large amounts of positive affect and social bonding and is energizing for the org. The more positive the question, the greater and longer-lasting the change.
Simultaneity Principle
- Change begins the moment we ask a question. Questions determine direction of change.
Five Principles
Something inspirational
Choose the topic: combine themes from generic interviews with research questions.

Agree on desired outcomes & Critical Success Factors (CSF)

Agree on how to get there

Develop draft interview protocol

Practice interviews; develop interview guidelines

Plan for collecting & “analyzing” the data

Plan for how the process will drive change.
Typical Project Start-up
Leadership & Management Development

Work Process Redesign

Team Development

Organization Culture Change

Employee Development

HR Practices: Staffing, Orientation, Performance Management


Collaborative alliances & joint ventures

Community & customer relations

Diversity initiatives

Strategic Planning

Focus Groups


Evaluation to Valuation
A high-participation, full-voice process targeted at organizational innovation

A learning process to identify and disseminate best practices

A way of managing and working that fosters positive communication and can result in the formation of deep and meaningful relationships

Can be used to radically redesign the governance structures and processes of an organization.

Mobilizes strategic change by focusing on the core strengths of an organization, then using those strengths to reshape the future. 
Acts on the premise that asking the positive questions is as important as the data it elicits. So the more people interviewed, the stronger the organization’s movement in the direction of the inquiry Vs. statistical sampling.

Assumes people possess high levels of competence; encourages them to discover what works in their own and other organizations.

By applying what they learn from the inquiry, people begin to redesign the organization’s social architecture – its systems, structures, roles and measures – in ways that better align it with their preferred future and needs.
Summary (Cont)
Opening Interview
Foundational questions:
What would you describe as being a peak experience or high point in your life - personal or professional?
What do you value most about yourself? Your work? Your organization?
What is the core factor that gives life to your organization?
Describe your vision of the future for the organization and your world.

Divide into pairs; take 15 minutes per person.
Return to group and process how it went (e.g., sharing descriptive adjectives).
“The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths,making our weaknesses irrelevant”.
– Peter Drucker
Full transcript