Purpose: Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a method, a theory of action, a dialogue process, and a whole of system concept that brings together members of an organisation to clarify, develop and integrate their visions about their joint endeavours. The aim is to build on something in the organisation that works well and that can move the organisation to a higher level of goal attainment to strengthen the future of the organisation.
Description: A central concept in Appreciative Inquiry is the 4-D cycle: Discovery, Dream, Design, and Destiny.
Discovery emphasises defining one or more topics and valuing, using positive language, ‘what is’ working (eg., when the organisation has been at its best and most effective).
Dream involves creatively drawing out ‘what might be’ (better or good), to envisage the organisation’s strategic future as referenced through past successes.
Design focuses on dialogue and developing propositions on ‘what should be’, as based on what has been discovered and dreamt of in the two earlier phases.
Destiny is the accumulation of the other three phases, developing a commitment to a collective ‘what will be’ and creating a set of shared values through which innovation, learning and change can be supported.
This is all appreciative, generating a positive understanding in participants of what the future will look like and so feeding back on empowering present behaviour towards the achieving that future. It reverses the common approach of defining a problem and looking for a best-fit solution, which generally frames an organisation as being deficient in some way and in need of being fixed.
In this sense, Appreciative Inquiry is as much an attitude and a philosophy as it is a method – it aims to invigorate change by drawing out the best of an organisation and its people and impelling an organisation to move in the direction of the shared values its members have crafted.
Source: David L. Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva coined the term Appreciative Inquiry in the early 1980s. Cooperrider went on to write a dissertation on Appreciative Inquiry and the ideas and methods developed proved popular. Appreciative inquiry is still developing and has being applied in a wide variety of cases under the leadership of Cooperrider and others.
Reference: Cooperrider, D. L., Whitney, D. and Stavros, J. M. (2008). The Appreciative Inquiry Handbook: For Leaders of Change. 2nd edn. Berrett-Koehle: San Francisco, United States of America.
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Posted: December 2018
Last modified: April 2020