Appreciative Inquiry

What is Appreciative Inquiry?

From Sage Publications Encyclopedia of Management Theory...

The theory’s central management insight is that teams, organizations and society evolve in whatever direction we collectively, passionately and persistently ask questions about.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a method for studying and changing social systems (groups, organizations, communities) that advocates collective inquiry into the best of what is in order to imagine what could be, followed by collective design of a desired future state that is compelling and thus, does not require the use of incentives, coercion or persuasion for planned change to occur. Developed and extended since the mid 1980s primarily by students and faculty of the Department of Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve University, AI revolutionized the field of organization development and was a precursor to the rise of positive organization studies and the strengths based movement in American management. The following entry describes the principles of AI, the most common methods, and the impact of AI.

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Appreciative Inquiry has been effectively applied in the following ways:

  • Bottom up strategy and visioning
  • Increasing operational effectiveness
  • Designing new work processes and new organizational forms
  • Creating collaboration and trust between people and groups who didn't trust each other
  • Generating creative and innovative approaches to opportunities
  • Creating a positive work climate where a negative one previously prevailed
  • Discovering, understanding and amplifying the strenghts and abilities already existing in organizations
  • Accelerating the development of new teams and an alternative to conventional team building processes for existing teams
  • Various kinds of community development

Check out the July 2001 issue of Fast Company Magazine and their article on the positive, bottom-line impact AI has had at Roadway Express. Read the article here.

As a result of its AI Summit, John Deere reduced a product development cycle from five years to three years.

In less than six months, Dex, a billion dollar, for-profit subsidiary of the Fortune 100 company US West, achieved a huge return on investment of $15.62 for every dollar invested. The Dex office that pioneered AI also improved product quality by 51%, cycle times by over 400%, and employee morale by 245%. During this same period, this U.S. office moved up to number one in employee satisfaction among all 46 offices. Additionally, operating costs declined and customer satisfaction increased.

At Nutrimental Foods, the factory closed its doors for four days and brought together all 750 employees, the company's leadership, and 100 customers to create a new business model. A year later, profits were up over 200 percent and absenteeism dropped 300 percent. AI is now this company's annual way of planning.

If you want to read more about Appreciative Inquiry....

What is Appreciative Leadership

Appreciative Inquiry is an action research process that studies something from the positive side to create a new kind of conversation among people as they work together to improve a group or organization. It is a long term effort that requires sponsorship from leaders in the organization or community.

Appreciative Leadership and Appreciative Change Processes, on the other hand, are techniques that anyone in any position can use at any time to get more of whatever they want to see more of. To use appreciative change process first you have to be clear on what you want more of (not what you want to "fix"). This could be something you want to see more of in a person (e.g., courage, listening, assertiveness, support, etc.) in a group (e.g., decision making, conflict management, teamwork, etc.) or an organization (e.g., innovation, customer orientation, operational excellence, etc.). Second, you have to assume that whatever you want more of already exists, even if just in small ways. You then go searching for instances of where that shows up and work to amplify it so that you get more of it.

Appreciative change process is a potent methodology that works by building on the strengths and wisdom that already exist in a person or system. Appreciative Leadership and change processes was first described in a 1991 OD Practitioner in article by Tom Pitman and myself.

To read more about appreciative leadership and change....

Appreciative Leadership and Change

My Consulting and Training in Appreciative Inquiry

I utilize different parts of Appreciative Inquiry in different parts of my consulting practice. I consult to executives and to change teams driving positive change in organizations.

I have been giving courses on Appreciative Inquiry since 1991 and taught AI in Canada, the US, Europe, Australia and Africa in various formats:

- 60 - 90 minute talks on Appreciative Process, suitable for all audiences

- one day introductions to AI suitable for managers and executives

- half day course on using AI for team-building, suitable for managers and consultants

- two day courses on AI suitable for HR professionals and consultants interested in using AI

- two day courses for managers

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My Appreciative Inquiry courses are always organized by other individuals or organizations. Contact me to find out where the next course is being held.

If you are interested in my services, please contact me by email: or 1-604 986-1819.