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Appreciative Inquiry. A Revolution in Change. * View Notes for speaking note suggestions Contact Debbie Morris at New Challenges Require New Thinking First.

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appreciative inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry

A Revolution in Change

* View Notes for speaking note suggestions

Contact Debbie Morris at

new challenges require new thinking first
New Challenges Require New Thinking First

“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 thinking at which we created them” – Albert Einstein

darwin s unfortunate legacy
The world is hostile, requiring a constant struggle for survival

Error leads to death

Life is an accident, one of many random events

Must dominate, control

Things exist outside me in a fixed, independent state

The great machine

Darwin’s Unfortunate Legacy
  • A western educational & business tradition that stresses:

- critical thinking - critiquing

- adversarial thinking - confrontation

- testing one viewpoint against the other to find the strongest

  • We focus almost exclusively on advocacy

- presenting our views and arguing strongly for them

- debating forcefully to influence others

  • Most managers are trained to be advocates
maybe darwin was wrong
Maybe Darwin Was Wrong
  • Life is about invention, not survival
  • We’re here to create, not defend
  • Everything is in a constant process of discovery & creating
  • Life organizes and seeks systems so that more may flourish
  • Life is a great playground we make up as we go
  • A complementary skill to advocacy that:
    • seeks to uncover information about why a particular view is held
    • asks questions about underlying assumptions, beliefs, reasoning
    • explores:
        • - why do you believe this ?
        • - what logic leads to this conclusion ?
        • - what facts and data do you have ?
        • - what examples or past experience exists ?
  • Supported by attitude of wanting to understand, explore, learn, expand
  • Not a technique to cross examine people or find fault
appreciative inquiry1
Appreciative Inquiry
  • Appreciate
    • Recognize the quality, significance or magnitude of
    • To be fully aware of or sensitive to
    • To raise in value or price
  • Inquiry
    • The process of gathering information for the purpose of learning and changing.
    • A close examination in a quest for truth.
how it works generally
How It Works… Generally
  • First, understand the positive core of a living system. What makes it most effective and vital, in economic, ecological and human terms?
    • We move in the direction of our deepest and most frequently asked questions.
  • Positive guiding images of the future trigger action in the present.
    • Images are found in our dialogue with each other.
    • Ratio of positive to negative statements is a success factor for change.
    • Individuals & groups can then weave the best of what is into formal and informal practices.
  • This new approach to change, based on the power of the positive question, has emerged from revolutions in many fields

Our image of the

future drives our


  • When organizations or groups capture positive imagery internally and make it visible, it starts to drive change in an individualistic, self-directed way. It creates a sense of focus.

Internal Conversations

Studies of pre and post operative

patients. Difference in recovery

between positive and negative


Pygmalion Effect

Change a teacher’s image of a

student, and their behavior changes

toward the student, improving

student performance


Vivid visualization of one’s performance guides physical performance. Speed of learning when only correct images are reviewed.

Placebo Effect

Help someone construct an

image of how something might

happen, and it drives behavior

which creates a change

in that direction


The study of problems creates an increase in number & severity of problems. But opposite also occurs.

the idea of positive change
The Idea of Positive Change
  • Definition: Any form of organization change, re-design, or planning that begins with comprehensive analysis of an organization’s “positive core” and then links this knowledge to the heart of any strategic change agenda.
  • Because human systems move toward what they persistently ask questions about, positive change involves the deliberate discovery of everything that gives a system “life” when it is most effective in economic and human terms.
  • Link the positive core directly to any strategic agenda, and changes never thought possible are more rapidly mobilized while simultaneously building enthusiasm, corporate confidence, and human energy.
comparison to problem focus
What to fix

Underlying grammar = problem, symptoms, causes, solutions, action plan, intervention

Breaks things into pieces & specialties, guaranteeing fragmented responses

Slow! Takes a lot of positive emotion to make real change.

Assumes organizations are constellations of problems to be overcome

What to grow

New grammar of the true, good, better, possible

“Problem focus” implies that there is an ideal. AI breaks open the box of what the ideal is first.

Expands vision of preferred future. Creates new energy fast.

Assumes organizations are sources of infinite capacity and imagination

Comparison to Problem Focus

Problem Solving

Appreciative Inquiry

study of turnover magnetic connectivity
Study of Turnover  “Magnetic Connectivity”
  • In the physical world, all matter is held together by the pull between opposite electric charges. Successful e-companies are highly nimble, flexible communities. People connect in new and innovative ways. Suppliers and customers are pulled together and become seamless edge-to-edge organizations. Communities of interest form and are pulled together by shared values and interests. Knowledge networks form as catalysts for innovation and creativity. People, process, and technology experts are attracted and deliver high value solutions to their client needs.
  • A. Think of a time when you felt “magnetically” connected to your client, your colleagues, and your community. . . connected in a way that the force was so strong that it could not be broken. What was that experience? What did it feel like?
  • B. As you look into the future, describe how you see us connected to our customers and our colleagues - in ways that are so strong that we are seen as inseparable business partners.
analysis of grievance reduction enthusiastic engagement positive energy
Analysis of Grievance Reduction  “Enthusiastic Engagement & Positive Energy”

Organizations work best when they are vibrant, alive and fun. You know, when the "joint is jumping!" You can sense that the spirit of the organization is vital and healthy and that people feel pride in their work. Everyone builds on each other's successes, a positive can do attitude is infectious and the glow of success is shared. What's more, this positive energy is appreciated and celebrated so it deepens and lasts.

1. Tell me about a time when you experienced positive energy that was infectious. What was the situation? What created the positive energy? How did it feel to be a part of it? What did you learn?

2. If positive energy were the flame of the organization, how would you spark it? How would you fuel it to keep it burning bright?

the ai change process
The AI Change Process


Decide What to Learn About


Opportunity Context

Positive Core


Envisioning what might be; shared images for a preferred future


Sustaining the Change


(What you Want More of)


Finding innovative ways to create that future; Breakthrough propositions

4 generic questions to start
4 Generic Questions to Start
  • Best experience. 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 –that which if it did not exist would make your organization totally different than it currently is?
  • If you had three wishes for this organization, what would it be?
typical project start up
Typical Project Start-up
  • Choose the topic: combine themes from generic interviews with research questions.
  • Agree on desired outcomes & 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.
application areas
Application Areas
  • Leadership & Management Development
  • Work Process Redesign
  • Team Development
  • Organization Culture Change
  • Employee Development
  • HR Practices: Staffing, Orientation, Performance Management
  • Communications
  • Collaborative alliances & joint ventures
  • Community & customer relations
  • Diversity initiatives
  • Strategic Planning
  • Focus Groups
  • Benchmarking
  • Surveys
  • Evaluation to Valuation
why it works 1
Why It Works (1)
  • Doesn’t focus on changing people  Relief that the message isn’t about what they’ve done wrong or have to stop doing.
  • Invites people to engage in building the kinds of organizations and communities that they want to live in.
  • Helps everyone see the need for change, explore new possibilities, and contribute to solutions.
  • Through alignment of formal and informal structures with purpose and principles, it translates shared vision into reality and belief into practice.
why it works 2
Why it works (2)
  • Assumptions  conversation  dominant images  individual acts at both conscious and unconscious levels  organizational infrastructure.
  • Organizations manifest human imagination. Learnings that surface through AI shift collective image.
  • Process responds to three truths about human nature:
    • Exceptionality: We’re all exceptions. We respond best when this is noticed & conditions for exceptional performance are enhanced.
    • Essentiality: We each need to be seen as essential to the group. If we “lift up” meaningful contributions, it creates a compelling guiding image for others
    • Equality: Creates a way for the organization to be in “full voice” about the true, good, better, possible.
why now
Why Now?
  • The size, scope & transnational nature of the modern corporation have given it a unique and growing role in daily life.
  • We’re witnessing the birth of the global community & a greater sense of universal responsibility.
  • Positive things do not come by nature. For positive things to occur, we have to make an effort.
  • There is a tremendous urge to experience wholeness. The experience of wholeness brings out the best in people and systems.
  • 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. 
references used
References Used
  • “What is Appreciative Inquiry” by Joe Hall & Sue Hammond,
  • Appreciative Inquiry: Change at the Speed of Imagination, by Jane Magruder Watkins and Berhard J. Mohr.
  • Appreciative Inquiry: A Constructive Approach to Organization Development and Social Change, 2001 Cape Cod Institute Workshop by David Cooperrider and Marge Schiller
  • Appreciative Inquiry: Igniting Transformative Action,” by Bernard Mohr. From The Systems Thinker, Volume 12, #1, 2001, at
  • Other Resources:
    • AI Listserve at
    • AI Commons website at
    • AI Consulting Organization is just getting started: a global network of AI practitioners at
5 principles
5 Principles
  • Constructionist: We live in worlds our questions create. Knowledge and org destiny are interwoven. We see the world we describe.
  • Simultaneity: Change begins at the moment you ask the first question.
  • Open Book: We can read almost anything into any organization.
  • Anticipatory: Deep change occurs first in our images of the future
  • Positive: The more positive the question, the greater and longer-lasting the change.
assumptions underneath
Assumptions Underneath
  • 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 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.
appreciative leadership
Appreciative Leadership
  • New definition of leadership includes:
    • the ability to see the best,
    • lift it up,
    • create an alignment of strengths,
    • see opportunities in the environment more rapidly than others.
thomas white president gte
Thomas White, President GTE
  • “After you reengineer the organization, how do you reengineer the psychology that makes it work?
  • “ AI can get you much better results than seeking out and solving problems. That’s an interesting concept for me … because telephone companies are among the best problem-solvers in the world. We trouble-shoot everything. We concentrate enormous resources on correcting problems that have relatively minor impact on our overall service performance. We don’t tolerate imperfection. This has led to some excellent results. But when used continually and over a long period of time, this approach can lead to a negative culture. If you combine a negative culture with all the challenges we face today, it could be easy to convince ourselves that we have too many problems to overcome – to slip into a paralyzing sense of hopelessness. … If we dissect what we do right and apply the lessons to what we do wrong, we can solve our problems and re-energize the organization at the same time.
  • When you get survey results that tell you that 94 percent of your customers are satisfied, what do you do? Do you conduct additional research to find out what makes those 94 out of 100 people so happy – or do you send your entire research department out to gather as many negative stories as you can from the miserable 6 percent?
  • In the long run, what is likely to be more useful: Demoralizing a successful workforce by concentrating on their failures or helping them over their last few hurdles by building a bridge with their successes?
dealing with the negative
Dealing with the Negative
  • It is how experiences are reflected upon, talked about, defined, and the reality we co-create that ultimately makes it positive or negative.
  • “[We] must never be intimidated by experts; experts deal only in facts, but important decisions are matters of philosophy and valuing, not fact.”
  • AI is a way of reclaiming our imaginative competence.