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What is Appreciative Inquiry?. Theory and practice of organisational change and development That grew out of a dissatisfaction with Action Research That recognizes and foregrounds human systems of belief, meaning and action in organisations That treats organisations as living human systems

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What is appreciative inquiry
What is Appreciative Inquiry?

  • Theory and practice of organisational change and development

  • That grew out of a dissatisfaction with Action Research

  • That recognizes and foregrounds human systems of belief, meaning and action in organisations

  • That treats organisations as living human systems

  • And has been developed by David Cooperrider, Suresh Srivastva and others from Case Western University

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The appreciative inquiry challenge
The Appreciative Inquiry Challenge

  • How to work effectively with organisations when we recognize them as living human systems: emotion, language, beliefs, values

  • How to practice if theory and practice are co-existent and simultaneous

  • How to work with the symbolic nature of the human universe

  • How to work with an awareness of the systemic relationship between client and consultant

  • How to be life enhancing in our interventions, how to move away from deficit centered language and thinking

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How is it different to other methodologies

How is it different to other methodologies?

Problem solving

Science based research methodologies

Planned change methodologies

Appreciative inquiry problem solving

Problem solving

Identification of problem

Analysis of causes

Analysis of possible solutions

Action planning (treatment)

Basic assumption: organisation is a problem to be solved

Appreciative inquiry

Discovering the best of what is

Envisioning what could be

Designing what should be

Innovating what will be

Basic assumption: organisation is a mystery to be embraced.

Appreciative Inquiry & Problem Solving

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Hammond 1996

Appreciative inquiry scientific method

Scientific Method

Objectivist: There is an objective universe more or less separate from and independent of the observer

Positivist: Privileges the physically observable

Reductionist: Reduce higher order phenomena to elements (the parts)

Fixed accounts

Appreciative inquiry

Constructionist: The universe is socially constructed. We can never see the world ‘as it really is’

Holistic: Rejects dualistic understandings, gives credence to mental causality, social dynamics

Connective: Interested in the connections between elements and complex patterns (the sum)

Generative accounts

Appreciative Inquiry &Scientific Method

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How is it different to other change methodologies

How is it different to other change methodologies?

Creative rather than curative

Dynamic rather than procedural

Language as a living process rather than as a tool

Embraces rather than pathologies humanness

Focus on possibility rather than certainty

Many ways rather than one right way

Different understanding of relation language and change


Linear Causality


Static meaning


Fixed time

Objective universe

Scientific method based interventions


Circular Causality


Dynamic meaning


Possibility time

Socially constructed multiverse

Appreciative Inquiry Interventions

Different understanding of relation language and change

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How does appreciative inquiry make a difference
How does appreciative inquiry make a difference?

  • Through appreciating organisations as living systems

  • Through attending to the creative process as opposed to the curative

  • Through recognizing mental processes as causal

  • Though recognizing organisation as a miracle of cooperative human interaction

  • Through language

  • Through social innovation

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Appreciative inquiry and change
Appreciative inquiry and change

‘The key to creating change in the organisation is creating new theories /ideas/images that enter the everyday language of system members’

(Bushe 2001)

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Assumptions of appreciative inquiry
Assumptions of appreciative inquiry

  • In every society, organisation or group, something works

  • Every living system has untapped and rich inspiring accounts of the positive

  • The act of asking a question influences in some way

  • What we focus on becomes our reality

  • The language we use creates our reality

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Assumptions of appreciative inquiry1
Assumptions of appreciative inquiry

  • People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future when they carry forward parts of the past

  • If we carry parts of the past forward, they should be what is best about the past

  • It is important to value difference

  • The way we know people, groups and organisations is fateful

    (Hammond 1996)

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Appreciative inquiry principles
Appreciative inquiry: principles

  • The constructionist principle

  • The simultaneity principle

  • The poetic principle

  • The anticipatory principle

  • The positive principle

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The four d model
The four D model

  • Affirmative topics, always homegrown, can be on anything the people in the organisation feel gives life to the system’

  • Discovery: Discover and disclose positive capacity

  • Dreaming: A sense of how things could be

  • Design: Creation of the ideal organisation

  • Destiny: An inspired movement

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Appreciative inquiry
Appreciative Inquiry

Discover and Value

‘the best of what is’

Affirmative Topic Choice


‘What might be’


‘What will be’

Design through Dialogue

‘What should be’

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The constructionist principle
The Constructionist principle

  • Reality is socially constructed

  • We create our realities in relationship and communication

  • We see what we talk about/we hear what we listen out for

  • Its a multi-verse not a universe

  • Meaning is context bound

  • We seek always to make sense and to go on

  • Organisations are networks of conversation

  • The future is socially constructed

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Social constructionist based methodologies
Social Constructionist based methodologies

  • Working with metaphors

  • Strange loops of belief and paradoxical accounts

  • Coordinated management of meaning

  • Domains of conversation

  • Stories

  • Lego Serious Play

  • Appreciative Inquiry

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Simultaneity principle
Simultaneity principle

  • To ask a question is to intervene

  • Client and consultant, manager and team, organisation and environment are all in systemic relationship - each influencing the other

  • It is not possible in human terms to stand outside the system

  • The questions we ask are fateful and impactful

  • There is a moral element to our choice of inquiry

  • Practice can not be divorced from theory, diagnosis can not be divorced from intervention

    There is no before

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Appreciative inquiry affirmative topic choice
Appreciative inquiry: affirmative topic choice

  • Talk as a medium to achieve change

  • The placing of attention

  • The ‘sense’ created by talk

  • The ‘research question’ is the intervention and is fateful and impactful

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  • Identifying the best of what is, what works

  • Creating and amplifying accounts of the good, of peak experiences

  • Affirming good things (by paying attention, appreciating)

  • Creating data

  • Creating a launch pad for the future

  • Creating strategic possibilities

  • Generating hope and other good emotions

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The anticipatory principle
The anticipatory principle

  • Human systems are essentially heliotropic

  • They grow towards positive anticipatory futures

  • These futures are socially constructed

  • All behaviour in the present points towards the future

  • When a future is sufficiently meaningful and attractive, behaviour will become oriented towards achieving that future

  • The greater the self organisation, the greater the energy that goes into growth and the less that goes into creating order

    The power of the positive image

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The poetic principle

The poetic principle

An organisation is more like a text than a machine

An organisation has many authors

The many authors create, co-create, and recreate the organisation

Changing different authors’ stories will change the organisation

Stories don’t reflect what is happening they are what is happening

The future is co-created by many authors


  • Imagining possible futures, in detail (positive anticipatory images)

  • Using discovery launch pad

  • Creative not deductive

  • Creating possibility, creating data, creating change

  • Shared positive experience

  • Exploring strategic possibilities

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  • Linking future and present

  • Creating paths or accounts of connection

  • What are we doing now that points towards that future?

  • If we were like that, how would we be organized?

  • What can we do now, what can I do now?

  • Generating strategic intent

  • Positive energy for change: excitement, hope, affirmation

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Positive principle
Positive principle

  • Change takes energy

  • Positive energy is a powerful source for change

  • Positive energy can be created by re-experiencing positive experiences and

  • By experiencing positive images of the future

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  • Releasing, channeling, facilitating energy into forward actions

  • Appreciating social nature of change, working with energy and flow - creative messiness

  • Achieving coherence and co-ordination (not control and constriction)

  • Appropriate processes of coherence (story, story board, action plan, provocative propositions)

  • Appropriate processes of co-ordination (communication, relationship, working parties, meetings)

  • Living strategy

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Research into ai what matters most
Research into AI: What matters most?

  • The power of positive questions

  • The appreciative inquiry interview

  • Story telling

  • Future vision/ provocative propositions

  • Positive image

  • Collaboration/co-constructing/common ground

  • Anticipatory principle

  • Continuity

  • Replacing deficit discourse

  • (Yaeger and Sorensen 2001)

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Benedictine university
Benedictine University

  • Traditional academic culture

  • Ill equipped to respond to demands for change

  • Strategic planning - culture change

  • Decision to use Faculty meeting/ AI

    All 86 staff new and returning

    High level of participation

    Pursuit of an ideal

    Grounded in research

  • Mutual interviewing

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Benedictine university1
Benedictine University

  • Recorded

  • Shaped in core values

  • Learning

    Speed at which able to capture data from all faculty

    Focus on positive & possible produced upbeat tone

    Cynicism set aside, transcending problems, celebrating strengths

  • Process on going

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Quantitative research
Quantitative research

  • Fortune 500, 94 fast food restaurants, one area

  • Problem retention salaried restaurant staff

  • 3 groups AI, normal problem solving, nothing

  • One year collecting base line data - turnover

  • 18 months intervention.

    One AI meeting a month each restaurant

    Three meeting each general manager

    One ‘roundtable’ wash-up

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  • AI group 30% higher retention than ‘normal’ group

  • AI group 32% higher retention than ‘nothing’ group

  • Al group less inclined to leave

  • $103,320 savings in hard training dollars

  • Confounding factor - leadership

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Role of consultant
Role of consultant

  • Creative not curative

  • Focusing on what works, seeking the best

  • Working with stories, language, words, emotions, images

  • Affecting relationship and belief systems of meaning and action

  • Generous, curious, appreciative, systemic: helping create useful accounts in the present about the past to enhance the future

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Implications for managers and leaders
Implications for managers and leaders

  • What you look for is what you will find

  • What you talk about is what you will create

  • More than one account can exist, none is the truth, all may be true

  • Conversation/communication contains moral order

  • Affect action through communication

  • Pull is more powerful than push

  • Emotion, belief and values are the bedrock of motivation

  • ‘ I want’ (desire) is more generative than ‘I must’ (compulsion)

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Appreciative process
Appreciative Process

  • Discovering the best of

  • Understanding what creates the best of

  • Amplifying the people and processes who best exemplify the best of

  • Giving attention to what is working well

  • Watching for what you want to see

  • Amplifying it when you see it

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Ai processes amplification
AI processes: Amplification

Amplifying the data

  • Quality of stories told (new telling, new insight)

  • Recording of stories told - rich in detail, own voice

  • Sharing of stories told

    Thematic feedback documents


    Amplifying the findings/outcomes proposals

  • Surveys

  • Feedback on surveys

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Creating change
Creating Change

  • Creating, playing with, connecting accounts

  • Playing with voices

  • Playing with positions

  • Explorations of meaning and purpose

  • Separation of domains of conversation

  • Exploration of systemic connections

  • Articulating context

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What is appreciative inquiry

Thank you

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