Appreciative Inquiry (AI)

Appreciative Inquiry attracts my attention recently, after attending an introduction session by Ms. Dorothy Tsui of the HK Center for Positive Change.

According to wikipedia, Appreciative inquiry (AI) is a model that seeks to engage stakeholders in self-determined change. It was developed at Case Western Reserve University's department of organizational behavior, starting with a 1987 article by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva.  The model is based on the assumption that the questions we ask will tend to focus our attention in a particular direction.  The 5 principles of AI are:

  1. The constructionist principle proposes that what we believe to be true determines what we do, and thought and action emerge from relationships. Through the language and discourse of day to day interactions, people co-construct the organizations they inhabit. The purpose of inquiry is to stimulate new ideas, stories and images that generate new possibilities for action.
  2. The principle of simultaneity proposes that as we inquire into human systems we change them and the seeds of change, the things people think and talk about, what they discover and learn, are implicit in the very first questions asked. Questions are never neutral, they are fateful, and social systems move in the direction of the questions they most persistently and passionately discuss.
  3. The poetic principle proposes that organizational life is expressed in the stories people tell each other every day, and the story of the organization is constantly being co-authored. The words and topics chosen for inquiry have an impact far beyond just the words themselves. They invoke sentiments, understandings, and worlds of meaning. In all phases of the inquiry effort is put into using words that point to, enliven and inspire the best in people.
  4. The anticipatory principle posits that what we do today is guided by our image of the future. Human systems are forever projecting ahead of themselves a horizon of expectation that brings the future powerfully into the present as a mobilizing agent. Appreciative inquiry uses artful creation of positive imagery on a collective basis to refashion anticipatory reality.
  5. The positive principle proposes that momentum and sustainable change requires positive affect and social bonding. Sentiments like hope, excitement, inspiration, camaraderie and joy increase creativity, openness to new ideas and people, and cognitive flexibility. They also promote the strong connections and relationships between people, particularly between groups in conflict, required for collective inquiry and change.

Strength-based methods are used in the creation of organizational development strategy and implementation of organizational effectiveness tactics.  Theappreciative mode of inquiry often relies on interviews to qualitatively understand the organization's potential strengths by looking at an organization's experience and its potential; the objective is to elucidate the assets and personal motivations that are its strengths.

According to the website of the Corporation for Positive Change, following is their explanation (reposted with permission):

Appreciative Inquiry is a philosophy and a methodology for positive change. It is founded on the simple assumption that human systems – teams, organizations and people – move in the direction of what they study, what they focus upon and what they talk about with regularity.

The essence of Appreciative Inquiry is then the study of what “gives life,” energy and vitality to organizations, teams and people when they are at their best. Appreciative Inquiry does not assume that any person or organization is always at its best. It does posit, and both research and experience show, that people learn, and organizations change most readily when they focus on, study, and engage in dialogue about strengths, patterns of success and who they are at their best.

For this reason, the Appreciative Inquiry process engages large numbers of people in dialogue and deliberations about their individual and collective strengths, their hopes and dreams for the future, as well as opportunities and plans for collaborative action.

a5.pngThe process generally follows the Appreciative Inquiry 4-D Process: Discovery, Dream, Design and Destiny.

Principles Of Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry is founded on a set of “life affirming” beliefs about people and human organizing:

  • People individually and collectively have unique gifts, skills and contributions to bring to life.
  • Organizations and communities are sources of unlimited relational capacity, created and lived in language.
  • The images we hold of the future are socially created and, once articulated, serve to guide individual and collective actions.
  • Through human communication (inquiry and dialogue) people can shift their attention and action away from problem analysis to lift up worthy ideals and productive possibilities for the future.

In short, Appreciative Inquiry suggests that human organizing and change, at its best, is a relational process of inquiry, focused on “what we want to realize” and grounded in affirmation and appreciation of what works well – the “positive core” of strengths.

Dorothy Tsui, a certified trainer, the Principle of HK Center of Positive Change, was invited to share with us on 7 Jul 2016 about her experience in her AI programs conducted for different organizations.


Part of the information are reposted by KF from with permission.