“Studies of organizational excellence have shown that the art and science of asking powerful positive questions is much more important than looking for the gaps, weaknesses, and limitations in a system.” — Anne Radford
Appreciative Inquiry challenges the traditional problem-solving approach by focusing on strengths-based inquiry and change rather than problems-to-be-solved.
Appreciative Inquiry identifies what gives life to a system when it is at its exceptional best, rather than simply focusing on what is wrong or needs fixing.
Appreciative Inquiry proposes that change is more powerful, energizing, and effective when we focus on the true, the good, the better, and the possible.
Additionally, Appreciative Inquiry emphasizes the importance of having the whole system in the room, which involves bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders to co-create and co-evolve solutions.
Premise #1. Strengths-Based Inquiry and Change vs. Problems-to-be-Solved
Inquire into everything that gives life to a system when it is most alive and at its exceptional best.
Appreciative Inquiry offers a refreshing shift from the problem-focused approach by emphasizing strengths-based inquiry and change.
Appreciative Inquiry recognizes that positive change is more powerful and effective when we focus on what gives life to a system at its best.
Traditional approaches such as low morale surveys cannot generate the energy and new vision that comes from individuals who are passionate and committed. Instead, Appreciative Inquiry proposes doing real studies of “high point moments” to understand what creates high commitment work systems.
David Cooperrider puts it like this:
“Appreciative inquiry turns the problem-solving habits of the field on their head, and shows that change is more powerful, energizing, and effective when we inquire into the true, the good, the better and the possible—everything that gives life to a system when is most alive and at its exceptional best.
Do you really think one more survey into low morale is going to generate the energy and new vision of a company filled with people alive with passion and high commitment?
Appreciative Inquiry theory says ‘No’ – all the studies in the world of low morale will not tell us one thing about ‘high commitment work systems.’ If we want to know how to create a high commitment work system, we would be better off doing 100 interviews—a real study—of ‘high point moments’ in people’s career in the organization, times when they were most committed and alive in their work and when they were going way beyond their job descriptions.”
Premise #2. The Principle of Whole-System in the Room
Appreciative Inquiry theory challenges traditional notions of top-down versus bottom-up change and group size limitations.
Instead, Appreciative Inquiry proposes that the most effective way to create transformative change is to bring the whole system into the room, engaging a diverse and interactive group of 50, 100, 500 or even 1000 people to co-create a shared vision and design a path forward.
By leveraging the strengths of the whole system, Appreciative Inquiry empowers large-scale change and unlocks the potential for truly impactful transformation.
David Cooperrider puts it like this:
“There are endless arguments over the relative merits of top-down change versus bottom-up change. AI theory says both are increasingly obsolete, and so is the idea that the most effective sized group is 6-8 people, for example 6-8 people at the top doing strategy work and then doing the famous ‘communications rollout.’
Indeed, some of the most exciting AI strategy work happening today is starting to answer the most perplexing and challenging question every CEO faces and that is: ‘how do we really change at the scale of the whole?’
AI responds and in turn raises its own compelling question: ‘Could it be that the most effective size group, for significant and major strategic issues, is 50, 100, 500 or 1000 people, interactively visioning, designing, and creating vis-a-vis a true alignment of the strengths of the whole?'”
Energize and Drive Transformation Success
Appreciative Inquiry offers a strengths-based approach to change that prioritizes the true, the good, the better, and the possible.
By bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders and focusing on what gives life to a system, Appreciative Inquiry can energize and drive transformative change.
Get the Books
These are the books on Appreciative Inquiry I found most useful:
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