Appreciative Inquiry

Video Introduction

What Is It?

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a positive, strength-based alternative to problem solving as a means of initiating and managing change in organizations. It has been called "The study of what gives life to human systems when they are functioning at their best." In many cases where it has been skillfully facilitated, it has produced spectacular results in positively transforming organizational cultures.

Why Should I be Interested?

Taking your organization through an Appreciative Inquiry can give you three sources of strategic advantage by :

What's it Good For?

Used around the world, including  in some of the world’s largest companies, non-profits and government organizations, AI has proven to be effective in:

Why Does It Work So Well?

Speed: Traditional change initiatives may use a  top down, bottom up, representational cross section, or pilot projects approach. In each case a small group has to coerce or cajole the “whole” into accepting and implementing the change. With AI, the process is holistic and inclusive from the beginning. At the conclusion of an AI summit, for example, everyone is on the same page, energized and committed to the ideal future for their organization, having had a role in imagining that future. Therefore there is substantial momentum at the end of the process and major changes can then happen very quickly .

Enthusiasm, Commitment and Positive Energy: Because AI is positive and connects people to what they value most about their work and their organizations and themselves, it generates positive energy for change. Contrast this with a “problem focus” which drains the energy out of people. AI leaves people willing and eager to bring about the changes they have helped to identify as desirable.

The Scientific Foundations of AI: The five principles of AI rest on a solid foundation of scientific theory and observation. 

The Liberation of Employee Potential:  A lot of companies pay lip service to getting the most out of their employees’ potential to contribute to the organization. AI actually gives you a practical means for accomplishing this, and once you do it, you will be amazed at what happens next!

How Do I Get Started?
To get started on your own,

Click Here! (pdf file)

If you want a low cost, satisfaction guaranteed, lunch hour introduction to Appreciative Inquiry for up to 20 people in your organization, bring me in for a Learn@Lunch session.

Where Can I Get More Info?

In addition to the materials created by others in the column at the right, here are two of the handouts I use in my own Appreciative Inquiry workshops.

I use An Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry in my half day or full day workshops.

Using Appreciative Inquiry to Improve Your Organization focuses on writing AI interview guides, and give samples from several well known cases. 

Helping organizations and groups become the best they can be
“The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths . . . making a system’s weaknesses irrelevant.” Peter Drucker
Links to Favorite Free Resources

"Locating the Energy for Change"

This is a great free resource, a 300 page book on AI with several very interesting case studies.

"A Positive Revolution in Change: Appreciative Inquiry"

This is one of the very important early papers on AI; it includes info on the Appreciative Inquiry at GTE Telecommunications (now called Verizon) as well as the AVON Mexico case.

"The Generative Metaphor Intervention: A New Approach for Working with Systems Divided by Conflict and Caught in Defensive Perception "

This award winning paper by Frank Barrett and David Cooperrider is one of my favorites. It illustrates brilliantly how "whatever you focus your attention on grows."

"The Positive Path: Using Appreciative Inquiry in Rural Indian Communities"

This is a terrific paper on using AI in the third world, and has served as the inspiration for my own work in Ghana.

"Imagine Chicago: Ten Years of Imagination in Action"

This is a great compendium of the successes achieved by the inspiring Imagine Chicago project initiated by Bliss Browne.

"The Child as Agent of Inquiry"

This paper by David Cooperrider  examines the role of children and youth in the Imagine Chicago initiative.

"An Introduction to
Positive Organizational Scholarship"

This is the first chapter of a book on Positive Organiz-ational Scholarship, a positive approach to studying organizational life.

Another  great source of free information (including some of the papers featured above) is the 
Appreciative Inquiry Commons.

Gervase Bushe, an OD consultant and professor at Simon Fraser University who has written extensively on AI, also has some excellent information on AI on his web site,

At the Left:

Jim with his co-presenters Rachelle McComb (staff) and Valdene Callin (board member) from Red Deer Public Library following their enthusiastically received presentation at the Alberta Library Conference, Jasper, Alberta  April 26th, 2008.
At the Left

Drumming up some enthusiasm for Appreciative Inquiry at the Vitalize Provincial Conference, June 5th, 2009.

At the Right

Looks like I succeeded! (At least with myself!)

Learning a young person's vision for the ideal future of Mill Woods United Church. 
Edmonton, AB May 30th, 2010.

Presenting at a Mentoring Breakfast for the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce. 
Red Deer, AB January 14th, 2010.