What is Appreciative Inquiry?

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Posted by Maren Fox - 22 August, 2017

Appreciative inquiry is a powerful approach to organization development and positive change. To put it simply: appreciative inquiry (AI) is a philosophy that incorporates a process for engaging people at any or all levels to produce effective, positive organizational and social change. It is an adaptable change method currently used throughout the world in both small- and large-scale change initiatives, often used in combination with other organizational processes

The assumption of appreciative inquiry is simple:

Every organization has something that works right.

These are the things that give it life when it is most alive, effective, successful, and connected in healthy ways to its stakeholders and communities. AI begins by identifying what is positive and connecting to it in ways that heighten energy, vision, and action for change.

The process is simple, and it can engage everyone in the organization. Through collaborative inquiry and a connection to their positive core, many organizations have co-created whole systems processes to:

  • Create a common-ground vision and strategy for the future.
  • Accelerate organizational learning—speeding the spread of innovation and amplifying the power of even the smallest victories.
  • Unite labor and management in new, jointly envisioned partnerships.
  • Create dialogue to foster shared meanings.
  • Improve communications.
  • Strengthen implementations of major information technology
  • changes.
  • Work toward sustainability.
  • Demonstrate positive intent and trust with stakeholders.
  • Build dynamic relationships and high-performance teams to facilitate change.

To be effective, business leaders need to move away from the traditional problem-solving approach to organizational change and move toward viewing organizations as a mystery to be embraced. AI provides a fresh approach to organizational change that motivates all stakeholders to contribute to the organization. When an organization uses AI to solve problems, embrace challenges, create opportunities, make decisions, and initiate action, the whole system works toward a shared vision.

This article is an adapted excerpt from The Appreciative Inquiry Handbook.

Topics: Your Organization, Leadership, Change Management, Servant Leadership


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