What is Appreciative Inquiry?

Ap-pre'ci-ate, v.; 1. valuing; the act of recognizing the best in people or the world around us; affirming past and present strengths, successes, and potentials; to perceive those things that give life (health, vitality, excellence) to living systems 2. to increase in value, e.g. the economy has appreciated in value Synonyms: VALUING, PRIZING, ESTEEMING, and HONORING.

In-quire' (kwir), v., 1. the act of exploration and discovery. 2. To ask questions; to be open to seeing new potentials and possibilities. Synonyms: DISCOVERY, SEARCH, and SYSTEMATIC EXPLORATION, STUDY 

Appreciative Inquiry turns the old idea of organizational change on its head. Previous change management theories, which came from a deficit-based perspective, resulted in low morale, high turnover, layoffs, distrust of management, low productivity and a general negativity. In Appreciative Inquiry, rather than focusing on finding the problems, stakeholders are instead asked to explore questions such as:

  • What is the organization doing right?
  • What are the organization's ideals and goals?
  • What are the employees' dreams and future plans?
  • What was your best day at work, and what made it so great?
  • How can you have more best days?
  • If you woke up tomorrow and the organization was perfect, what would that look like?
  • How can the organization do good in the world?

By focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses, AI creates an atmosphere of possibility, bringing excitement and enthusiasm back into the organization. AI methods place great importance on an entire system, ensuring managers, employees, customers and neighbors all feel heard and acknowledged. The result is happier employees and lower turnover, higher-performing employees, more collaboration with leadership, more creativity, and a stronger community or organization.

To learn how the Center has helped organizations grow in positive ways, check out our Applied Practice page.

To read more in depth about AI, please see this page of Resources.