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Home » Blog » Appreciative Inquiry Principle and Models

Key Learnings:-

  • Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry
  • Definition of Appreciative Inquiry
  • Understanding Appreciative Inquiry
  • The 5 Principles of Appreciative Inquiry
  • The 5-D Cycle of Appreciative Inquiry Model
  • The Appreciative Inquiry Process
  • Examples of Appreciative Inquiry Questions
  • Using AI in Organization Development in Different Contexts

Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry

“How can we improve the lack of participation?”

“How can we deal with a lack of motivation?”

“Or, rather, why aren’t people getting on board?”

These are issues that any management or environment faces. Maintaining the team’s morale necessitates a great deal of organisational preparation.

The key concept is to show gratitude for the team and their efforts. Appreciative Inquiry Principles and Models are the result of combining appreciation with positive psychology.

One of our greatest talents as humans is our ability to imagine. We can envisage the best-case scenario as well as the worst-case scenario.

Appreciative Inquiry, as a life-centric change process, focuses on the best in us, not the worst; on our strengths, not our shortcomings; on possibility thinking, not problem thinking.

Appreciative Inquiry is a way of looking at the world that encourages us to value ourselves and the things around us. We are made aware that the way we use language, ask questions, and tell tales has an impact on our individual and collective fates. Appreciative Inquiry approaches human systems and the organisations we create as mysteries to be enjoyed rather than problems to be solved.

“At its heart, AI is about the search for the best in people, their organizations, and the strengths-filled, opportunity-rich world around them. AI is not so much a shift in the methods and models of organizational change, but AI is a fundamental shift in the overall perspective taken throughout the entire change process to ‘see’ the wholeness of the human system and to “inquire” into that system’s strengths, possibilities, and successes. ”

Excerpt from: Stavros, Jacqueline, Godwin, Lindsey, & Cooperrider, David. (2015). Appreciative Inquiry: Organization Development and the Strengths Revolution. In Practicing Organization Development: A guide to leading change and transformation (4th Edition), William Rothwell, Roland Sullivan, and Jacqueline Stavros (Eds). Wiley

Let’s start with the word ‘appreciate’ to set the tone. The word appreciate refers to a way of understanding that is commonly associated with the concept of aesthetic appreciation in the arts. It is a manner of being and maintaining a positive posture along the course of life’s journey. To appreciate also implies to be appreciative or thanks for. Not coincidentally, to appreciate also means to gain in value.

When you combine the three—appreciation as a way of knowing, being, and increasing value—you get Appreciative Inquiry, which is both a life-centric style of study and a constructive mode of practice.

Definition of Appreciative Inquiry

From 1980 to 1986, David Cooperrider and his colleagues at Case Western Reserve University developed Appreciative Inquiry (AI), a totally affirmative and inquiry-based process for change and transformation.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is built on the deceptively simple notion that human systems evolve in the direction of what we regularly ask questions about and pay attention to. It is the investigation and study of what provides life to human systems when they are functioning optimally.

We question, “What are our root causes of success?” instead of “What are the root causes of failure or defect?” Questions and talks regarding strengths, triumphs, values, hopes, and dreams have been shown to be transforming.

From the Handbook of Appreciative Inquiry here’s a comprehensive definition:

“Appreciative Inquiry is the co-evolutionary, co-operative search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them … AI involves the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate and heighten positive potential … AI practice focuses on the speed of the imagination and innovation.  Instead of negative, critical, and spiraling diagnoses commonly used in our organizations … there is discovery, dream, design and destiny.”

Appreciative Inquiry is a method of research that focuses on systematically identifying the capacities and processes that give a living system life, strength, and possibility; as a constructive mode of practise, it aims to design and craft human organisations through a process in which valuing and creating are viewed as one, and inquiry and change are powerfully related and understood as a seamless and integral whole. Leading Positive Change via Appreciative Inquiry is a course aimed at improving our knowledge and skills in leading strength-based change, as well as how to establish, foster, and manage organisations where people thrive and perform at their best.

Understanding Appreciative Inquiry

The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University created the Appreciative Inquiry paradigm. It was based on David Cooperrider and Ronald Fry’s study. Appreciative Inquiry’s basic premise is that a problem-solving mindset leads to inefficiencies and sub-optimal outcomes.

The basic premise of AI is that, throughout time, it has become increasingly usual for businesses to approach change and growth as a problem-solving exercise. As businesses strive to enhance efficiency, survive, perform better, and increase competitiveness, AI proponents believe that an unhealthy over-emphasis on “fixing what’s wrong”—a deficit-based approach—has developed.

AI originated as a challenge to these engrained ideas, proposing that instead of a strengths-based or affirmative strategy, businesses can benefit from what is known as a strengths-based or affirmative approach.

This positive core is not vastly different from the way we view organizational strengths in conventional management literature. In essence (and loosely paraphrased from the authors), they can be seen to encompass (Cooperrider & Whitney, 2005):

Our organization’s values, beliefs, and capabilities when it’s ‘at its best,’ as well as a shared understanding of what makes us the greatest.

AI is perhaps best understood as a notion in positive organisational psychology by looking at its evolution over time. As businesses strive to enhance efficiency, survive, perform better, and increase competitiveness, AI proponents contend that a deficit-based strategy places too much focus on “fixing what’s wrong.” To put it another way, a “problem-solving” approach is basically negative because it entails criticism and correction.

Appreciative Inquiry, on the other hand, strives for a favourable outcome. The approach employs societal-level analysis that focuses on the best and most effective parts of living systems and organisations. Appreciative Inquiry identifies an organization’s untapped positive potential. A model might, for example, concentrate on a system’s potential, assets, spirit, and value. The energy required to facilitate a transformation founded in breakthrough, discovery, and invention is harnessed through the finding of potential.

The 5 Principles of Appreciative Inquiry

In 1990, Cooperrider and Fry established five principles of appreciative inquiry, including:

The Constructionist Principle states that the discourse of participants’ interactions co-constructs organisations. The goal of an inquiry is to come up with fresh stories, words, and ideas.

The Principle of Simultaneity: The answers are inherent in the questions posed.

The Poetic Principle: People within the organisation are always co-authoring the organization’s storey through their stories. As a result, selecting an investigation issue might have a significant impact on the business.

The Anticipatory Principle: Understanding that our behaviours are directed by our vision of the future and generating a positive image of the future to shape present action is known as the Anticipatory Principle.

The Positive Principle: Positive emotions such as hope, inspiration, camaraderie, and the strengthening of social relationships are required for positive organisational change.

The overlap and wording of the principles can be a hurdle as they tend to be less concrete than other management methods. In a more literal sense, the principles are saying:

  • What people say about your firm to each other counts a lot.
  • Creating a future vision for the type of company you want to run helps motivate you and your staff to start working toward that vision right now.
  • Instead of focusing on how to grow better at what you do, ask yourself why you do what you do. This will lead to fresh ideas and creativity.
  • Focusing on the positive instead of the negative helps to bring people together in a collaborative rather than defensive atmosphere.
  • Having more people involved means having access to more innovative brains and collective intellect.

Don’t let previous conceptions or assumptions prevent you from giving a fresh idea a try.

The 5-D Cycle of Appreciative Inquiry Model

Typically, corporations use a 5D-cycle, which is a process or working model, to implement Appreciative Inquiry principles and change things for the better. The five cycles that most organisations use are listed below.

  • Define: What Is the Topic of Inquiry?

It’s critical to define the project’s objective or purpose at this point. This comprises determining the system’s starting point, purpose, and what needs to be accomplished or enhanced. In other words, what do we want to concentrate on and achieve as a group?

During the Definition phase, we select the inquiry subjects that will comprise the organization’s learning and innovation agenda. The questions must be affirmative and focused on topics that are important to the people involved, as well as topics, concerns, and issues that are critical to the organization’s development.

  • Discover: Appreciation of the Best of the Organization

The second stage’s purpose is to discover what works within the business or community through dialogue and inquiry. The goal is to figure out what the company does well, what its accomplishments are, and where it excels.

The Discovery phase is a large-scale, collaborative quest for “the best of what is” by focusing on times when the organisation was at its finest. Many or all individuals of an organisation, including external stakeholders, “best in class” benchmark organisations, and members of the organization’s local community, participate in meaningful conversations during the discovery process. A thorough description of the organization’s positive core – its tangible and intangible qualities, competencies, resources, and assets – is a significant outcome of this process.

  • Dream: Imagining What Could Be

This stage entails gathering the previous stage’s accomplishments and successes in order to envision what the company might look like if it had a fresh vision for the future. It permits those in the organisation to fantasise about what could be accomplished. By generating a wishlist, participants and employees can identify their hopes and aspirations for the future.

The Dream phase is an energising investigation of “what might be” by building on “what is best.” It’s a moment for people to come together and discuss their goals and dreams for the type of organisation and world in which they want to work and live. The Dream phase produces imaginative future images as well as “macro” possibilities.

  • Design: What Should Be

The second and third steps are combined in the design stage. It brings together the best of what is and what could be to achieve what should be. To put it another way, it combines strengths and wish lists to create the optimal organisation.

The Design phase is all about putting the “grounded” image of the future that was generated in the Dream phase into action. Design efforts involve a full description of the organization’s social and technological infrastructures that will bring the future to life. The “micro” possibility statements that define the organization’s dream for each of the organization’s ongoing activities are key outputs of this phase.

  • Destiny or Delivery: Creating What Will Be

The final stage determines how the design will be presented and implemented. This could include determining how it will be integrated into the organisation, as well as identifying the teams or organisations within the organisation or community that will be able to implement the change objectives and goals.

The Destiny phase focuses on individual and organisational commitments, as well as future paths for innovating “what will be.” In areas as broad as management techniques, HR processes, measurement and evaluation systems, customer service systems, work processes, structures, and technologies, Destiny generally results in a variety of modifications to the organization’s social and technical architecture. Many organisations restart the Appreciative Inquiry 5-D Cycle after the Destiny phase.

The Appreciative Inquiry Process

The following are the steps in the Appreciative Inquiry process:

  • concentrating on what is working effectively in your business and,
  • expanding on those strong characteristics in additional areas

The idea is to replicate and expand on successful processes in other regions of your organisation in order to achieve collaboratively agreed-upon objectives.

It’s vital to remember that companies don’t always follow the 5 processes in the same order. As new people become involved in the process or new learning occurs that challenges previous understandings, earlier phases may need to be revisited. And it’s not uncommon for one stage to run into another.

Some organisations have tried to speed up the process by bringing together diverse groups of stakeholders for short bursts of action. After engaging people in the Dawn and Discovery steps, for example, an organisation might organise one or more workshops to allow stakeholders to work through the Dream and Design phases in a shorter amount of time than they would if they scheduled fewer sessions over many months.

Examples of Appreciative Inquiry Questions

Appreciative Inquiry is the art of asking unconditional, positive questions to strengthen the system’s capacity to anticipate and heighten positive potential.

The art of formulating positive inquiries is emphasised in Appreciative Inquiry. The following list outlines the differences between Appreciative Inquiry questions:

  1. We live in a world that is created by our questions.
  2. The answers we get are determined by the questions we ask.
  3. The more positive our query is, the more opportunity it creates.
  4. Our inquiries elicit movement and change.

For a corporate situation, here are the four core Appreciative Inquiry interview questions. They’ll notice how context agnostic AI is if you replace ‘organisation’ with relationship,’ ‘career,’ or ‘wellness regime.’

  1. What was a time in your organization/division/life when you felt the most alive, accomplished, and effective?
  2. What do you respect most about yourself, your work, and your organisation, without being humble?
  3. What are the essential elements that allow this organisation to function at its best, when it feels like a wonderful place to be, and without which it would perish?
  4. What three desires would you have for this organisation if you had three wishes?
  5. What stories are you handing down from one generation to the next, from one leader to the next?
  6. What stories do we wish to pass down from generation to generation as a group?
  7. Do you get the feeling that we’re all saying that there’s so much more to admire in this world?
  8. What new stories can we co-create that will leave a new and exciting, heart-centered world?

Using AI in Organization Development in Different Contexts

Appreciative Inquiry is a method of organisational growth that can be used in a variety of situations. It is successfully implemented from one-on-one coaching to leadership development because it is a collaborative process that engages people in identifying the best in their setting.

Leadership Development

As the preceding questions reveal, the ethos of Appreciative Inquiry is narrative. When individuals interact over tales, their own leadership emerges as they recall times when they were at their most effective. “What is a high point experience in your organisation — a period when you were most alive and engaged?” you might ask a leader.

You learn about periods when people were the most engaged, productive, successful, and connected as team members, leaders, service providers, and solution providers, allowing their own leadership to come to the top. It’s a chance to think about what they’re most proud of.

Change Management

People who are invited to be a part of a change they can support develop cultures of ownership and commitment. Resistance and resentment can arise when change is imposed or comes as a surprise. Because the change comes from the stakeholders themselves, the principles and process of Appreciative Inquiry promote change at a rate that is unprecedented and sustainable.

Large Scale Conferences

An Appreciative Inquiry Conference provides a rigorous design process with clear outcomes whenever a team, a department, a community, or an entire organisation wishes to come together to work on challenges that are substantial and require strategic design and tactical implementation. You find and define the best of what already exists in one to three days (depending on the size of the group) and identify what additional chances will move the organisation in the direction of its future aspirations. Everyone leaves the summit feeling proud of their accomplishments and energised about the projects they helped to create for the future of their community.

It doesn’t end there, either. Participants make commitments before leaving the conference and returning to “business as usual.” There is no going back to business as normal after an AI summit with leadership support. A shift has occurred, which everyone has witnessed and publicly committed to.

Collaborative Workshops

The “proper method,” or the “only way,” is no longer the exclusive domain of a single group. It’s all about collaboration and co-creation. We recognise that in order to achieve sustainable, gratifying outcomes, we must handle variety, multiplicity, and complexity, whether we’re building new products or regulations, innovating in your industry, or defining new operations or sets of behaviours to support organisational ideals. Inviting organisational members to cooperate in a workshop setting where participants come to enquire about a specific topic or issue over which they have some vested ownership can result in revolutionary changes in a short period of time.

For such collaboration, Appreciative Inquiry provides a very strong framework. Throughout this site, there are several examples of individuals coming together in community settings, corporate settings, and non-profit organisations to participate, learn, and thereby create cultures of empowerment in which they co-create solutions and outcomes they can commit to.


People might feel empowered when they coach individuals or groups using the Appreciative Inquiry framework. As Appreciative Inquiry coaches, we begin by identifying excellent qualities, strengths, and past accomplishments so that coachees have a clear sense of what they have already accomplished in their lives and when they are most effective. We can move into what the dream is or what the goals are, and what solutions will assist them advance in that direction, based on that really firm basis, founded in their own reality.

One of the most famous philosophers on leadership and management, Peter Drucker, emphasised that leadership’s responsibility is to build on an organization’s strengths so that its faults become obsolete. Weaknesses must be addressed. However, focusing on what already works effectively is a more resourceful way to build and increase performance.

The majority of people seek coaching with the intention of improving by conquering their flaws, which is a worthy goal.

There are a variety of approaches to achieving that goal. Starting from when you are most productive and performing at your best is significantly more invigorating and empowering. People identify what they do most readily and with the most delight in the coaching relationship, and this becomes the foundation on which to build even more capability, pride, and satisfaction in your performance, whatever it is.

When we confidently utilise our talents rather than struggling to overcome our deficiencies, we are more likely to be successful.

To Conclude

You should now have a basic understanding of Appreciative Inquiry. It’s a method of engaging with and affirming life in all of its splendour.

Imagine living in a state of inquiry that seeks to uncover the best in every situation: the gifts, talents, and strengths of people we interact with on a daily basis, as well as people we may never meet because our paths will never cross; the beauty of our planet and the wonders of the universe; and the untold possibilities of all that life has to offer. Living in a state of appreciative inquiry is feasible.

However, AI does not imply adopting rose-colored glasses to view everything in rosy tones. While finding strengths and ‘what works,’ AI is a methodical technique that does not gloss over flaws, but rather uses them to learn from them. Positive thinking is vital in AI, but it isn’t required. It acknowledges that there are issues, but from a different perspective.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is appreciative inquiry?

The co-evolutionary, cooperative quest for the finest in individuals, their organisations, and the relevant environment around them is known as Appreciative Inquiry… AI is the art and science of asking questions that improve a system’s ability to recognise, anticipate, and maximise its positive potential.

What is the 5-D appreciative inquiry model?

Typically, organisations execute Appreciative Inquiry concepts and change things for the better using a 5D-cycle, which is a process or working model. The following are the cycles that most businesses follow.

Define: What Is the Inquiry’s Subject?

Discover: Appreciation of the Organization’s Best

Design: What Should Be Destiny or Delivery: Creating What Will Be 

Dream: Imagining What Could Be

What is the appreciative inquiry process?

The steps in the Appreciative Inquiry method are as follows:

concentrating on what is working well in your company and extending those strong features to other areas

The goal is to replicate and expand on successful processes in other parts of your company in order to meet mutually agreed-upon goals.

What are the examples of appreciative inquiry questions?

In Appreciative Inquiry, the art of creating positive queries is emphasised. The contrasts between Appreciative Inquiry questions are listed below:

Our questions shape the world in which we live.

The questions we ask determine the answers we receive.

Our question generates more opportunities the more positive it is.

Movement and change are elicited by our inquiry.

What are the principles of appreciative inquiry?

According to the Constructionist Principle, organisations are co-constructed by the discourse of individuals’ interactions. An inquiry’s objective is to generate new stories, words, and ideas.

The Simultaneity Principle states that the solutions are inherent in the questions asked.

The Poetic Principle: Through their stories, everyone within the organisation are always co-authoring the organization’s storey. As a result, picking an investigation topic could have a big impact on the company.

The Principle of Anticipation: The Anticipatory Principle is the recognition that our actions are guided by our vision of the future and the creation of a positive image of the future to shape present action.

The Positive Principle: For positive organisational transformation, positive emotions such as hope, inspiration, camaraderie, and the building of social relationships are essential.