Appreciative Inquiry

Discover and amplify success

Structure: Participants go through four phases: 1. Discovery (discovering and understanding), 2. Dream (visions of the future), 3. Design, 4. Destiny (implementation). AI is based on interviews. In the discovery phase successful individual and organisational behaviours are explored and systemic factors that support these behaviours are identified. The remaining three phases may then vary according to the needs of each client.

Duration of the process: from three days up to several years in a consulting function with the number of participants ranging from 10 to more than 2,500.

The Particular Advantages of this Method: Appreciative Inquiry is about discovering, appreciating and leveraging an organisation’s strengths in the change process. Every employee in a company has done successful work, experienced his own and other people’s highlights and made important contributions. These experiences form the basis of the AI process. Every organisation possesses key success factors – life-giving forces – providing it with the vitality and the energy to be successful. AI is the common search for those factors which already exist and which have proved to be successful.
In the Discovery phase, the members of an organisation explore what they have achieved. The focus is on past and present highlights. In interviews the “gems” of the organisation are identified and made visible to all participants. The organizational factors that made these highlights possible are identified and the context is revealed.
The Dream phase focuses on possibilities. In which direction should the organisation develop? What treasures should be preserved in the future? What are the individuals’ dreams for themselves, for their cooperation with others and for the organisation? Visions with a time horizon of 5 to 25 years are developed.
During the Design phase, these creative visions are translated into provocative statements about the future. The ideas developed in the previous phases are made tangible for the organisation. They form the bridge between the current and the desired future reality.
Finally, during the Destiny phase plans are developed how to put these statements into action. How exactly will they be reflected in the behaviour of each employee? Where exactly can something be done and by what methods? Who is involved in what topic? How are colleagues informed? And how can the positive approach of AI be continued in every-day life? Plans for the future are made.

Underlying Assumptions Regarding Appreciative Inquiry:

  • In every organisation something works well.
  • What we focus on becomes our reality.
  • Changes occur in the direction of inquiry.

When to use Appreciative Inquiry?

Appreciative Inquiry can be used
  • to increase one’s position in the market
  • to optimise customer service
  • to raise the quality of products and services
  • to introduce and accompany project management
  • to develop the work of a team

An Example: The Hunter Douglas Window Fashions branch office in the USA started an Appreciative Inquiry process with 100 employees. Within a period of two years, all 1,000 employees were involved. The interviews accompanied every-day life in the firm. For the other phases several hundred people met at various big events. After only one year, Hunter Douglas experienced an increase in productivity, sales volume and employee commitment. These results were attributed to employees better understanding their business goals, identifing themselves with these goals and being aware of how their own jobs related to these. Employees considered themselves more responsible for their work, more motivated and more creative.
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