Appreciative Inquiry: Practice Notes, Reflections, Resources
the taos institute
the AI commons
teaching/using open space and appreciative inquiry in nepal
to enable full-voice appreciative participation that taps the org's positive change core and inspires collaborative action that serves the whole system, works with 20-2000 people, internal/external stakeholders (co-creators), begins with first question asked.
impact on culture
fundamental shift occurs toward cooperation, equality of voice, high participation, a positive revolution, inquiry and improvisational learning as daily practices, appreciative leadership, and focus on what gives life to organization, socially, financially, ecologically.
when to use
- to create a positive revolution
- to enhance strategic cooperation, overcome conflict/competition
- catalyze whole-system culture shift
- facilitate high participation planning
- mobilize design and development
- integrate multiple change efforts
- support mergers and acquisitions
when not to use
- already getting what you want
- no commitment to postive change (clinging to deficits, problems)
sample appreciative questions
- describe a high point in experience in your org, a time when you've been most alive and engaged
- without being modest, tell me what is it that you most value about yourself, your work, your org?
- what are the core factors that give life to your organization, without which the org would not be the same?
- what three wishes do you have to enhance the health and vitality of your org?
- keywords - peaks, highs, vitality, hope, wish, value, love
4-D appreciative inquiry/summit cycle
- DISCOVERY - what gives life? (best of what is) - appreciating, acknowledging, valuing, interviews, stories
- DREAM - what might be? (what the world is calling for) - envisioning impact, stories, presentations,
- DESIGN - what should be? (the ideal) - co-constructing, proposing, design statements
- DESTINY - how to empower, learn, adjust/improvise? - sustaining, acting, activating, propositions, next steps
cf. Ed Oakley's "Enlightened Leadership" model
- what's working?
- what makes it work?
- what's next?
- who will benefit? (from largest group, down to individual)
- who will do what, by when?
Beginning to practice - question/roles
- opening question to leadership: what is it that YOU want to learn about and achieve?
- org leaders' role: positive change catalysts, planting seeds, nurturing their growing in their own time, participating in process as equals, get out of the way
- consultant role:
- view org as mystery, a spiritual-social body to embrace, nurture
- work in the affirmative, continually seeking to discover what gives life
- facilitate hopes, possibilities, inspired action, hold space for spirit to move
- continually seek ways of giving the process away, as people make it their own
- participant role: students of org life, curiosity, learning, creating and practicing
the case against problem solving
problem-solving limits movement, possiblity, power, energy, etc. by:
- moving painfully slowly, always looking backward
- not generating any new vision or knowledge, focus on gaps, not (implied) ideals
- generating defensiveness, separateness, blame, other unfun
- felt need, problem identified
- analysis of causes
- action planning (treatment)
appreciative inquiry is:
- discovering/valuing best of what is
- envisioning what 'might be'
- dialoguing 'what should be'
AI is possibility of shifting from deficit language, deficit consciousness from orgs as problems to orgs as mystery, question, journey, adventure, calling, invitation
- ==> more of what's working, moving to what's wanted
- ==> no selling required, buy-in is automatic
Conditions that make AI work
- high integrity - alignment of purposes, processes, people
- perseverance - long term commitment to being different over time
- hopeful, expansive, anticipatory images
- narrative-rich communication (e.g. open questions in surveys, track +/- ratio on comments)
why it works (theory) - how it deals with REAL problems
- CONSTRUCTIONIST principle - (solutions are possible, we construct our own reality) language creates reality, we create more of what we give attention to, firefighters find fires
- SIMULTANEITY principle - (solutions are available, happening now) inquiry, action and change are not separate/separable moments, the questions become the answers, not about right questions/answers but about seeing how they lead us to the good, the better, the possible, krishnamurti: seeing the chair on fire is not separate from the jumping out of the chair
- POETIC principle - (life, and solutions, as story) the story of the org, past present future, is constantly being relearned, reread, re-interpreted, like great poems, continually we find new meaning in old story lines
- ANTICIPATORY principle - (solutions must be made visible) images of the organization, the stories we WANT, can be looked for, moved toward, create action
- POSITIVE principle - (solutions are pulling us forward, by definition) the ideal solution is hope, excitement, caring, inspiration, camraderie, sense of purpose, shared meaning and value, joy of creating
if we can create these conditions, solutions will emerge easily and everywhere, and be no big news, because we already have hope, excitement, joy, caring...
 Source: Diana Whitney and David Cooperrider, in the Change Handbook, edited by Peggy Holman and Tom Devane. The notes above are my own reading and translation of Whitney and Cooperrider. Not all of what appears above comes directly from the handbook and/or Whitney and Cooperrider.
Notes from Tom Mastandrea
Books I have used (but not read page by page):
- The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry
- Lessons from the Field, Applying Appreciative Inquiry
Books I own but have not read:
- Appreciative Inquiry: Rethinking Human Organization Cooperrider et.al.
- Appreciative Leaders Marjorie Schiller et. al. (This was the co-facilitator)
Cooperrider's Five Principles:
- Constructionist Principle. The way we know is fateful
- Simultaneity. Change begins the moment you ask the question
- Anticipatory. Deep change = change in active image of the future
- Poetic. Organizations are an open book
- Positive. Positive questions yield faster and longer lasting change. This is the most important principle.
- "Lift Every Voice" Harlem Boys Choir
- Barbara Fredrickson's work at the U of Michigan on the impact of positive affective states on intelligence, social behavior and the immune system.
- Canyon Ranch
- "The art of the question" by M.Goldberg
- "Realities and Relationships" by Ken Gergen
- "Flow" by Csikszentmihalyi
- "The Evolving Self" by Csikszentmihalyi
- The Roadway film and Fast Company article
- Two Harvard Cases on Avon of Mexico
- Carl Rogers - The Unconditional Positive Question
- Video - Stories of Hope (this is the South Africa video I told you about) Can buy this for $10 thru Paul Andrews. Not sure how to find Paul.
1. Recommended books for the Cape Cod Institute''
- Appreciative Management
- Appreciative Inquiry: Pamphlet
- Appreciative Inquiry Rethinking
- Organizational Dimensions of Change
- Change Handbook, Peggy Holman/Tom? Devane
2. The name of the article on Roadway Trucking is Leaders for the Long Haul
by Keith Hammonds
3. Cooperrider's e-mail is: email@example.com
4. www.pegasuscom.com/ai/ This was the site for the first AI conference in
Baltimore at the end of September, 2001. Not sure if it has lasting value.
5.United Religions is using Appreciative Inquiry in very interesting ways to
link local and world leadership efforts to find common ground among
religions. www.united-religions.org. Tel: 415-561-2300.
6. Loren R. Dyck created an impressive, 21 page reference list, including
books, articles, yearbooks, some websites. It is too long to recreate or
fax, but you can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
7. Cooperrider and Schiller handed out an Appreciative Inquiry workbook to
conference attendees. I don't know if it is otherwise available. It is a
good piece of work. Contains articles, and slides from the conference.