Appreciative Inquiry a way to create engagement and positive culture in the company.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a different approach of business change management that focuses on identifying what’s working well, analyzing why it’s working well and strenght these organizational skills.

The basic idea of AI is that the organization skills will grow in same direction where people focus their attention. The theory of Appreciative Inquiry was developed by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in a paper they published in 1986.

Normally, during in our daily management style we focus on problems and weakness to solve gaps and put action plans and corrective actions.  However we usually forget to be focused on strengths, develop and build on those strengths, so we can empower organization and people skills.

The process of Appreciative Inquiry requires a particular way of asking guided questions that encourage positive thinking and employee-to-employee interaction.

The questions focus on four key areas: definition, discovery, dream, design and delivery (5-D). In the original, 4-D (Discovery, Dream, Design, Delivery) model is mentioned but I think that this picture talks better about the whole process itself.

Definition Phase:define the overall focus of the question (what the organization wants more of) always choosing the positive moments. Even if sometimes for us is easier to identify gaps, issues, or problems based on our primary problem-solving mind set. All of us we can remember or point a moment or a Project or a process that works or worked well in the past and give us a positive souvenir or mood.

Discovery Phase: facilitate the identification of processes that work well. We need to evoke stories that illuminate an individual, team, or organization’s strengths. When are we functioning at our best? What characteristics are present?  Positive stories, stir people imagination and generate excitement to show what we´re capable to accomplish in the future. The point is to discover what elements are common to the moments of greatest success and fulfillment. Discover what are the Life giving forces (best experiences that represent organization´s strengths when they are operating at the best) and used them to involve people in a positive circle.


At this stage is very important to create a positive energy and involvement of the people working in this activity, make them feel this excitement to realize and congratulate them about this kind of performance.


Dream Phase:Facilitate the analysis of why a particular process works well and help brainstorm ways to spread that knowledge elsewhere in the organization. This step asks individuals to create a new future, the individual, the team, or the organization will ¨dream¨ about what resources, business processes, policies, whatever is needed for achieving this desired future. The idea is to create a vision (image) shared within the whole group and put a statement (word) on it.


In other words, we are translating the visual image into a word image, called a Provocative Proposition (sometimes referred to as a Possibility Statement, Shared Vision, or Dream Statement).


It’s important to align it with mission, vision and core values of the organization. It´s necessary to show to the members the link between what company is doing best and the company vision and objectives of the whole organization. People should understand how real accomplishments are linked to company values and structure. In this step we define ¨the best of what is¨.


Design Phase: facilitates the creation of an action plan. The Design phase involves the collective construction of positive images of the organization’s future in terms of provocative propositions. In the Design phase, attention turns to creating the ideal organization in order to achieve its dream. Future images emerge through grounded examples from an organization’s positive past.


It´s the bridge between “the best of what is” (identified in Discovery Phase) and “what might be” (imagined in Dream phase). They re-create the organization’s image of itself by presenting clear, compelling pictures of how things will be when the positive core is fully effective in all of its strategies, processes, systems, decisions, and collaborations.


Deliver or Destiny Phase: facilitates the creation of criteria for success and a way to determine whether or not the action plan was successful. Members innovate and improvise ways to create the preferred future by continuously improvising and building Ai competencies into the culture. The Destiny phase is ongoing and brings the organization back, full circle, to the Discovery phase. In a systemic fashion, continued appreciative inquiry may result in new affirmative topic choices, continuous dialogues and continued learning.


If you want to learn more about this topic and change Company culture to a positive business culture, I recomend following readings:


  • Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change .

Inigo Mayoral

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Business ManagementManagement and Leadership

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