Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry

January 15th, 2011 // 2:53 pm @

What is Appreciative Inquiry?

  • Universal approach — suitable for small and large group interventions
  • Promotes positive thinking, motivation and collaboration
  • Creates common ownership of current issues and future potential
  • Maximises the learning of the whole system

Although Appreciative Inquiry is universal in its approach, it is often used as a large group intervention method to enable many people — ten, fifty, hundreds, more — to gather together for the purpose of planning strategic change and exploring its implications.  By promoting participation and collaboration, AI hopes to achieve more sustainable change throughout the whole system.  Its primary purpose is to promote the sense of common ownership of current issues and future potential, and an acceptance of individual responsibility for its achievement.

AI is currently being used as a mediation and conflict resolution tool, and for community development at metropolitan and local levels.  Increasingly, AI is being used to facilitate community planning partnerships, the contribution of faith and ethnic groups to neighbourhood renewal, and the achievement of integrated cross-sectoral multi-agency delivery of public services.  Corporate organisations are also using AI to address internal communication and leadership issues, customer care and individual and group effectiveness and morale.

Healthy Scotland Convention Appreciative Inquiry

Healthy Scotland Convention Appreciative Inquiry

Why use AI?

  • In every society, organisation or group something works
  • Focus on what already works
  • Consider how to make that happen more often, better and with greater impact
  • Where you want to be is based on the best of where you have already been

The traditional approach to change is to identify and diagnose problems in structures and systems, and to find solutions.  The focus is on what is wrong with each aspect of the system.

AI only engages with what works — what is going so well that there is enough motivation to make it even better, happen more frequently or have greater impact.  The focus is totally positive on the whole system — everyone who affects and is affected by the issues under discussion.

The output of an AI process is a series of statements that describe where the organisation wants to be, based on the best of where its people have already been.

Because these statements are grounded in real experience of recent history, participants leave with a sense of

  • Affirmation that they have already been successful
  • Confidence in their ability to repeat and improve on their past success
  • Commitment to work towards future change because of their personal experience of successful transition and the benefits of change in the past.
Healthy Scotland Convention Appreciative Inquiry

Healthy Scotland Convention Appreciative Inquiry

How does AI work?

  • Discover
  • Dream
  • Design
  • Deliver

This is the AI version of the familiar four-stage participation model of most large group interventions.

Discover the best of what is. This is the communication process — telling our stories, an audit of the collective experience of what has worked well.  Participants often consider their parallel perspectives of the same issues — how they simultaneously appreciate issues from personal, professional, organisational and even wider societal points of view.

Dream the best that can be. This is the consultation process in which participants are asked to envisage their ideal — what ‘better’ would look like.

Design the best that should be. This is a collaborative process — usually a wider dialogue in which participants add to the growing, collective sense of how to realise their dream.  Typically, they will analyse future options, rank priority issues and consider the structures and systems that would enable or limit implementation.

Deliver the best that can be done. This is the final co-creation process, in which participants achieve a practical consensus of what they can and will do to work towards their dream.  It is likely that some aspects of the issues under discussion will remain unresolved, awaiting the motivation and confidence to take them forward at another time.

There is no proprietary brand or prescription for AI, as such — only an approach that is capable of adaptation to each context and group of participants.  Issues cannot be prescribed.  They are owned and progressed by the participants.  What is essential, however, is to design an Inquiry that asks the right questions of the right people.

Healthy Scotland Convention Appreciative Inquiry

Healthy Scotland Convention Appreciative Inquiry

Further information on AI

In the UK:

In the US:

The original theories on AI:

Annis Hammond, S.: Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry, 2nd Edition, 1998, pub. Thin Book Publishing Co.

Srivastva, S. & Cooperrider, D.L.: Appreciative Management & Leadership, Revised Edition, 1999, 1893435-05-9

This book applies the perspective of Appreciative Inquiry to organisational management and potential for creativity, innovation, and collaboration.

Whitney, D., Cooperrider, D.L, Trosten-Bloom, A. & Kaplin, B.S.: Encyclopedia of Positive Questions, Volume One — Using Appreciative Inquiry To Bring Out The Best In Your Organization, 2001, 1893435-33-4.

The book is a compendium of generic interview questions, central to the “Discovery” phase of the Appreciative Inquiry process, seeking to discover who and what the organisation is, at its best.


Cooperrider, D.L., Whitney, D. & Stavros, J: Appreciative Inquiry: The Handbook (w/CD) — The First in a Series of AI Workbooks for Leaders of Change, 2003, 1893435-17-2.

A handbook which combines theory with practice, aimed at consultants, trainers, and leaders of organisational change.  Accompanying CD has tools and activities to facilitate group teaching and dissemination.

More recent applications:

Lewis, S., Passmore, J., & Cantore, S.: Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management, 2008, Kogan Page, London, ISBN 978 0 7494 5071 7.

© Alastair Wyllie

Wyllie and Reid Corporate Communications

2000, updated 2010.

Based on the work of David Cooperider, 1999, and Bliss Browne, 2000

Category : Featured Blogs &Large Group Interventions

One Comment → “Appreciative Inquiry”

  1. Velma

    10 years ago

    Hello it’s me, I am also visiting this website on a regular basis,
    this web page is really fastidious and the people are in fact sharing nice thoughts.


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