I was travelling and flying this week which gave me time to read this short book that gives a quick introduction to the basic elements of appreciative inquiry. The approach is dubbed a “positive revolution” and the preface describes it this way:
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a new model of change management uniquely suited to the values, beliefs, and business challenges facing managers and leaders today. It is a process for large-scale change management that can enable you to engage and inspire your highly diverse and dispersed workforce; to involve customers and other stakeholders in the future of your business; to discover and extend your business strengths and strategic advantages; and to balance outstanding financial returns with heightened societal contributions.
It describes how changes can be approached from the point of view of building on strengths rather than from the point of view of problem-solving. It focuses on identifying the positive core present in your situation rather than trying only to fix problems. It is therefore far more engaging because it expects people to make a positive contribution based on what is already going well. The acknowledgement of existing strengths helps everyone to build on success.
The four key phases of the AI process are discovery, dream, design and destiny. In the first phase, we identify what already works well. In the second phase, we develop the future vision. In the third step, we create possible options for the future and finally, we build momentum towards ongoing change.
The book describes the process of the AI Summit, a 4-day large-scale meeting that engages the whole workforce in a change process. It also spells out the success factors for appreciative inquiry: co-creation, simultaneity of inquiry and change, the joint creation of meaningful stories and metaphors, the anticipation of the future through positive images and an assumption of affirmative collective action. In other words, we can build the future together!
While this book does not describe in details the principles and methodology, it does a good job as an introduction. It may be useful books to put in the hands of decision makers that need to be introduced to the power of AI.
Cooperrider, David L. And Diana Whitney, Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, CA, 2005.