|Appreciative Inquiry is the act of exploring and recognizing
the best in people and the world around us. The key to this
philosphy to to seek and discover how to improve and work towards
Do you believe that despite the complaints and problems
encountered in your organization, there is nonetheless
significant good work and results occurring? Do you want to
find a way to fan the flames of these positives so that they
engulf your entire organization? Let’s admit it – sometimes our
problem-centered focus places too much attention on the negative.
Perhaps it’s time for a new approach. We can seek to discover
the excellence already present in our organizations – just as
Michelangelo is reported to have said that he saw an angel in the
rock and carved to set it free.
Having a positive vision is the underlying premise of
Appreciative Inquiry. Appreciative Inquiry is a philosophy but it
is also practical since it suggests a particular method of
changing social systems. In its most basic form, an appreciative
inquiry is about asking questions about the best of what is and
what has been. The information is like a discovery that lends
itself to dreaming about the positive future and finally,
designing the action plan to make it happen.
For example, a consultant or trainer is frequently in the
position of needing to understand the training needs of a client
company. Here are several potential questions that could be used
in appreciative interviews:
• Describe a time when you took part in professional development
that was especially energizing and enlivening. Who was involved?
What happened? Describe the event in detail.
• If you could imagine or transform the professional development
available in any way you wished, what one to three things would
you like to see happen to enhance its vitality and effectiveness?
• What do you imagine your own role might be in helping to make
this happen? Who could work with you?
The resulting qualitative data would be most efficiently analyzed
by computer software such as text retrievers, code and retrieve
programs and conceptual network builders. Such software programs
would help draw valid meaning from the data by reducing it, help
to identify patterns through comparative analysis and go beyond
the narrative text to display the data in matrices.
Consider asking one or more appreciative questions at your next
staff meeting. Set it up properly by giving employees a little
background and reasoning for the approach. Let them know what
you plan to do with the information and invite interested parties
to get involved in the resulting action plan. You might be
surprised by the synergy that results!
About the author:
Jeff Schuman's small business resource website has the
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