What is Appreciative Inquiry (AI)?
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) - sometimes referred to as “appreciative dialogues” - is a methodology for change management, leadership and organizational development (OD) based on pioneer practices and research developed over twenty years at the Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, USA) under the leadership of AI co-creators Dr. David Cooperrider and Dr. Ronald Fry from Weatherhead School of Management.
During this time, the practice of Appreciative Inquiry has been enriched and has benefited from contributions by many of its practitioners, followers and supporters in different sectors and fields of application, from some of the most participative/people-intensive initiatives regarding social innovation and entrepreneurship to ambitious organizational and governmental transformation projects.
One of the most significant aspects of Appreciative Inquiry is its positive focus.
Since its early beginnings this methodology has been conceived as an alternative approach to the traditional change management and organizational development propositions,
which are usually based on deficits/deficiencies and weaknesses. In other words, most typical approaches to change are conceived around the well-known search for problems, urgencies or weaknesses and their use as a lever or motivation for igniting change.
These classical change projects are not always un-successful though they are frequently based on the hopes/assumptions that found/defined solutions will move organizations to new ways and levels of performance.
Even if most of the initiatives of organizational change emerge or arise when some problems or even crisis which must be faced and solved are anticipated or known,
Appreciative Inquiry proposes an approach radically opposite from the very first steps.
This positive philosophy is visible even in the term that gives name to this practice by its remarkable positive character of inquiring or discovering strengths and appreciating all relevant and favorable issues.
A change of approach in the approach to change management!
Change, being an unavoidable part of people’s and organizations’ vital experiences, has not only become a ‘fashionable’ topic in management literature and practice, but its impacts to organizations’ success and sustainability has become so critical and recognized that change management is today one of the most demanded and influential discipline in the practice executive management.
The scope of what we call today “change management” is so rich and vital that some management disciplines such as leadership, coaching, professional and/or organizational development almost base all their “raison d’être” in creating sustainable changes.
Due to the remarkable importance of change and its successful management to organizations, business and social entities, as well as to individual professionals, at SpaceMinds we are continuously researching, studying and piloting new approaches to deal with different aspects of change successfully, frequently combining or integrating different perspectives and/or discipline.
Proposals to address change from a positive perspective stand out among the recent emergent tendencies with more future promises of application. This growing interest in positive change management and leadership is due in part, to the fact that numerous initiatives already exist for dealing with the negatives: problems, urgencies and crises; and most smart organizations and people instead “wasting” their energies (limited time and resources) in doing the same thing again and again are willing to try out innovative ways on the increasing evidence of their advantages with respect to traditional change management.
This way, more than trying to focus our attention on the existing problems; these new approaches look for improvement opportunities around the positive values and strengths, promoting an effective vehicle to change the approach to change management itself.
It is in this emergent and promising context of positive change management where the practice of Appreciative Inquiry is gaining more and more attention as one of the most practical, relatively easy-to-implement and solid results-producing proposals with more future perspectives.
Appreciative Inquiry: Towards a Positive Leadership
Appreciative Inquiry focuses attention in identifying the strengths, competitive advantages, the most relevant core-positive values and other critical success factors of individuals and organizations for later encouraging and promoting their alignment, extension and outreach to generate deep and wide transformations in organizations.
Therefore, Appreciative Inquiry as a methodology is mainly based in what we call the Ecology of the Strengths of an organization or human system; motivating all members of the system/organization towards a possible positive change and future.
Even with the soundness and depth of the underlying principles, foundations and research that support the practice of AI, as well as the numerous case-studies that account for satisfactory or even extra-ordinary results, we can say that the essence of Appreciative Inquiry is quite simple. Appreciative Inquiry is based in a narrative-participative process that seeks to involve all relevant agents (stakeholders) in the change / system we are willing to deal with.
One of the ‘signature attributes’ of AI is the way in which this participative work is organized and performed, normally arranged in so-called 4D Cycle (“Discover, Dream, Design, Destiny”).
This cycle can be formally and fully implemented within a change project with step corresponding to a phase of the project life cycle - perhaps involving hundreds or even thousands of people during a significant period of time - ; or in contrast, the whole cycle could be performed in an quick and (in-)formal conversation or interview between a manager/leader and his/her team member(s), for example during a work meeting or performance review/appraisal activity.
It is precisely this versatility and flexibility what makes Appreciative Inquiry a practice with so many opportunities for applications in the realm of leadership, people/project management, consulting, change management and organizational effectiveness and development, among others; all of them - of course - from the perspective of positive feedback on the positive core and the consequent improvement.
Some AI references, related services & programs by SpaceMinds
Yan Bello, PMP president and founder of SpaceMinds, has been awarded “Appreciative Inquiry (AI) Certificate in Positive Business and Society Change” by Dr. David Cooperrider and Dr. Ronald Fry, co-creators of AI, as recognition for the successful completion of the executive education program from Case Western Reserve University by Weatherhead School of Management.
The program focused on the foundations and frontiers of Appreciative Inquiry, as well as some of its application areas such positive organizational change, research projects into business innovations, several sustainability initiatives, among others.
This credential confirms the leadership and commitment from SpaceMinds staff to the research, adoption and provision of the most effective methodologies, practices and tools to its clients and collaborators.
Among SpaceMinds offerings of Appreciative Inquiry related services and program, one which has been very successful and has received significant recognition from participants and organizations is our unique systemic approach/program to generate and sustain organizational change.
Parts of this program are included in the fast-paced intensive learning format of the Workshop Creating Sustainable Change.
Appreciative Inquiry: Bibliography and recommended readings
Some key references of "Appreciative Inquiry" (AI), and some of our related papers:
Frank j. Barrett & Ronald E. Fry (2005). “Appreciative Inquiry. A Positive Aproach to Building Cooperative Capacity”. Taos Institute Publications.
Ronald Fry, Frank Barrett, Jane Seiling, and Diana Whitney (2002). “Appreciative Inquiry and Organizational Transformation. Reports from the Field”. Quorum Books.
Diana Whitne y Amanda Trosten-Bloom (2003). “The Power of Appreciative Inquiry. A Practical Guide to Positive Change”. Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
David L. Cooperrider y Diana Whitney (2005). “Appreciative Inquiry. A positive revolution in Change”. Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Bello Méndez, Yan. Yerkes, Leslie (2007, 2008). “Creating Lasting Change: Tools and techniques for effective consulting”. Proceedings of PMI Global Congress (2007. Cancun, Mexico. 2008 Sydney, Australia)
BELLO MÉNDEZ, Yan. (2009). “Applying Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to Create Sustainable Change & Value in Organizations”.
Research-working paper, presented at Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management. (Cleveland, USA).
BELLO MÉNDEZ, Yan. (2008). “Pequeñas GRANDES Historias: Un decálogo apreciativo para transformar organizaciones”. Thinking Leading Magazine. (ISSN 1988-9802). Diciembre 2008.
BELLO MÉNDEZ, Yan. (2010). “Indagación Apreciativa: Participación y Dialogos para Generar Cambios Positivos Sostenibles“. Revista Capital Humano. No. 239. ISSN 1130-8117. January 2010.