Appreciative Inquiry

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Appreciative Inquiry is a relatively new and unique way for people to examine and improve themselves, their roles and workplaces. It is based on a deceptively simple premise: that people and organizations grow in the areas where they focus their attention.

Appreciative Inquiry was developed by Drs. Cooperrider and Srivastava in the Organizational Behaviour Department at Case Western University in the late 1980s. It began to find its stride in the 1990s during a time of great unrest and change in organizations and workplaces. It has since captured the worldwide attention of organization and community development advocates, social scientists, change leaders and organizational theorists, and has been used by numerous private and public sector organizations including the United Nations.

Proponents of Appreciative Inquiry use simple strengths-focused questions to help people discover what is working, what is creating energy, excitement and positive outcomes, and then determining how they can produce more.

It is a fact that the problems to be solved today are so complex and multi-dimensional they can’t be solved with the same tools we have used in the past. David Cooperrider is quoted as saying: “In order to engage people in building the kinds of places they want to work in, methods that affirm, compel, enable and appreciate are required”. Appreciative Inquiry reinforces the belief that if we are to help people change their behaviour and their expectations we must understand – and make use of – the driving and restraining forces, the motivators and de-motivators, the formal and informal power structures and engage minds, hearts and spirits in the task.

We know that most people want to be part of an exciting team doing meaningful work. We know we need to find new tools for people to really connect with each other in deeper, more meaningful ways. Appreciative Inquiry is a tool that expands the realm of the possible and engages people in their own creative change leadership work.

Much research and many examples are available that support the use of Appreciative Inquiry to create meaningful change in professional and organizational life. One source is the Appreciative Inquiry Commons at Case Western (www.appreciativeinquiry.case.edu).

Bev has used Appreciative Inquiry successfully with more than 15 professional groups and can attest to the very positive response that is generated by health teams who create future-oriented plans of action for themselves with this generative and affirming methodology.