Appreciative Inquiry Model for Better Business


This Appreciative inquiry basics is based on the 5-D Appreciative Inquiry process…

Appreciative inquiry is about the positive and  affirmative stories, memories and images that we have of ourselves, of others, and of our relationships. Appreciative inquiry assumes that in any organization or relationship there have been times when great things were happening. Appreciative inquiry builds on these successes to create a more successful future. This simple philosophical shift of focusing on the positive and the possible rather than the problematic, reawakens peoples’ passion and enthusiasm for their tasks and for each other. Appreciative inquiry is a high-energy process with the potential for long-term, sustainable results.

This Appreciative inquiry process introduction provides an overview of the AI steps and philosophy.  AI has been used for  many organisational development initiastives; team building, diversity initiatives, visioning, and much more. Prepare to experience the power of possibilities through appreciative inquiry.


1. AI Definition – Positive point of Focus

Step 1.  Define the area of positive focus and inquiry. Is it for REAL team building, enhancing interpersonal skills, High Voltage leadership development, or something else? The area chosen becomes the basis for the remaining four steps of the inquiry.

2. Ai – Discovery

The AI discovery phase provides the platofirm and opportunity for people to share their best past positive experiences and their energising stories.  Stories are the core of our identity. they reveal how we view ourselvs. We typically ive our lives based on stories that we haven’t chosen to continue to retell.. The appreciative inquiry interview experience provides an opportunity to recall times when we have been excelled and enjoyed it.

From these positive past stories, teams share, discover and consolidate the organization’s “life-giving forces”, the values, beliefs, experiences, memories and ideas that draw it’s people together. This phase begins to shift the typical conversations away from the problem-focus and toward the broader positive focus on possibilities.

AI is about more than just the positive and the possibilities. AI is also about people’s wishes, hopes and dreams for a better future. By asking people for their wishes, hopes, expectztions and dreams, they can express their negative thoughts and emotions in a positive way without fear of retribution.

3. Ai- Dream

Based on the stories and examples of positive past experiences, people begin to dream and envision new possibilities for the future. By grounding the Ai DREAm process in the realities of the Successful Positive PAST from the discovery phase, people now view their dreams and hope as more attainable..

During the dream phase, peoples’ images for the future are first represented metaphorically. For example, a group may create a skit or piece of artwork to represent their dream. Then, the dream may be formalized as verbal macro-level provocative propositions. They are provocative in that while based in reality, they are a stretch from the organization’s present state.

Take for example the provocative proposition for the Controller’s office of Case Western Reserve University, “We are a self-motivated, determined and humorous group of diverse individuals. We strive to delight our customers and surprise even ourselves in doing so. Others can only dream of being a part of the BEST Controller’s Office in the World.”


Whereas the images and the macro-level propositions of the dream phase address the vision of the group, the detailed, micro-level provocative propositions address the day-to-day realities of working together. The micro-level propositions address various aspects such as leadership, culture, business processes & systems and shape them to align the dream with daily activities. Here are various aspects of creating the social architecture that you may want to examine:

  • How should we work and play together?
  • What roles do everyone long to play? For example, Director of Joy, Wonder, Passion, Celebration
  • What are the leadership roles and functions, preferred behavior?
  • Who and how does the agenda get created?
  • What should be our relationship to the community?
  • How can we best support each other?
  • What are the practices for continual improvement and rejuvenation, for bringing out the best in people, and for creating meaningful work?
  • What should the spirit in the group be like?
  • What support does the group need?
  • Who else should be invited?


In the destiny phase, the results of the dream provide the vision and guidance for everyday actions. Also, the processes, structures, and relationships from the design phase are put into action. Cooperrider and Whitney found, “Momentum for change and long-term sustainability increased the more we abandoned ‘delivery’ ideas of action planning, monitoring progress, and building implementation strategies.” In the most exciting cases, businesses focused primarily on giving AI away to everyone, and then stepping back. The destiny phase also provides a time where the organization can look for ways to improve and expand the AI process.

Benefits and Results

By focusing on the positive, AI can improve employee morale, increase communication and productivity, and increase the involvement of various stakeholders. AI rekindles people’s passions and sense of responsibility and people have reason to once again be hopeful; hopeful that the future is bright and that they can make a direct impact on that future.

Additional Resources

For an alternative appreciative inquiry model, especially suited for personal development in a group setting, check out the Appreciative Inquiry Model for Personal Transformation – IRACE.

A great, although long article on the powerful impact that AI has made at Hunter Douglas, the window covering company – The Liberation of Power.

This article talks about an appreciative approach to management. This approach can be done by any individual and consists of determining what you want more of, looking for it, and then amplifying what you find. For example, if you want more employee initiative, look for it and when you find it amplify it by giving the employee acknowledgment, praise, and/or resources Clear Leadership – Chapter 7.

For an interesting books that can be downloaded for free, check out Locating the Energy for Change. The author, Charles Elliot provides a  pragmatic approach to AI and the challenges of facilitating change. Elliot’s website also provides a brief narrative introduction to AI.