The Core Principles of Appreciative Inquiry, which describe the basic tenets of the underlying Ai philosophy, were developed in the early 1990’s by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva (Cooperrider’s advisor at Case Western Reserve University)
"Appreciative inquiry (AI) is both a worldview and a process for facilitating positive change in human systems. Every human system has something that works right–things that give it life when it is vital, effective, and successful. AI begins by identifying this positive core and connecting to it in ways that heighten energy, sharpen vision, and inspire action for change." Gustavo Razzetti
1. valuing; the act of recognizing the best in people or the world around us; affirming past and present strengths, successes, and potentials; to perceive those things that give life (health, vitality, excellence) to living systems
2. to increase in value, e.g. the economy has appreciated in value.
Synonyms: VALUING, PRIZING, ESTEEMING, and HONORING.
In-quire’ (kwir), v.
1. the act of exploration and discovery.
2. To ask questions; to be open to seeing new potentials and possibilities.
Synonyms: DISCOVERY, SEARCH, and SYSTEMATIC EXPLORATION, STUDY.
5D Cycle of Appreciative Inquiry
What is the topic of inquiry? – It is important to define the overall focus of the inquiry (what the system wants more of). Definition is used to clarify the area of work to be considered. In spite of being the starting point of the cycle, it’s a recent addition – the 5Ds were originally the 4Ds, including discover, dream, design and destiny. Definition defines the project’s purpose, content, and what needs to be achieved. In this phase, the guiding question is, “What generative topic do we want to focus on together?”
Appreciating the best of ‘what is’ – Discovery is based on a dialogue, as a way of finding ‘what works’. It rediscovers and remembers the organization or community’s successes, strengths and periods of excellence.
Dream – Imagining ‘what could be’ – Imagining uses past achievements and successes identified in the discovery phase to imagine new possibilities and envisage a preferred future. It allows people to identify their dreams for a community or organization; having discovered ‘what is best’. They have the chance to project it into their wishes, hopes and aspirations for the future
Determining ‘what should be’ – Design brings together the stories from discovery with the imagination and creativity from dream. We call it bringing the ‘best of what is’ together with ‘what might be’, to create ‘what should be – the ideal’.
Creating ‘what will be’ – The fifth stage in the 5Ds process identifies how the design is delivered, and how it’s embedded into groups, communities and organizations. In early appreciative inquiry development, it was called ‘delivery’, based on more traditional organizational development practice. The term ‘destiny’ is more prevalent now.
“Problems get replaced with innovation as conversations increasingly shift toward uncovering the community’s positive core.” AI consultant Bernard J. Mohr
"What would happen to our change practices if we began all our work with the positive presumption that organizations, as centers of human relatedness, are alive with infinite constructive capacity?” — David Cooperrider
Discovery mode: Participants show understanding and willingness to be changed.
Sharing Truth: Participants share truth of personal experience using 'I' statements.
Active Listening: Participants give full attention to content, meaning, and feelings.
Surfacing Assumptions: Participants uncover beliefs that underlie opinions and 'facts'.
Suspending Judgments: Participants put judgments aside to actively listen.
Attending to the 'whole': Participants notice themes, patterns and implications.
The foundation for such a culture are four dialogical skills according to William Isaacs that can be learned and practiced individually or in groups. Practicing these skills leads to a change in attitude, which in turn affects our behavior and expands our possibilities for action.
Regular Dialogue in a safe space
These four dialogical skills complement each other and unfold their impact in combination over time. The prerequisite is a willingness to engage with each other, allowing trust to grow. This can be facilitated within a safe space and a clear framework. Through regular practice, increasing depth and ease develop within the dialogue and among the group, affecting other areas of communication as well.
Dialogue provides practical guidelines for one of the essential elements of true partnership--learning how to talk together in honest and effective ways. Reveals how problems between managers and employees, and between companies or divisions within a larger corporation, stem from an inability to conduct a successful dialogue.