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What is the Process of Appreciative Inquiry?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2016
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Appreciative Inquiry is a type of organizational strategy for improving businesses. It was first developed in 1987 by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva. The theory behind Appreciative Inquiry is that organizations can change and do better when all members of the organization focus on its positive aspects, rather than on its negative aspects. Instead of surveying employees and asking them what is wrong with a company, employees are asked what works well in a company. By gathering this information, the company then moves forward and practices more of the “right working” strategies.

There are four basic stages to Appreciative Inquiry: discover, dream, define, and deliver. Since its inception other Appreciative Inquiry processes have been added. However, these four are the original concepts of Cooperrider and Srivastva.

In the discovery process of Appreciative Inquiry all employees of a company are asked to recall times when the company proceeded in a really positive way. They might be asked to recall a specific incident that was impressive or effective. This helps to identify the positive aspects of the company.

In the dream process of Appreciative Inquiry, all employees are asked to look to the future and think of what things they would like to see happen in a company. This is still positively directed. The focus is on positive dreaming of the future of the company, and not negative critiques of the company’s past misdeeds.

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Based on the inquiries of the discovery and dream stages, the company is designed to reflect a more positive future. This is the planning stage, essentially, where the future direction of the company will be planned based on the past positive experiences of the employees and their hopes for the future.

Once planning is completed, the goal is to implement a new strategy for the company in the deliver stage. The deliver stage of Appreciative Inquiry is very important because it reflects the company’s commitment to creating a more positive and employee-centered workplace, which in most cases means a more productive workplace.

Since 1987 Appreciative Inquiry has been applied to numerous other types of organizations. If one evaluates Appreciative Inquiry on the Internet, many sites show implementation of Appreciative Inquiry in the pastoral field, in therapy groups or in education. Many have celebrated the positive methods of Appreciative Inquiry in practice and it is now used across a broad spectrum of fields.

In 2006, for example, the Washington Ballet used an Appreciative Inquiry model to resolve labor disputes between dancers and heads of the company. A 2006 article also looked at the way therapists are applying Appreciative Inquiry to the field of hypnotherapy to form a more positive-centered therapeutic method.

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