Appreciative Inquiry is not about appreciating people. It is not about asking good questions. It is not about positive thinking. It is not about focusing on the positive. It is not an alternative to problem solving, nor a call for ignoring problems.
Then what is Appreciative Inquiry (AI)?
Predominantly it may be categorised as a ‘change management methodology’. The natural state of the world is change. It will unfold itself as long as it is not suppressed. This is true for the communities, organisations, teams and individuals. What is our role then? We need to be able to remove obstacles for change, influence its direction, in a way that it serves aspirations, goals and the well being of the collective. Appreciative Inquiry posits that if we regularly have inquiry and conversations around what we truly value in the present and the future, if we collectively bring clarity to our emerging vision, and if choose to focus our actions in alignment with the insights uncovered, change becomes a natural evolution of a human system. Thus appreciative inquiry through the study of what gives life and vitality to an organisation, initiates the change that gets the system moving in the direction it envisioned.
Appreciative Inquiry may also be categorised as a set of processes and tools for implementing change. How do we make the above inquiry based conversations happen? How do we learn and act from the insights uncovered? There are many tools, the most discussed one being the 4-D model. This model is easy to understand and use in a large scale change process, engaging the whole system in conversations that matter. It is designed as a cyclic process, that continues to sustain the momentum of the change efforts. There are many other similar tools including 5D and 6D models, SOAR etc.
Appreciative Inquiry may be considered as a philosophical lens through which the world can be experienced - a worldview if you will. By immersing oneself in the inquiry for some time, by making it a way of life for an individual, team or organisation, AI becomes the appreciative lens through which we interact with people and situations. An appreciative individual does not need to work hard to see potential and possibilities in all situations. This shift is transformational in nature and the outcome is a mindset of resilience, positivity and strength based living in individuals, leading to
profits and productivity in teams.