There is numerous research literature on how powerful questions are and how they could be used in problem solving frameworks, mediation, restorative practices, action learning, facilitation, people management and day-to-day social interactions. Many books have been written about the power of inquiry and how leaders have found that asking is more effective rather than telling, as a great tool for engaging and influencing human systems.
What is it that our organizations, communities, work-groups need the most at this point? If we analyse the leadership literature, business evolution and contemporary social events, it is pretty much clear that the new technologies, processes, developments and ways of living have not solved the most fundamental problems we encounter today. It is ironic that the pursuit for ‘development’ and ‘success’ have caused more stress at work, depression among the youth and lack of purpose in growing adults - not to mention poverty, hunger, diseases and destruction.
The word ‘appreciative’ means to increase in value - it could be economically or socially. In connection with organisations, it means to take time to recognise the best in people and the environment, celebrate what is working well. Specifically it points to affirming the strengths, success and the potential in the people and the human system. This process of appreciation brings out to the forefront, the wealth of factors that give life - health, vitality and excellence - to these living systems. in short, appreciative actions are those in the direction of increasing the potential - to be the best that we could ever be!
What if our organizations are valued firstly by the vitality and vision of the people who take pride in being part of it – the way those human systems are organized – and second; by the value they create for the wider world?
This is exactly what every employer and employee desires to be. The difference between successful organisations and the rest is not confined to the ability to face adversities but also advancing the vision of the organisation through the achievement of its goals. This can be achieved by investing in the inner resources of employees. Mindfulness practices are geared towards developing these inner resources. In fact, successful and innovative organisations such as Google and Apple have been running programmes to sustain a mindful corporate culture in the recent years.
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.