I mentioned a course I was in a previous article about strategy that I learned some new things at.  Well that course was for strategic planning but the focus of it was doing so with the system of appreciative inquiry.  I found this method to be a valuable way of enabling change and questioning using tools and methods that were highly engaging and potentially, relationship builders.  That specifically interested me and so I’m determined now to learn more about it, utilize it and activate change around me as a result.

What is Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry is a method or system of discovery for seeking out the positive aspects that feed “life” into a living system.  Its about finding the strengths, affirming the best, encouraging by highlighting positive potential and ultimately it strengthens a systems capacity if you look at the appreciative portion.  The inquiry component is then about the discovery process, the questions, the methods and the art of exploring these positive elements of a living system.  This system differs from traditional problem solving by looking at the positive core of actions and plans, instead of analyzing the problem, what went wrong and how to fix a negative issue.  This generates more and more negative attention, unlike how appreciate inquiry works to bring out only the best in things.

5-D Cycle

The process of appreciative inquiry is one of 5 items in a cycle.  These items are not ordered steps and don’t always run sequentially.  Its more typical that during an inquiry you jump back and forth between steps and come back to repeat steps and even the whole cycle as you progress.  It’s much easier to understand if you know what each step is as outlined below.

ai-spiral

Define

Set the scope or topics for which an appreciative inquiry will be held.  This is done to manage an area of a change agenda or a strategic area to focus on.  This stage is not always neccessary as you could run an open ended appreciative inquiry session with no topics pre-defined in order to find them.  If you do define ahead of time it is to help focus or keep the topics within some context or range.

Discover

This stage is done with a number of tools, one of which is through paired interviews (more on that below) and story based questioning with an intent to discover what makes up the positive core of a company.  The value and core factors are often drawn out through interview questions or summary of stories and topics told about the positive experiences and best practices.  Questions about individuals values, nature and reasons for staying or doing the job they do draw out and help one discover the elements that form the positive core.

This stage is excellent on drawing on what is right or good in an organization or situation.

Dream

The dream phase is where you remove the barriers, and look to expand the imagination into a world of what things could be and what you wish it to be if there was no limits.  The dreams that are explored through this process ought to focus on what the best image or visualization could be like in the future if things were everything you wanted them to be.

Design

This phase uses the results of the first 3 Ds to identify the things that should occur.  It is the start of building in areas that are needed to support the further out dreams and aspirations.  The design is all the elements that are used to form a bridge across the expanse that otherwise lies as a barrier to results.  This design is something that allows the positive core to emerge stronger and in more areas of life.

Deliver

Deliver is the process or system in place that executes whatever is needed to build the design and ultimately achieve the dreams that are desired.  The deliver stage involves the action plans, teams and systems but it is in fact, the act of actually engaging those areas to make progress based on the design.

Next Steps

As I mentioned above, I have much more to learn about this system of appreciative inquiry and it highly interests me.  I will explore a few more of the tools and methods in my next article that I’ve utilized now for appreciative inquiry.  I have much to learn of this specific process and would love to hear any feedback and recommendations if you have any on the subject.  It relates greatly to personal development in the sense of looking to improve and drive change and so I think it is a valuable system to learn for anyone here at LearnThis.ca.



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