What is appreciative inquiry?

retweet...seeing potential not problems

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a fresh approach to organisational development, equipping people and systems with a greater capacity for change, renewal and focused performance.

Developed in the United States, AI is an incisive and powerful facilitation tool rapidly gaining popularity with several major British organisations including O2, the BBC and many leading public bodies.

Download our free 'What is Appreciative Inquiry?' briefing paper

Why it works

  • The key feature of AI is its positive focus. It discovers existing good practice, strengths and creativity, reaffirming people’s confidence and enthusiasm, and builds on this foundation to deliver long-term, sustainable improvements.

  • AI doesn’t focus on changing people. Instead, it focuses on what’s good about their work, creating a positive, energised state which means they are far more likely to want change and pursue it.

  • AI does not ignore past failures but encourages people to use their experiences to facilitate new ideas, change and progress.

  • Using an AI approach means you won't be throwing out the good stuff that's already there when you start to build your new organisation.

In practice, AI is based on a five-step approach:

Define – specifying an issue, problem or opportunity to work on

– identifying what works well in an organisation

– envisioning an ideal future

– planning and prioritising different ways of doing things

– implementing the proposed design and making it happen

How AI differs from traditional ‘problem-solving’ approaches


  • What to fix

Appreciative Inquiry

  • What to grow
  • Thinks in terms of: problem, symptoms, causes, solutions, action plan, intervention and all too often blame
  • Thinks in terms of: good, better, possible
  • Breaks things into pieces, leading to fragmented responses
  • AI keeps the big picture in view, focusing on an ideal and how its roots lie in what is already working
  • Slow pace of change - requiring a lot of positive emotion to make real change
  • Quickly creates a new dynamic – with people united around a shared vision of the future
  • Assumes an organisation is made up of a series of problems to be overcome, creating a deficit culture
  • Assumes an organisation is a source of limitless capacity and imagination, creating an appreciative culture

We are happy to answer any questions you may have about the Appreciative Inquiry approach and how it works in practice - call Kate McAllister today on 01663 795004