Appreciative Inquiry – Building on the Positive

Positive mindset and proven expertise

‘What we focus on becomes our reality,’ is a phrase that is often used when trying to influence behavioural change. 

Appreciative Inquiry is a practical, future and action-focused approach to addressing challenges and future change. People have more confidence in addressing challenges and the uncertainties of impending change when they carry forward the best of the past. Appreciative Inquiry is a facilitated exploration and appreciation of what has worked best in the past and building on that. It is positive, non-threatening, engaging and energising. Most of all, it delivers results!

What is Appreciative Inquiry?

Appreciative Inquiry is a strengths-based approach to planning that focuses on the positive

  • It empowers people to create the future they want based on their successes in the past.
  • This is a strength based approach to leading and facilitating positive change by focussing on core strengths and leveraging them to shape the future.
  • It asks the question “What is working well?”
  • It poses a series of questions designed to reveal the existing best practices and to carry forward what has been learned into the future.
  • Appreciative Inquiry is a particular way of asking questions and envisioning the future that fosters positive relationships and builds on the basic goodness in a person, a situation, organisation or society. In so doing, it enhances a system’s capacity for collaboration and change.
  • The basic idea is to build around what works, rather than trying to fix what doesn’t. The approach acknowledges the contribution of individuals, in order to increase trust and alignment.
  • The method aims to create meaning by drawing from stories of concrete successes and lends itself to cross-industrial social activities.

David Cooperrider

 Appreciative Inquiry was developed by David Cooperrider of Case Western Reserve University. David L. Cooperrider is a Professor of Organisational Behaviour


 It has a highly structured process, moving through a series of steps sometimes called the Five “D” Cycle:

  • Define – Determine the area or topic of interest.
  • Discover – Conduct interviews using a positive open-ended questions focusing on strengths and unique attributes. Identify patterns and themes from interview responses.
  • Dream – Create ideal possibilities.
  • Design – Decide what should be.
  • Deliver – Take and maintain action.

 Core principles of appreciative inquiry

 In every group, organisation or society something is working.

  • How you ask questions is important – language matters.
  • Asking questions influences groups in some way.
  • There are a variety of ways of seeing the same thing – it is important to value diversity.
  • Resistance to change is reduced when you carry forward stories of your success.