I sat with a referee the week before Christmas and we discussed at length the various organisational development tools that are being practiced across businesses today. One which I found particularly interesting, is the AI theory, otherwise known as Appreciative Inquiry. I had never come across this method before, however the more I started reading in to it, the more I found how relevant it is to our business today.

Basically, Appreciative Inquiry is a method of enabling change and questioning using tools that are engaging and potentially, relationship builders. That specifically interested me and so I’m determined now to learn more about it, utilise it and activate change around me as a result.

What is Appreciative Inquiry?

Appreciative Inquiry is a system of discovery for seeking out the ”positive aspects that feed “life” into a living system”. AI is fundamentally 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 surrounding a living system. This system differs from traditional problem solving by looking at the positive core of actions and plans, instead of analysing 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. It is typical that during an inquiry you move 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:


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 done with a number of tools, one of which is through paired interviews and 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 a 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 organisation or situation.


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.


This phase uses the results of the first three 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 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.

I think that more and more businesses will adopt this method going forward and in summary, it focusses more on the can do, what we are strong at, as opposed to the negativity of where we are going wrong.

How appreciative are you of your strengths?

Robbie Macleod – Team Leader – Resources

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