Appreciative Inquiry

The brain is a funny thing. We are hardwired for survival – to look for threats and notice what doesn’t fit with our values. What is really fascinating is that when we begin to notice and appreciate the ordinary as well as the extraordinary we pilot our neurology in a very different and much more positive way which enables us to flourish.


Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is the act of exploring and discovering – asking questions and being open to see new potentials and possibilities through valuing and recognising the very best in people, situations, organisations, and the wider world around us.  It is about affirming past and present strengths, successes and peak experiences.  It is a radically affirmative approach to change which completely lets go of problem-based management.


Revisiting AI I began to draw some parallels between the principles of positive psychology, NLP, mental models and learned optimism. It focuses on discovering and articulating the very best of things and thus runs those neural pathways resulting in uplifting, life-giving outcomes.


What we think about, we bring about.


AI is a tool for organisational change. By connecting to the transformational power of the positive change core – opening an organisations strength, innovation, achievement, imaginative story, hope, positive tradition, passion and dream, to systematic inquiry. It then uses the stories generated to create new, more compelling images of the organisation and its future.


The nature of the questions asked is one of the powers of AI. Questions must be framed in a positive and engaging way – focusing on what you want rather than what you don’t want.  An example is, say an organisation had an issue with sexual harassment and wanted to reduce the incidence sexual harassment and bring about a positive cultural change. The question would not be framed around “What are good examples of how different organisations have reduced the incidence of sexual harassment?”

The question would be, “What does it mean to create and sustain high quality cross-gender relationships in the workplace?

This way people could share stories of achievement, trust building, authentic joint leadership, practices of effective conflict management, ways of dealing with sex stereotypes, stages of development and methods of career advancement.


Topics can be anything that individuals or organisations feel is strategically and humanly important. Topics worthy of study might be:

  • Empowerment
  • Innovation
  • Commitment
  • Integrity
  • Ecological consciousness
  • Pride
  • Technical processes
  • Financial efficiencies
  • Social responsibilities
  • Equality
  • Partnership
  • Valuing Diversity
  • Inspired leadership
  • Fun


Some dream questions could be…

What is the world calling us to become?

What are those things about us that no matter how much we change, we want to continue into our new and different future?


AI is about new knowing, not so much about new knowledge. It engenders a repatterning of our relationships, not only with each other but also our relationship to reality itself. This occurs because of the way we filter and interpret the information we receive into our neurology. Our interpretation influences the way we imagine, how we interpret our relationships, and ultimately to the meaning we give things and direction we take action.  We create the organisational worlds in which we live.


The 4D Process

There are four steps in the AI process – discovery, dreaming, designing and destiny.


While AI has been around for awhile now, it is good to revisit the importance of focusing on the positive, and looking for the best in situations. When we focus on strengths, positive and uplifting aspects of anything we bathe our brains in dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin – all of which have a range of positive outcomes on our wellbeing, motivation, happiness and joy.


Man alone is the architect of his destiny – William James, 1902

Posted in On Running Your Brain