Appreciative Inquiry Examples

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Appreciative Inquiry Examples

New Perspective in Thinking: Appreciative Inquiry. Appreciative Inquiry, or AE, is an entirely different perspective of thinking about organizations and their functioning . Unlike the almost instinctive process of trying to find what’s wrong with one’s work environment to come up with solutions, AE emphasizes identifying the best qualities in order to fix it.


This tutorial will help managers of any industry expand their understanding of Appreciative Inquiry by exploring how it can be applied to increase productivity and success.


Before proceeding with this tutorial you should be familiar with how to manage in a team environment or what company structure means.


Appreciative Inquiry – Introduction

Appreciative Inquiry is a perspective that appears to be especially helpful for managers, when they need to motivate their team on a regular basis and require the best output. If each member of a team knows what they are supposed to be doing, no motion will go unused due to confusion or uncertainty. Instead, motivated individuals will put their skills into action and they will use them in the most effective way possible.

Appreciative Inquiry – Purpose

The main purpose of Appreciative Inquiry is to increase the success of a specific organization . This perspective has been developed by David Lipsky and he believes that instead of getting depressed or overwhelmed, team members should focus on how best they can contribute to their organization.

Appreciative Inquiry – Processes

The key processes of Appreciative Inquiry are:  Identifying what is best about your company, your team or yourself  Discovering the smallest detail that makes a difference in many situations  Finding what your organization should value most and tell you all the time .


To apply Appreciative Inquiry in your work environment, you need to appreciate your organization first. It’s much more difficult to create an action plan on how to improve it when each member of the team is looking at indicators that show all its flaws and mistakes. A positive perspective will help you realize what needs to be done next and how to move forward.

Appreciative Inquiry focuses on asking positive questions, instead of looking for fault. It is all about solutions instead perceived problems.

Experts recommend that appreciative thinking is not actually an inventive solution; instead, it’s more like trading places with the problem. Whereas in old-school thinking we might ask “Why isn’t this working?”, to do so would be limited by our preconceptions of what constitutes a good or bad answer. The key to appreciative thinking is going through options from the perspective of what we want to achieve. The first question needs to be “What will it take?” or even better, “What would it take for everything to go well?”

The answers are always surprising and they often create new options that were not considered before.

What is Appreciative Inquiry?

A positive approach to change that will help the people in your organization feel appreciated is called ‘Appreciative Inquiry’. This method of management is best because it encourages enthusiasm, compassion, engagement and hope.

Appreciative Inquiry is the practice of asking questions to strengthen an organization’s capacity to improve.


Being an appreciative thinker and focusing on the positives instead of the negatives is a great way to make life better for yourself and those around you.

Specifically, an appreciative thinker would focus on where they are in control and how they can positively affect the group’s future. They would also be empowered to play a significant role in either positively or negatively influencing group dynamics.

Appreciative Inquiry is also defined as a group process of creating shared meaning for future possibilities, resulting in collective actions and strategies that aim toward the positive development of an organization or community. Appreciative Inquiry seeks to understand what is already working well in order to foster conditions that nurture success.

The field of Appreciative Inquiry emerged from social work in the 1970s and has been applied to many different disciplines. It encourages organizations to identify what is best about their situation rather than be overwhelmed by what is wrong with it. This construct assumes that an organization’s purpose lies in its capacity to create value, not simply change or progress.

Appreciative Inquiry emphasizes that collective imagination, courage and commitment are essential for an organization or community to flourish.

Dealing with Change

The only thing that is permanent in life and work is change. Without it, individuals, groups, and organizations stagnate. However, those who are “appreciative thinkers” usually approach a situation with a different perspective than regular managers because they define the reasons behind the issue differently.

While managers occasionally try to give feedback to their employees, attentive managers will ask questions about the problem the employee is facing.

These questions might initially cause a negative reaction, but in the long run they promote transparency and lead to trust.

  • Why is there a lack of motivation?
  • Why does the organization not comprehend something?
  • What went wrong?
  • Why are they stressed out so much?

The solution to these problems would likely be in finding out another approach that creates a positive vibe within the organization. As such, the Appreciative Approach of problem-solving was developed.

The ‘Appreciative Approach’ has been created as it is a better way to handle problems and create solutions which produce positivity around them.

Here are some examples of Appreciative Inquiry:

Can you imagine what would happen if we all gave up halfway through our project?

If you could change one thing about the way this project is working, what would it be?

What would we have to do in order for everyone who participates to feel like a valuable contributor ?

What’s good about where we are right now , and how can we take advantage of it in order to reach our goal?

When you look into the future , what would be your ideal outcome for this project?

What are we doing right now that makes us feel proud of ourselves or our organization?

How can you tell when an appreciative question is being asked, and how do appreciative questions differ from other kinds of questions? .

How might you use Appreciative Inquiry to create new collaborative relationships?

Are there other questions that you can replace with appreciative ones in your daily conversations and interactions with people?

How might appreciating something or someone help you evaluate if it’s worth investing your time and energy into the project or relationship, or not ?

What could happen if we asked critical questions to people in a way that they could understand and appreciate ?

How might you use the 4D Cycle for your own personal or professional development?

We often focus on what’s wrong instead of finding out what’s right, or looking at an issue from different perspectives. Can appreciative questions help us change this negative habit into a more positive one?

Do you know someone who is an expert at turning negatives into positives?

If you could ask that person for advice about how to use appreciative questions, what would it be?

What appreciative questions have you asked yourself or others in the past – and how did they help you reach your goals ?

Speaking should lead to action

Communication with words is more than just a means to chat. Talking strengthens relationships within the shared reality we create together. That’s why positive communication will have a greater impact on other people.

It is important to recognize words for what they really are – not just a way to communicate with others, but tools that can help us think and act more positively.

Knowledge is power to change

We establish the reality of a fact when we ask a question. As conversations turn to questioning, we realize that there can be no such thing as a neutral question. Most questions will end up being difficult to answer, especially in an environment where important discussions are taking place.

We create the future by looking to the horizon

Everything changes. We need to anticipate a change that will shape the future to our advantage. This is what motivates people who predict the future.

People are strongly motivated by images with a positive message.

Positive words and a positive attitude attract people, so they listen. When the mind is receptive to good images, possibilities and capabilities are more likely to happen. Positive conversations can lead people to take consistent positive actions which foster sustainable change in oneself.

Creative Choice

Appreciative questioning promotes an open future. If you focus your attention on what makes you happy, you become more creative with your choices. Questions about the positives in your life have a different effect on a person than questions about negatives.

Coherent relationships can be created with storytelling

By sharing facts about what happens everyday at work with each other, we not only feel a stronger bond between us and our coworkers, but it also gives us an opportunity to learn new things that we might have otherwise overlooked.

Relationships between people

This bonding influences the outcome of a partnership. A questioning style, combined with appreciation, increases the probability of success.

Appreciative Inquiry Methodologies

These methodologies allow you to use the power of positive questions as a tool for creating a better future.

Critical Questions – Basic AI Principles

The opposite way of how Appreciative Inquiry works is the Critical Approach. In this approach, there are no positives in question, all answers are framed in negative light. Critical Questioning tries to bring out the bad in every situation, and give answers that are less preferred. For example, saying something like “If we fail in this project, what will happen?”

Detractors do not have a problem with their attitude towards life – they just simply don’t want to look at the positive side of things. They prefer to remain critical about everything and everyone around them. They see the dark side of things, and then make a negative statement about it. They rarely offer any kind of positive comment in their statements.

Critical questions are the opposite of appreciative ones because they will not lead to action – instead, they are more likely to cause inaction .

Questions that can stimulate critical thinking are:

· What are the possible risks?

· How can we avoid making a mistake?

· Will this be successful?

· Why is that bad or wrong?

· What will happen if … ?

· Is there a chance of failure? (usually used to fear something)

Critical questions should stimulate skepticism and caution. They are designed to minimize risks and increase the chance for positive outcomes. They are essential in situations where there are potential risks of failure – but they can also be used just to stimulate discussion , as a reminder that there’s always some type of risk involved, no matter what you do or how hard you try.

Critical questions do not necessarily have to be negative, but they are more likely to lead to negative thoughts and expressions. They may make you feel less than optimistic about some situation or person, and discourage you from taking any action. On the other hand, if you want to challenge your potential for success, then critical thinking can be a good way of achieving it.

Critical questions can also stimulate creativity :

· How can we do this better?

· What would be a better alternative to our current plan?

· How can we improve on the idea of … ?

· Is there any other way to see it?

Critical questions should be used in moderation. They are best suited for discussions about potential risks and problems, but they can be useful in other situations, as well.

Critical questions can be asked from anyone to anyone, but the feeling behind them may differ depending on who asks them and to whom they are addressed. For example:

· A critical question asked by a project manager or supervisor could lead to a negative reaction, causing the employees to slack off or cause some kind of problem.

· A general critical question asked by someone to another person could lead to a negative reaction, causing the people involved in a discussion or argument to get defensive and start feeling more negative about themselves.

· Asking the right questions is like magic – it helps you create your own reality . If you ask the right question, you get the right answer. If you ask the wrong question, you may not end up with what you wanted in the first place.

Appreciative Inquiry – The 4D Cycle

Appreciative Inquiry is a way of asking questions that help people focus on the potential, positive changes they want to make. It asks questions in order to create shared vision of an ideal future , and then helps people act towards accomplishing that dream .

Instead of asking what could go wrong or how we can prevent a mistake from happening, Appreciative Inquiry encourages us to ask what’s good about something, and then come up with ideas for achieving it.

The 4 Ds of Appreciative Inquiry – Dream-Discover-Deliver – are a cyclic process that can help you reach your goals:

· Dreaming is the first stage in the cycle . Instead of asking questions about the current situation, engage in a conversation about what’s best for everyone involved.

· Discovering involves discovering the gaps between where we are now and where we want to be in the future .

· Delivering means taking action steps towards making dreams come true and delivering more value than expected. This stage is considered as being responsible for bringing people and resources together to enable them to flourish.

· Demonstrating means celebrating the achievement of goals . This is a crucial step in Appreciative Inquiry, as it helps people keep up their motivation and enthusiasm for the project they have accomplished successfully.

Appreciative Inquiry – The Discovery Phase

The first stage of the 4D cycle, i.e., the Discovery Phase starts with stories, examples, and depictions of strong visual moments from the past. These moments are the foundation of the project you want to accomplish.

What is your initial focus and purpose for using Appreciative Inquiry?

What successful past experiences can serve as an example or inspiration for this current project?

What does being successful look like in your organization? How do people feel when they are most effective ?

What would constitute a successful outcome for the group?

Appreciative Inquiry – The Dream Phase

Dreams generate a lot of discussion, especially when they answer questions about the future. This type is called an “energetic dream.”

When considering the future direction of a project, having a clear vision is crucial. During this phase Appreciative Advising helps teams to define their dream , being careful not to choose vital aspects for later phases, and without imposing any artificial limits on what might be possible. Having the essential parts in place we’re able to imagine various circumstances and understand what we have available that can be used in developing a plan about how to go about it as well as what goal(s) makes sense.

What do you want to accomplish with this project?   What kind of future oriented vision can inspire people and make them believe in it ?

Which values, beliefs or standards are most important to you when considering this decision?

How will success be measured for individual team members and the group as a whole dream is a vision of the future , coupled with the belief that it can be pursued and achieved.   What are some big dreams for you right now?

How do you plan to lead in order to accomplish something that may seem impossible ?

What was your dream like when you were younger ? Is it still a part of who you are today?

Appreciative Inquiry – The Design Phase

A person’s vision for their future needs to be clear from the start of the Dream Stage. Having the essential parts, we’re able to imagine various circumstances and understand what we have available that can be used in developing a plan about how  to go about it as well as what goal(s) makes sense.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of your current design?

How could you make this project even better?   What do you need in order to succeed ?

Do you know why we need all these people involved in this project, and not just a few key people ?

How will they contribute their unique skills and talents to the mission ?

How do your co-workers, customers and consumers affect the direction of this project ?

Appreciative Inquiry – The Destiny Phase

This is the last phase of the four stages of Appreciative Inquiry. The objectives for this final stage are to experiment and to learn from what other teams have done.

An appreciative approach aims to identify the sources of

energy and motivation of those involved, while accounting for past successes.

How can you ensure that your great ideas will remain in motion? How will you keep the current momentum going ?

What would be the best thing to do next, as a result of this project?

There are always obstacles and challenges in life. What are some of the possible obstacles for this project ?

Are there any big opportunities that can help you overcome challenges?

If you could ask a crystal ball to show you the best possible outcome, what might it look like ?

How will this project make a difference in people’s lives and the world ?

What will be even bigger than this project, that may have come out of it?

How do you open your mind to keep your creative ideas flowing?

How do you bring more co-workers, customers and consumers on board?

How can you engage everyone to help achieve the vision ?

What are some of your early indicators that show the project is going in the right direction?

How will this project be sustainable over time ?     Who else might benefit from what you’ve learned ?

What can you do to ensure that the project gets off on the right foot?   How can you help others see what you’re thinking about?

What is your plan for sharing this information with others ?


Six Phases of Appreciative Advising

One of the most significant achievements of Appreciative Inquiry in the field of education has been to help subjects such as counselors and educational advisors give appropriate advice

Appreciative advising has six phases:


Appreciative Advising


Phase 1: Engagement / Disarm

The purpose of this phase is to understand the context of the client. Generally, an appreciative advisor looks for a career which he can engage himself in with passion and dedication. This is also where ‘Career Passion’ comes into the picture − Career Passion refers to a deep interest or excitement about what one does in his career. It is the single most important factor in determining one’s success or failure in a particular career.

Phase 2: Exploration / Discover

In this phase, an appreciative advisor explores the client’s goals and seeks options which match his interests and passions. Exploring various options and alternatives helps in better understanding of what constitutes a suitable career for the candidate.

Phase 3: Choosing / Dream

In this phase, an appreciative advisor looks at various options available to the client and evaluates them on the basis of his goals and career passion. In the process of evaluation, he may also eliminate options that do not match with his goals. He finally chooses one option which meets inner as well as outer standards, and is also in agreement with the client’s goals.

Phase 4: Formulation of Action Plan / Design

In this phase, an appreciative advisor helps the client to formulate a plan of action towards his career path. As part of the plan, he may suggest some short-term and long-term goals which should be achieved at various points in time, and also some activities which should be carried out in the short-term to help him achieve his long-term goals.

Phase 5: Monitoring performance / Deliver

In this phase, an appreciative advisor monitors the client’s progress towards achieving his short and long term goals. He may suggest various steps or changes that need to be made in order to achieve the goals.

Phase 6: Celebration /  Don’t Settle

In this phase, an appreciative advisor helps the client to celebrate his achievements. This is often done by organizing a reception where he may invite family members, friends and colleagues so that they appreciate the efforts put in by him.


The Organizational Architecture

Constructing a provocative propositon, the author must evaluate how an organization would take the form of if you were to design and optimise evaluator-client relationships. The main task is to start with considering an organization’s engineering: one’s technical and social elements that constitute it.

With this analysis, the company’s organization and design are considered systematically to ensure that all factors affecting the evaluation-client relation have been taken into account.

Organizational Architecture is divided into two major blocks −

A. Technical Elements: These include four factors which comprise the organization’s technical architecture −

i) The Committed Core :This is made up of those people who play a pivotal role in the formation, operation and evaluation of an Appreciative Advising practice. They are involved in the process of creating and communicating the change. They are committed to implementing appreciative advising within their organization, so much so that they invest time, energy and other resources in its development and execution. While doing this, they help others also develop appreciation for Appreciative Advising through various means.

ii) The Evaluator-Client Proximity: This refers to the extent of proximity existing between evaluators and clients in an organization.

iii) The Audit Culture: An Appreciative Advising practice requires an evaluation component, which helps in achieving its stated outcomes. Evaluation is done by measuring progress towards desired results. Evaluation occurs when we measure tasks with some reference to goals. Auditors assess process and products, while evaluators judge the degree of attainment of stated results in relation to desired results.

iv) The New Culture: Appreciative Advising practices lead to changes in an organization’s culture. Identification, nurture and promotion of new behaviours are key aspects of appreciative advising.

A healthy clientele-evaluator relationship requires that all these factors be present and consistent in an organization.

B. The Social Elements: These are the interrelationships among technical elements of architecture, which when managed well, provide a suitable setting for evaluators and clients to work together effectively towards achieving shared desired results.

in order to do this, an appreciative advisor must create and nurture the right relationships between individuals and organizations in his practice area −

i) Evaluator-Client Relationship: This is a relationship which exists between evaluators and clients that provides both parties with opportunities to interact regularly, positively, effectively and professionally towards achieving a shared goal.

ii) Evaluator-Client Relationships: A group of evaluators who form a network and interact with clients’ to ensure that the process of appreciative advising is effective and achieves optimal results for the organization, while fulfilling its mission. The strength of these relationships does not depend on formal roles or predetermined tasks, but on the degree of common understanding and respect for individual roles, responsibilities and expectations.

iii) Organizational Context:

It is a set of constraints or influences on an organization’s ability to achieve the desired results. In order to design an appreciative advising practice, it is important to study the organizational context in which our client organizations operate and to understand how these influences affect the way they work, relate with other organizations and individuals within the system.

iv) Organizational Norms & Values: These are the beliefs that describe what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in a certain organization. It helps us realize why certain practices or conditions prevail in an organization; it determines the way individuals and organizations interact with each other.

v) Individual Needs: Every individual in an organization has his own needs, motives, goals and desires that are different from those of other people. An appreciative advising practice is successful when all these diverse needs are fulfilled.

vi) External Influences: These refer to influences outside of an organization which affect its ability to achieve the desired results. Examples of external influences include regulations, industry trends and economic conditions.

Appreciative advising allows organizations to discover their ‘best selves’. This is done by mapping out a course, or path for the organization through an evaluation process that assesses past performance while projecting future success. Organizations are at their best when they have the freedom to operate autonomously, with congruence between mission and values, vision and strategy, goals and priorities. Appreciative Advising allows them to discover this ‘best self’ by performing an Evaluation of their past performance (i) identifying successes and failures in relation to identified desired results, (ii) reinforcing behaviors and systems that have worked well in the past and nurturing their continuance as well as (iii) identifying suitable strategies for dealing with new challenges.


  • eSoft Skills Team

    The eSoft Editorial Team, a blend of experienced professionals, leaders, and academics, specializes in soft skills, leadership, management, and personal and professional development. Committed to delivering thoroughly researched, high-quality, and reliable content, they abide by strict editorial guidelines ensuring accuracy and currency. Each article crafted is not merely informative but serves as a catalyst for growth, empowering individuals and organizations. As enablers, their trusted insights shape the leaders and organizations of tomorrow.

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