Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry is an approach that looks for what’s valuable rather than what’s wrong.

The development and process of Appreciative Inquiry is largely credited to Case Western Reserve University’s Department of Organizational Behavior.

Contrasting to ‘deficiency’ approaches (looking for problems instead of gifts), Appreciative Inquiry revolutionized organizational development and set the stage for the ‘strengths based’ movement in American management.

Appreciative Inquiry principles and methods have been applied in many settings, including interfaith and intercultural dialogue.

This interview was designed by The Human Agenda — working with the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council — as a tool for building a culture of interfaith welcome and appreciation. In it, a group of individuals converses in dyads with this introduction.

Appreciative Inquiry Interview

The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, with your support, is creating and nurturing a community where understanding between members of diverse religions grows and potential conflicts are transformed into learning opportunities.  As we know each other better we are less likely to promote or tolerate physical or emotional violence to others and to ourselves.  This work begins with each of us and has an impact around the world.

  1. Tell me a story of understanding and healing between individuals of different religions or spiritual traditions that you participated in or witnessed.  Who was involved?  What was the issue?  What happened to make it a positive outcome?  How can we nurture more of these kind of encounters?

  2. Without being modest, what do you value most about yourself?  What do you value about your current position in our community?  Why are your attracted to be a part of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council?

  3. As we move into the future, what suggestions can you share to make our vision more a reality?

  4. It is next year at this meeting and you are asked to share a contribution you have made to make this a more welcoming community for all people.  Articulate the headline and first paragraph for an article in our  interfaith newsletter.

The Five Principles of Appreciative Inquiry

The following principles have become the standard model for Appreciative Inquiry. They were published in the Sage Encyclopedia of Management Theory in an article written by David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney (1990).

1.  The constructionist principle. We create the future through our ideas and imagination.  Language is the tool with which we create and make things meaningful, and reveal possibilities.  To increase our use and understanding of words will add value to our organizations.

2.  The principle of simultaneity.  In asking a question, we are at the same time creating change.  By our inquiry, we plant the seeds for co-creation, collaboration.  The mere act of asking questions will have an impact on the organization.  This can be positive or it can be a negative impact.

3.  The poetic principle.  Organizations are a lot less like machines and a lot more like a work of art, open to multiple interpretations.  They can be a source of inspiration.  We can choose to examine conflict, breakdown, and learned helplessness or, we can inquire about joy, cooperation, innovation and what makes them possible.  Reality is what we pay attention to.

4.  The anticipatory principle.  Organizations exist in the collective imagination of the members, in the horizon.  Human beings move in the direction of inquiry, as plants move toward the light.  To intervene at the level of the imagination is key.  We can dream and create stronger and more creative and humane organizations.

5.  The positive principle. The more positive the question asked, the more positive the storytelling and data.  When more people are telling positive stories there is greater chance for finding common ground and creating a positive future. Where we are coming from will make a difference in where the group or organization is going.