What Is The Appreciative Inquiry Approach?

In today’s piece, we’re going to look at the an introduction to appreciative inquiry, and how this might change your management style and operations across the board in a positive way. It’s something that we’ve encouraged our clients to take notice of, but it’s worth mentioning that it’s not something to swear-by each and every day. It is an affirmative topic that requires strategic planning to be brought up at the right time to benefit a business. There’s a few layers to unpack, so stick with us and hopefully appreciative inquiry will help you improve your operations! But first let’s explore what is the appreciative inquiry approach as well as what are the benefits of appreciative inquiry to your organisation.

What is appreciative inquiry?

To put it simply, appreciative inquiry is a way to approach improvement in your organisation through the consolidation of the things you’re already doing well. It’s an organisational management strategy focussed on working on an organisations strengths and new ways to grow rather than using time improving on its weaknesses. Essentially, it’s taking a more positive approach to the improvement of your business and striving towards a better vision of the future, instead of only focusing on the negatives.

Its origins trace back to two researchers, David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva who published a paper in 1987 called “Appreciative Inquiry in Organizational Life.” The paper proposed a thoroughly-researched approach to organisational problem solving in the context of business involving case studies, which diverged from the typical approach, which Cooperrider believed was biased toward the negative aspects of operations.

Approaching improvement with 4 d’s


This refers to the discovery of new things about your organisation through the people that work inside it by telling stories, analysing data and sharing anecdotes. These include their reflections on working for the organisation in question, dealing with clients, suppliers or any other part of the chain that links your organisation together.


Something that we’ve been doing unwittingly over the past years is utilising this piece of advice with clients and friends. We asked them to picture their ideal version of the organisation: what does the perfect organisation look like to you? Ask around, and get a clearer picture of how much better your organisation could be.


Drawing upon the last point, in the design phase, you want the collective to discuss ways in which you can consolidate the areas in which you’re excelling at. Remember that this is something that is much more effectively done with everyone in your organisation, not just the management team.


The last stage in this process requires your organisation to decide how they will ultimately contribute to the consolidation of an area that you’re exceeding expectations. Using the proposed practices or policies from the design stage, begin to implement these strategies and you’ll be on your way to improving the destiny of your organisation.

Principles of appreciative inquiry

Constructionist Principle

Cooperridge and Srivastva believe that what is seen, or the reality of a business is purely subjective- that is constructed with inherent bias with the people inside an organisation, expressed through language and interactions of staff. The staff are the center for appreciative inquiry. This can ultimately have a profound impact on the objective approach to problem solving in your organisation.

Poetic Principe

This can be understood as the way in which the character of an organisation is influenced by the stories people tell each other about it; word of mouth referrals are a particularly important example of this.

Anticipatory Principle

They believe that organisations and the people within the organisation will more effectively work toward a vision of the future, if that vision is a positive one that focuses on strengths rather than weaknesses. This has flow-on effects with staff morale, and your company’s appearance to the buying public, as well as your customer service, of course.

The Principle of Simultaneity

Quite simply, as interest grows and the subsequent questions begin to be asked, a positive revolution of change has been sparked that you can capitalise on, which hopefully won’t slow down!

The Positive Principle

There are in fact more principles that have since been added to help refine and optimise the theory, however, we’ll leave that for a later date so we don’t overwhelm you.

The appreciative inquiry approach may well be in large scale use in your organisation already, as human nature tends to lead us to the belief that playing off our strengths is the best way to go about any situation. In addition, like we mentioned at the beginning of this piece: this isn’t necessarily the only way to go about managing your organisation, but it’s something interesting to discuss.

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