Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry

I believe that we can make a positive change in our places of business and our families using appreciative inquiry.

Why do I believe appreciative inquiry is important?

  • In our modern age, I can understand why we tend to focus on problems.   In our news media, how easy is it to find news about people who are making improvements or positive change?   I believe organizations should know their weaknesses.   I, however, believe that we can often let weaknesses dominate the process of making our organizations better.
  • After reading and listening to EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey, I believe that creating positive culture has become the new imperative.   I love the idea that you have to “start with a dream and end in a goal.”
  • Plants and organic systems grow toward light.   I believe human organizations also grow toward “light.”
    (leaders and organizations who make positive change)
How does the process work?

For a brief summary of the process, please visit the appreciative inquiry page on Wikipedia.

In my previous employer CompassKnowledge group, I had the opportunity to see this process in action.   For context, CompassKnowledge served universities by providing sales, marketing and instructional design services for their distance learning programs.

  • Senior leadership team created and documented a shared vision for the organization.
  • A senior leader interviewed me.  During this interview, we talked about moments where I felt I was excited about my life and work.  We talked about the strengths used during those high points in my life.   We also brain stormed ways that my strengths can be used in the work place to create more positive change for our team and customers.
  • This process was repeated for all 200+ employees. (Wow!)
  • Without getting into too much detail, the company aggregated the data from the strengths and opportunities to form a master plan regarding how CompassKnowledge was going to rock distance learning in the future while charging up the team.   The shared vision and dream was enhanced with ideas coming from every single member of the organization, a sample of the students we served, and our customers.
  • Impacts that I treasure: (1)  During this process, I pitched the idea of doing innovation time off  to senior leadership.  This discussion evolved into a few strategic research projects.  (2) I especially loved that we spoke with some of our knowledge partners(customers) and students.  It helped me connect my job working in IT with the stories of students getting excited about finishing their degree through one of our programs and the positive impacts it will have for their families.

How can I use this process today?

Put yourself in an environment where you can think for 20 minutes.   I would recommend getting a blank sheet of paper and a pen.   Take the time to answer the following questions.

1 – What are the high points or most celebrated stories in your life?

2 – What was a time that you were excited to jump out of bed and start working
on your project or cause?

3 – What personal strengths do you have from those high points in your life? In general,
what are your personal strengths?

4 – Imagine a world where you are happy and creating positive change in your work daily.
What does that dream job look like?

5 – How can you use the personal strengths from question 3 to create the dream
job that you talked about in question 4?

What insights did you make about yourself?

As we envision the future of our businesses in five years, how can we use this process to enhance the lives of our teams?


Photo Credit:  Kevin Dooley –

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