Discovering Appreciative Inquiry

When results are not as good as planned, where is your focus ? Do you look for problems to solve or do you identify areas of performance ?

Most of us focus on problems to solve. Appreciative Inquiry invites us to look at things differently. The results may be surprising, and in any case very interesting since one of the main benefit of this approach is to become unstuck and to generate new positive dynamics.

To gain insight on what this approach generates, I invite you to experience it by asking one of these following questions to one of your team members in a manner that may seem unusual to you:

• Question them on what worked well in what they did in the previous week.

I invite you to remain curious to seek everything that went well and to really take the time to explore what made this possible, their qualities, specific talents that appear in what they relate

• Conclude by looking with them at how they could use the qualities you observed more and apply what worked in other areas.


This process was created by David Cooperrider. While diagnosing a client situation by looking for problems to solve in order to find solutions, he noticed that there were many elements that performed extremely well. He asked his clients the permission to change his perspective in the diagnosis and further explore what was working well. He later formalized this approach in what became known as the Appreciative Inquiry.

Business Case

Here is a very basic illustration of what we have generated through a process inspired by the Appreciated Inquiry. The results are not overwhelming but illustrate how Appreciative Inquiry creates a positive mindset that does not occur as easily when we use problem solving approaches.

This example is drawn from a project involving French and American team members. The project was not running well, and it was decided to work on intercultural awareness so that team members could get to know each other better in order to work better together. A first one-day workshop was organized with team members based in France. They were presented to us as French, but were actually already a multicultural mix with different nationalities and a lot of international experience. They were particularly aware of what could be irritating and what was worth combining in a French-American partnership. We therefore decided to use an appreciative exploration to explore how to make the team work better together. This is a process based on the 4 Ds

What came out of the workshop:

• Many aspects of the project that worked really well

• A perception of a true complementarity among team members that was very effective in some areas of the project. Il manque un verbe dans la phrase

• Awareness that it was important to stop chasing faulty team members, that the last months had been spent bouncing back the responsibility of what went wrong on small aspects of the project and that they had lost sight of a clear common objective.

• What was decided:

o To call on the steering committee of the project to clarify the global objective and give a positive impulse to the project team

o To present to the whole team all excellency axes they identified and ask them to complete them if necessary

o To boost themselves to realign on a common objective

There was no major discovery but the team left the workshop with a smile, full of energy to work on their projects and convinced that they had everything to succeed together, including the benefit from the French and American complementarity!

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