The future is not a result of choices among alternate paths offered by the present, but a place that is created- created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination-John Schaar

Appreciative Inquiry is a method and philosophy for creating positive change. The term “appreciative” relates to the concept that when something “appreciates” it increases in value. The term “inquiry” refers to the practice of asking positive questions in order to understand. Whatever we focus on and ask questions about expands.

When organizations continually focus on deficits, deficit thinking abounds, images of deficits are branded in the minds of the employees and the potential for overwhelming the system with negative messages exists. Negative thinking narrows individual’s views, stifles creativity and reinforces silo mentality. Conversely, positive thinking broadens views, generates enthusiasm and builds positive personal resources.

The science of Appreciative Inquiry is a philosophy and leadership style as well as a methodology for creating positive and inspiring change. The science is based on several principles:

  • As the people of an organization create meaning through positive dialog, they set intentions for action.

  • The more attention we give to something the more it expands as part of our experience.

  • Change begins the moment we ask a question.

  • Human beings and human systems make significant movement toward positive images; therefore, creating a compelling future image is imperative.

  • Positive emotion is foundational for human growth and optimal functioning.


Phases of Appreciative Inquiry adapted from The Power of Appreciative Inquiry ( Whitney and Trosten-Bloom, 2003 )
(reproduced from the Life Based Learning Research Report p. 66)

The practice of Appreciative Inquiry invites leaders to abandon problem solving in favor of discovery. The Appreciative Inquiry process encourages the engagement of all of an organization’s stakeholders. The process involves:
Discovery – Appreciating what is right with the organization by focusing on the best of “what is”
Dream – Envisioning a preferred future and describing it in a compelling proposition
Design – Co-constructing the future by developing the infrastructure that will ensure the dream comes to life
Destiny – Creating ways for delivering the new vision as well as sustaining momentum for future adjustment

Appreciative Inquiry is a collaborative process of engaging people to build the kind of organization that inspires all the stakeholders, leading to positive business results.