Appreciative Inquiry In A Nutshell

Appreciate Inquiry (AI) is an organizational change methodology that focuses on strengths and not on weaknesses. Appreciate Inquiry was created by management professors David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in the 1980s. The Appreciate Inquiry is also known as the 5-D Cycle, an iterative cycle describing five distinct phases, made of define, discover, dream, design, and destiny.

Understanding Appreciate Inquiry

Appreciate Inquiry was created by management professors David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in the 1980s.

In understanding Appreciate Inquiry, it was David Cooperrider who said it best.

He explains his methodology as “the coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives “life” to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves, in a central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential.”

Given its multi-faceted nature, practitioners of Appreciate Inquiry describe it as not simply a way of doing, but a way of being. Indeed, it offers a perspective that helps the individual understand how an appreciation of the world can shape their destiny. In business, this means that organizational change is a mystery that must be embraced – and not a problem to be solved.

Ultimately, Appreciate Inquiry encourages the organization to consider the role of unconditional, positive questioning in shaping perspective.

In turn, these questions strengthen system capacity and enhance positive potential. Some of the core AI principles around questions include:

  • Questions create the world we live in.
  • Questions determine the results we achieve.
  • Positive questions are more effective at creating positive outcomes.
  • Questions create movement, momentum, and change.

The Appreciate Inquiry process

The Appreciate Inquiry is also known as the 5-D Cycle, an iterative cycle describing five distinct phases. In the middle of the cycle resides the “positive core” of the organization, a combination of each phase representing a way of being and doing.

To better understand this cycle, let’s look at each phase in more detail:

  1. Define – this initial phase requires that stakeholders come together and define the topic that will undergo an Appreciate Inquiry experience. What change to the system is the topic seeking to make?
  2. Discover – stakeholders then identify the strengths and best practices of the organization. How does it excel? What are the sources of high performance, excellence, innovation, or vitality? They may relate to leadership, technology, values, planning methods, and so on.
  3. Dream – with the strength of an organization identified, it must then envision its future. Planning methodologies must be based on examples of where the company has excelled in the past. This motivates both the individual carrying out the plan and by extension, the company itself.
  4. Design – what are the high-impact strategies that move the organization in the right direction? The planning and execution of these strategies should be prioritized.
  5. Destiny – in the final phase, individuals execute on strategy. The movement of a company toward its destiny must be sustained by a collective sense of purpose. This means creating an environment of continuous learning, revision, and in some cases, improvisation.

Key takeaways:

  • Appreciative Inquiry is a change methodology that focuses on the strengths and positive aspects of an organization.
  • Appreciative Inquiry is a multi-faceted approach that becomes a way of being and a way of doing. Asking the correct questions is essential to driving high performance and maintaining a focus on organizational strengths.
  • Appreciative Inquiry is also known as the 5-D Cycle. The cycle is an iterative process that helps organizations embody certain traits that help their systems become less resistant to change.

Connected Management Frameworks

Change Management


Change Management

Change is an important and necessary fact of life for all organizations. But change is often unsuccessful because the people within organizations are resistant to change. Change management is a systematic approach to managing the transformation of organizational goals, values, technologies, or processes.

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

Harvard Business School professor Dr. John Kotter has been a thought-leader on organizational change, and he developed Kotter’s 8-step change model, which helps business managers deal with organizational change. Kotter created the 8-step model to drive organizational transformation.

McKinsey’s Seven Degrees

McKinsey’s Seven Degrees of Freedom for Growth is a strategy tool. Developed by partners at McKinsey and Company, the tool helps businesses understand which opportunities will contribute to expansion, and therefore it helps to prioritize those initiatives.

McKinsey 7-S Model

The McKinsey 7-S Model was developed in the late 1970s by Robert Waterman and Thomas Peters, who were consultants at McKinsey & Company. Waterman and Peters created seven key internal elements that inform a business of how well positioned it is to achieve its goals, based on three hard elements and four soft elements.

Lewin’s Change Management

Lewin’s change management model helps businesses manage the uncertainty and resistance associated with change. Kurt Lewin, one of the first academics to focus his research on group dynamics, developed a three-stage model. He proposed that the behavior of individuals happened as a function of group behavior.


The ADKAR model is a management tool designed to assist employees and businesses in transitioning through organizational change. To maximize the chances of employees embracing change, the ADKAR model was developed by author and engineer Jeff Hiatt in 2003. The model seeks to guide people through the change process and importantly, ensure that people do not revert to habitual ways of operating after some time has passed.

Force-Field Analysis

Social psychologist Kurt Lewin developed the force-field analysis in the 1940s. The force-field analysis is a decision-making tool used to quantify factors that support or oppose a change initiative. Lewin argued that businesses contain dynamic and interactive forces that work together in opposite directions. To institute successful change, the forces driving the change must be stronger than the forces hindering the change.

Business Innovation Matrix

Business innovation is about creating new opportunities for an organization to reinvent its core offerings, revenue streams, and enhance the value proposition for existing or new customers, thus renewing its whole business model. Business innovation springs by understanding the structure of the market, thus adapting or anticipating those changes.

Posci Change Management

According to Prosci founder Jeff Hiatt, the secret to successful change “lies beyond the visible and busy activities that surround change. Successful change, at its core, is rooted in something much simpler: how to facilitate change with one person.”

Related Strategy Concepts: Go-To-Market StrategyMarketing StrategyBusiness ModelsTech Business ModelsJobs-To-Be DoneDesign ThinkingLean Startup CanvasValue ChainValue Proposition CanvasBalanced ScorecardBusiness Model CanvasSWOT AnalysisGrowth HackingBundlingUnbundlingBootstrappingVenture CapitalPorter’s Five ForcesPorter’s Generic StrategiesPorter’s Five ForcesPESTEL AnalysisSWOTPorter’s Diamond ModelAnsoffTechnology Adoption CurveTOWSSOARBalanced ScorecardOKRAgile MethodologyValue PropositionVTDF FrameworkBCG MatrixGE McKinsey MatrixKotter’s 8-Step Change Model.

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