Why use an appreciative inquiry approach?
To date, I’ve only encountered a couple of people who know what an appreciative inquiry is and understand why I am using it for my research. It’s such a valuable tool that I thought I’d share a high level view of it today.
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) takes a social constructionist approach to organisational change. Many people and organisations view research as a means to understand and analyse a “problem” and then decide on changes required to bring about a “solution”. AI pragmatically views the results of an inquiry as a starting point, rather than an end destination. AI practitioners also assert that there is no single truth, or ideal path for an organisation that any one research methodology can produce. This is particularly so with my Reimagining Narratives inquiry.
The AI constructivist view believes that the inquiry or research itself—that is the questions asked—brings about change, even if said change is only seen in seemingly simple reactions such as heightened awareness of the subject, a conversation, or an emotional reaction. Accordingly, research and change occur at the same time. This impacts the way the AI practitioner uses questions. Rather than asking if the questions are appropriate, one is better served by asking whether the questions asked are impacting the participants, and if they are generating dialogue about the good, along with ideas for the future, thus strengthening the “organisation’s” relationships.
Research tells us that more than 80 percent of change management approaches fail. AI is not one of them. Instead, AI is respected and known for generating transformational change. The reason for its success lies in its ability to motivate participants to such an extent that long-lasting and far-reaching change occurs, not from a sense of dissatisfaction, but from a genuine heart-felt desire to attain an inspired vision.
The beauty of AI is that it is life-affirming; participants are encouraged to see themselves as subjects of a system or organisation they can actively transform. Because AI is a radically positive approach to change that searches for the best in all things and generates positive movement forward, a modified AI methodology provides a framework for my arts-based research approach.
I’ve had a number of people tell me that while they had to think in order to respond to my survey, they really appreciated the AI process. Some hadn’t thought about their spirituality before and many have loved the dreaming process. This is a reasonably straightforward methodology that can be adapted to all organisations—and even to relationships. I encourage you to use it in your own life.
If you haven’t yet taken my questionnaire, please do while there is still time. I am still seeking participants and look forward to having you join the conversation.
 J. Watkins et al., Appreciative inquiry: Change at the speed of imagination. (San Francisco: Pfeiffer, 2011), 72-73.
 S. Michael, “The promise of Appreciative Inquiry as an interview tool for field research”. Development in Practice 15.2 (2005): 223.
 M. Gergen and K. Gergen, eds., Social Construction: A Reader (London: Sage Publications, 2003), 177.
 M. Faure, “Problem solving was never this easy: Transformational change through appreciative inquiry.” Performance Improvement 45. 9 (2006): 22.