Posted by: healingtheworkplace | May 22, 2009

Healing the Workplace Using Appreciative Inquiry


I’m not sure if I’ve ever written about Appreciative Inquiry or AI.

“Appreciative Inquiry is an approach to organizational analysis and learning that is uniquely intended for discovering, understanding, and fostering innovation in organizations.” David Cooperrider

AI is different from most approaches to organizational development in that it focuses on the positive, life affirming forces in organizations.

Now, how did I get here? Most days I like to look at the search words that people are using to find my blog. One day the term ‘strength-based organizations’ appeared. This was new terminology to me and so I looked it up on the www.

One thing led to another and I ended up on the site of the International Journal of AI Best Practice which is in the UK. Click on the link and you’ll find an article that links AI and strength-based organizations.

So, what is AI and what does it have to do with HEALING THE WORKPLACE? Plenty!

For those of you still doubting the need to ‘heal our workplaces’ you might want to reflect on the following list of words and phrases that came into common usage during the 20th century:

  • Organizational stress
  • Theory X (workers can’t be trusted etc. etc.)
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Work alienation
  • Role conflict
  • Bureaucratic red tape
  • Low morale
  • Group think
  • Peter Principle (look it up:)
  • Neurotic organizations
  • Burnout
  • Etc. etc.

Now, if our workplaces were healthy would we have needed  these words to describe what was going on at work?

 My guess is probably not.

These words came into our vernacular because our workplaces were (are) dysfunctional and in need of healing!

In 1987 David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva published Appreciative Inquiry in Organizational Life and this was the first time that the term Appreciative Inquiry had appeared in print.

Up until the 1980’s the focus of Industrial Psychologists and Organizational Development specialists was on PROBLEMS or on the things that were NOT working in organizations.

AI, on the other hand, is based on the assumption that organizations are HEALTHY & VITAL.

The 4 basic steps of Appreciative Inquiry are as follows:

1.  Discover and value the things that give life to the organization.

2.  Envision what might be…envision new possibilities.

3.  Engage people in dialogue. Everyone needs to be included in an open sharing of discoveries and possibilites.

4.  Finally, construct a new future through innovation and action.

If you are interested in giving AI a try you might want to read, Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change by David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney. Written in 2005 this introductory book describes AI in detail and gives you the steps needed to get started.

Let me know how it goes!



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