Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change, David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney (Berrett-Koehler: 2005)

What: Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a framework for guiding organizations through transition. It draws on Positive Psychology to empower leaders to acknowledge the unique ways in which their organizations add value to the lives of others. And it gives them space to envision new opportunities for realizing undeveloped potential.

Thesis: Collective change is inspired by recognizing what a given organization offers–not simply what it’s in a position to exploit.

Key Ideas: Gratitude is at the center of recognition. Corporations are mysteries, not simply tools for getting things done. They embody collective values and purposes. And that embodiment is acknowledged through gratitude.

The central heuristic framework here is ‘4-D’: Discover, Dream, Design, Destiny. These describe an order, which is also a cycle (1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4).

Here are two key quotes:

“AI creates a context in which people are free to be known in relationship.” (56)

“AI makes a space in which people are free to be heard. A person can listen without truly hearing or getting to know the other. Being heard, on the other hand, requires someone to listen with sincere curiosity, empathy, and compassion. It requires an openness to know and understand another person’s story.” (57)

This approach is powerful because it intentionally creates spaces for business to generate acknowledgement.

Reflections: The centrality of acknowledgment in business life is a powerful insight. And, sometimes, welcoming and celebrating unique talents and capabilities is apt. But, sometimes, the mystery at the heart of organizational life is a dark one. It’s something that needs to be exorcised, not embraced. It’s important to be able to own up to that, too.