Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Appreciative Inquiry is a philosophy, a method and a practice for exploring the positive core, or the best of what is, so we can amplify it into the future. In this way, appreciative inquiry is about sparking the energy for movement forward that builds on what is already working on a positive trajectory.  It flips traditional approaches to change by shifting from asking: what is the problem we are trying to solve/what is broken to: what is working? What do we want more of?

  1. Appreciative Inquiry has 5 core principles to accelerate positive change:
  2. Words create worlds—the constructivist principle.
  3. Inquiry creates change—the simultaneity principle.
  4. We can choose what we study—the poetic principle.
  5. Positive questions lead to positive change—the positive principle.
  6. Images create action—the anticipatory principle.

For more on Appreciative Inquiry – see The Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry

This approach to change has served me well in many contexts, from supporting healthcare leaders connect to the positive core of why they said yes to working in the system, to surfacing and amplifying stories of everyday African leadership in our work at We Will Lead Africa to helping groups disclose, acknowledge and move from being stuck in traumatic circumstances to engaging in transformational change.

  • For more on ways I have applied Appreciative Inquiry, visit the Inspiring Impacts podcast episode by Lindsey Godwin at the Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry.

Beyond this however, appreciative inquiry is a mindset. It is a way of thinking that can fundamentally shift your being…that is, your orientation to the world around you and what you choose to see and do more of. And then, just like the punch buggy game, you continue to experience even more spirals of what you focus on. When you look at the principles, it makes sense why this would be, as each principle touches on every aspect of how we make sense of the world: words—what we say; inquiry—what we think about changing; study—how we examine/explore our world; positive questions—searching for the good and useful and images—what we see and imagine…

What struck me recently as I navigated all that comes with our personal and professional lives today is how much of an impact an Appreciative Inquiry mindset can have in our daily living. From transforming the thought – I had a bad day to What was one good experience I had today?; to coaching my children to choose their words carefully and think about what they really mean to say; to choosing to pay attention to and studying what brings me joy and what doesn’t, I am choosing to transform daily experiences using appreciative inquiry mindsets and principles.

I am aware too, that I am leaning into this practice, in part as a survival mechanism given the times we are living in and through. I am after all, a strong proponent for using and applying appreciative inquiry not only in the context of creativity, positivity and innovation, but also in transforming trauma and I advocate for a trauma-informed approach to Appreciative Inquiry.

 So it is from that place, that I believe that leaning into this approach to living is critical in these times. An appreciative mindset does not mean burying your head in the sand or keeping your head in the clouds. It means taking a clear-eyed view at the reality before you and choosing to amplify the positive as a way of creating spirals of positive change, even and especially in times of adversity. It is a way, not only to survive, but to thrive no matter the situations we find ourselves in.

So as you go about your days, I encourage you to look for opportunities to use this practice, and let’s together work towards a more positive world for the future.