Shifting the Focus from Problems to Possibilities Using Appreciative Inquiry

Every organization has successes and strengths, as well as challenges. And yet, leaders and teams typically focus primarily on asking “what’s wrong?”, “what’s not working?”, and “what’s missing?”

Instead of asking “what do we do best?”, “what’s our core strength?” and “what do we want more of?”, leaders typically seek out and explore problems without realizing that that this problem-focused approach can increase negativity, anxiety, and concern within the organization, and miss opportunities to replicate valuable positive outcomes.

An alternative approach is to shift the focus from problems to possibilities, using a tool called Appreciative Inquiry (AI).

Chip and Dan Heath popularized the concept of Appreciative Inquiry in their book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, in which they told the story of a researcher from Save The Children who dramatically improved the lives of malnourished children in Vietnam not by studying the problem, but by finding and understanding the practices around healthy children and then duplicating these practices all over the country.

Appreciative Inquiry

The Appreciative Inquiry model was developed at The Weatherhead School of Management and is now used in thousands of organizations and communities around the world. AI offers a collaborative, strengths-based approach to managing change and challenges.

The process focuses on leveraging an organization’s core strengths rather than seeking to overcome or minimize its weaknesses. AI is not a “top down” or “bottom up” change process, but rather a “whole system” approach for any group or team that needs to elicit new, practical, and inspirational solutions to old problems.

During this interactive session, participants will:
  • learn what Appreciative Inquiry is and why it works
  • explore the 5 principles of Appreciative Inquiry, applicable to everyday challenges and opportunities
  • practice the Appreciative Inquiry process by applying it to a current challenge or opportunity they are facing
  • develop the skills to apply the Appreciative Inquiry process independently to future topics
  • leave with the knowledge and confidence to navigate challenges and change using the AI framework

Sometimes the most effective organizational change or innovation comes from deeply understanding success and then replicating it.