What is AI

Let me give you just a basic definition, which we can blow up and look at in all kinds of detail parts.

First and foremost AI begins with a collaborative and rigorous search to identify and understand an individual or a group or a systems strengths. So it begins with a search for strengths. And we do this in order to then set up for people to imagine their highest hopes and possibilities. So between one and two here in this definition is the unique part of appreciate inquiry. You want to change the future, you want people to imagine and then agree on future images and possibilities they want to pursue. But the first thing you do to prepare for that is to actually go back. And reconnect people or to help people discover their strengths. What is it that's already helping them to be at their best.

So we do the rigorous search for strength, that prepares people to imagine new possibilities for the future. And we do that in such a way that they then are motivated to co-design how we're going to get to those future images. And then lastly, because they co-created it, they are motivated to actually become the implementors. They own the changes that they designed, and they want to implement action plans and designs to realize the future that they want. 

Appreciative inquiry has several key characteristics as a method or as a tool for leaders.


The first and perhaps the most important one is that it's strength based. It's intentionally trying to help provide change or improvement by leveraging strenghts, leveraging what the team or department or the work unit or the organisation already has the capacity to do, leveraging that to do more in the future.


artful search

Appreciate inquiry is an artful search for what gives life to any situation. Now what do I mean by that? It's an inquiry, that's why "Inquiry"'s in the title. It's a search for what gives life. So we search for what are the success factors, what are the underlying causes for us being at our best around some issue that we still know we want to do better, we want to change you, we want to improve it. But we start again with this search for what is it that gives life.


It's collaborative in nature. Some people refer to it as a relational practice. It's very interactive. It depends  on creating a work space, an interactive workspace where there is true collaboration. Search for common ground, search for common overlapping ideas. that builds a collaborative spirit between different  stakeholders.



And lastly, appreciative inquiry has a quality of generativity. What do we mean by that? It's not just coming up with new ideas for change or new images of the future It's having people come together and create those new ideas or discover those shared images but do it in a way that leaves them wanting to work together on those ideas. There's a forward moving energy, a generative intrinsic drive to want to work on the ideas that they actually came up with.  


One of the things that we work hard to do on appreciative inquiry is to bring all the relevant stakeholders together around some topic.  In appreciative inquiry we ask, based on the topic that you're trying to improve. Who are all the voices that have some vested interest in that topic? And so we bring in- and external stakeholders together.


4-d cycle

So the most typical way that appreciative inquiry is illustrated is with this cycle, referred to often as the 4D cycle. In a few cases, it's the 5D cycle, and the middle is called definition of the topic or the focus. But it begins with a topic. What is it that we're going to do the AI on? What is it that we're going to study so that by studying it, we start learning and learning promotes the change. And of course in appreciative inquiry the topic is intentionally worded affirmatively.