What is Appreciative Inquiry (AI)?

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an energizing and inclusive process that fosters creativity through the art of positive inquiry. It builds new skills in individuals and groups, develops new leaders, encourages a culture of inquiry, and helps create shared vision and purpose by building on an organization’s core values and strengths. Perhaps, most importantly, are the outcomes that emerge during the process which provoke action, inspire commitment, and lead to results.


Building upon the framework of positive psychology and human sciences, Appreciative Inquiry builds self-awareness and emotional intelligence to shift our focus, attention, and energy into exploration into opportunities and possibilities. AI does not focus on changing people, rather it invites individuals to engage in building a future they want to live in.

Research and theories supporting appreciative inquiry include, but are not limited to: neuroscience, positive psychology, social constructionism, image theory, self-fulfilling prophecies, and the Broaden-and-Build Theory


Appreciative Inquiry’s assumption is simple: Every human system has something that works right–things that give it life when it is vital, effective, and successful.

“Problems get replaced with innovation as conversations increasingly shift toward uncovering the organization’s (or group’s, or community’s) positive core.” – Bernard J. Mohr, AI Consultant

The 5-D process of Appreciative Inquiry is used when facilitating AI sessions and consists of the following 5 phases: Define, Discover, Dream, Design, and Destiny.

Appreciative Inquiry engagements are designed and delivered using the 5-D process consisting of: Define, Discover, Dream, Design, and Destiny. Unlike other change models that have a distinct beginning and end points, AI’s process is cyclical and invites ongoing exploration into new opportunities for learning, growth, and innovation.

DEFINE. Choose the affirmative topic or focus for the inquiry.
DISCOVER. Inquire into positive moments and share stories.
DREAM. Create inspiring images of a desired future.
DESIGN. Innovate ways to create the ideal future.
DESTINY. Live your design & make changes as needed.


Appreciative questions evoke images of the ideal future and invite reflection on how to get there. A typical appreciative interview guide consists of three standard questions that explore: best experience (past), values (present), and wishes (future).

Appreciative Inquiry Interviews consists of three key questions that explore our past, present, and future. These questions inquire into our best experience from our past, values - what holds meaning to us presently, and wishes - inviting us to dream of our ideal future).

BEST EXPERIENCE // Learn from our best lived experience.
Tell me a story about a best experience you have had with your ______ (i.e., family, team, community, network, or another group). What made this experience a highlight for you? Please describe this experience in detail.

VALUES // Identify what has meaning and value to you now.
What things do you value about yourself, your work, your family, and your organization? What do you value most about the story you shared in the previous question?

WISHES // Dare to dream of the ideal, possible outcome.
What are your wishes for the future – for yourself, your work, your organization?


Who Uses Appreciative Inquiry? Every industry has used appreciative inquiry. This includes businesses, coaches, education, healthcare, government, and non-profit organizations.


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