The Rise of Appreciative Inquiry in Consulting

Posted: April 10, 2013

Appreciative inquiry (AI) consulting is the practice of amplifying and proliferating what people at your company already do well rather than attempting to fix what’s broken. It’s been billed as the opposite of problem solving, and from a business owner’s perspective that’s got to sound weird at best, and destructive at worst. Ironically there are plenty of good reasons to give it a shot. Let’s take a look at what makes appreciative inquiry an effective method, and why you might want to look into it.

Creating A Positive Attitude

First and most obvious, drawing focus on the positive aspects of a workforce’s performance will help to improve morale, promote pride in their work, and motivate them to work harder. Taking away the threat of being caught as part of the ever present and ambiguous “problem” can greatly reduce stress on the average worker and actually reduce a large number of attitude related problems without ever actually addressing them. But that’s not the point of AI; the goal is to take the focus off of the problem and instead think about improvement and innovation.

Encouraging Communication

The first step in improving your organization through AI is to use it to encourage open communication. While most managers verbally encourage communication, they don’t actually build an environment that welcomes it because they’ll still have a “problem solving” attitude. When we’re focusing on what might be deficient in a group of workers they’re going to respond naturally, by getting defensive, shutting down, and trying to find a way to blame co-workers. Building the positive attitude mentioned above let’s team members feel like they’re not in trouble, and that improvement is a team effort rather than something that gets pushed down from the top. Ask someone what they do well (rather than finding issues to nitpick) and they’ll be happy to talk about it and think about ways to amplify those qualities.

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The Rise of Appreciative Inquiry in Consulting

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