How to do an Appreciative Inquiry


What does it do? What does it look like?

Appreciative Inquiry interventions are mostly based on the original ‘5 D’ model as below.


·      Define: Firstly we define what it is we’re working on by asking ourselves ‘What is the issue and what is a positive way of framing it?’ For instance: ‘How can we have fruitful discussions between Distribution and Production?’ rather than ‘Why do we never talk to each other?’ This is known as finding an Appreciative topic to Inquire into.

·      Discovery: In this stage we move onto asking ‘Where does this already happen?’ – e.g. we know that Distribution and Production worked really well together during the last petrol panic, let’s inquire into what made that possible in that particular situation. 

·      Dream: This encourages us to ask ‘How good could things be if we built on the best of the past?’ or in our example ‘How could we create more fruitful discussions between Distribution and Production if we learn from the best of their experiences of working well together in the past?’

·      Design: Here, we (i.e. everyone, not just management) design what this best future might look like in practical terms; working out what we need to do, or change, or focus on now, to make these future aspirations more likely to happen. We look for practical real situations where we can apply our learning by asking, for instance in our example: ‘What’s coming up that might affect us both and it would be good for us to co-ordinate on?’

·      Destiny: This is the point where we start making sustainable change for the future, by both making plans on the day of the Appreciative Inquiry and by taking personal responsibility to immediately change our own behaviour by, for example, beginning to communicate better. The motivation for this personal shift in behaviour comes not from a sense of ‘I know I should’ but from a deeper knowledge of, and relationship with, colleagues across the organisational divide and a heartfelt desire to improve the situation and achieve the desired futures.


Great theory - how do you actually do that?

Appreciative Inquiry is an approach and a philosophy of change as much as it is a defined process. In its original form it is experienced as a workshop event but it is very versatile and can be delivered in fits and starts as time and circumstance permit and indeed as a coaching or team intervention. It is very scalable – from individuals to teams and departments to the whole organisation. So let’s break it down…



Stage 1 – Event Preparation



You will need to assemble a small team which is representative of the system that will be present at the event. They will not just help you plan the event but will become imbued with a sense of how Appreciative Inquiry works by using it in the planning process. This will make them enthusiastic supporters on the day and ambassadors for the event beforehand, which is helpful as people will come to the event keen to take part.


Once you have your team you can work on deciding what it is you as a group want more of (the topic of inquiry) and....


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We work with organisations that are struggling to change how they work. We help avoid and reduce resistance to change and other problems so that people get stuck in to making change actually happen, saving you time and money.  

We do this using several techniques, including Appreciative Inquiry, that make it possible for the people affected by the change to see it as an opportunity that they can get involved in rather than a threat or burden that’s being imposed on them. That way they can become your partners in change rather than the source of problems to be overcome. If you and your organisation need help with this call 0845 055 9874 or email to arrange for a free 30 minute initial consultation.