Appreciation + Inquiry = Positive Change

Adapted from The Power of Appreciative Inquiry, 2nd Edition
Diana Whitney and Amanda Trosten-Bloom

One way to understand Appreciative Inquiry is to consider the meaning of its two words. Each word alone has implications for the practice of organization change. The power of Appreciative Inquiry, however, is the by-product of the two words working together. Like hydrogen and oxygen that combine to make water – the most nurturing substance on earth – “appreciation” and “inquiry” combined produce a powerful, vital approach to leadership and organization change.

Appreciation: Recognition and Value Added

Appreciation is about recognition, valuing and gratitude. The word “appreciate” is a verb that carries a double meaning. It refers to both the act of recognition and the act of enhancing value. Definitions include:

  • to recognize the best in people and the world around us;
  • to perceive those things which give life, health, vitality and excellence to living human systems;
  • to affirm past and present strengths, successes, assets and potentials;
  • to increase in value (e.g., an investment appreciates in value).

Indeed, organizations, businesses and communities can benefit by greater appreciation. Around the global, people hunger for recognition. They want to work from their strengths on tasks they find of value. Executives and managers long to lead from their values. They seek ways to integrate their strengths and interests into their daily work. And organizations strive regularly to enhance their value to shareholders, employees and the world at large.

Inquiry: Study, Exploration and Discovery

Inquiry refers to the acts of exploration and discovery. It implies an openness to new possibilities, a willingness to learn and to change. It requires curiosity, wonder and being in a state of unknowing. The word “inquire” also a verb means:

  • to ask questions;
  • to study;
  •  to search, explore, delve into or investigate.

The spirit of inquiry is the spirit of learning. The act of inquiry requires sincere curiosity and openness to new possibilities, new directions and new understandings. We cannot have “all the answers,” “know what is right,” or “be certain” and truly engage in inquiry.

“Appreciative Inquiry fosters positive change and innovation through the study of what we value and therefore what we want to bring to life in organizations and communities world wide.”

Diana Whitney