The Power of Appreciative Inquiry: A Practical Guide to Positive Change
Diana Whitney and Amanda Trosten-Bloom
The Power of Appreciative Inquiry describes a wildly popular approach to organizational change that dramatically improves performance by encouraging people to study, discuss, learn from, and build on what’s working, rather than simply trying to fix what’s not. Whitney and Trosten-Bloom use examples from many different types of organizations to illustrate Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in action. A how-to book but not a manual, The Power of Appreciative Inquiry describes the newest ideas and practices in the field of Appreciative Inquiry since its inception in 1985. In updating the second edition, the authors conducted an appreciative inquiry with first edition readers, focusing especially on users in markets and universities. At the urging of these readers, the authors have included a new chapter on the community applications of Appreciative Inquiry, as well as a host of new examples and other enhancements.
I admit this isn’t the usual kind of book I review on here or even attempt to read. I’m in the midst of writing my proposal for my thesis project for my masters degree and I had thought I’d be using Appreciative Inquiry as my research method. Well, things changed and I’m not doing Appreciative Inquiry, but I read the book anyway.
This was an interesting exploration into Appreciative Inquiry. I’d tried Googleing it to very little success; it’s really not easily described on the internet. That’s the power of this book — Appreciative Inquiry becomes very clear. Every step is detailed with numerous examples and each chapter ends with a story from how Hunter Douglas used Appreciative Inquiry to completely re-energize and revitalize their business.
It starts with a basic premise… approach organizational “problems” with a positive perspective. Rather than saying, “Our business is failing, how do we fix it?”, we should instead be saying, “We’re struggling with some areas, but succeeding in other areas. What are our successes? What do we do well?” By starting from that positive perspective and then including everyone in the process, from the janitor to the CEO, everyone in the organization is thinking positive thoughts and begins to feel a sense of pride and ownership over their organization. From this comes the drive to be a better organization.
But that’s only the first step. Later steps include thinking about how we want the organization to be perceived, how we want to be remembered. And then we need to think of how we build from our current strengths and successes into our dream organization.
This is an empowering approach to structural change within an organization. After all, the most powerful changes are the ones that are wholeheartedly supported by everyone within the organization and not simply imposed upon an organization by some managerial person from high above. Appreciative Inquiry actively encourages positive change for a better organization, happier staff and customers/clients, and a renewed sense of purpose.
The Power of Appreciative Inquiry is a very clear guide that includes description and examples of every step — and every step is completely malleable and flexible to fit organizations from the smallest family-run business to non-profit community organizations, to multinational corporation with dozens of diverse business interests.