Below are words and terms often referenced in the field of Appreciative Inquiry. The words/terms are listed in alphabetical order. Please click the word of interest and the definition for that word will appear (click word again to close). We are continuously adding to this list as new ideas and thoughts emerge. If you come across a word or term you believe should be added to this list, please contact us and we would be happy to add it. Thank you!
A three-to-four day Appreciative Inquiry that seeks to gather the whole system (all stakeholders, or representatives of all stakeholders) in one room to collectively go through all five generic processes (Definition, Discovery, Dream, Design, and Destiny/Delivery); can involve hundreds of thousands of participants; typically used in Large Systems Change effort.
During an Appreciative Inquiry, individuals are asked to make a commitment (an action that can easily be taken by an individual, without a commitment from others), offers (a “gift,” for instance, access to a resource that he or she controls), and requests (what one person or group needs from another person or group) in order to realize the provocative proposition.
The fifth D of an Appreciative Inquiry, during which people innovate and improvise ways to create the preferred future by continuously improvising and building AI competencies into the culture. It also includes noticing and celebrating successes that are moving the system toward the preferred future the organization or group co-created.
Choose the positive as the focus of inquiry; inquire into exceptionally positive moments; share the stories and identify life-giving forces; create shared images of a preferred future; and innovate and improvise ways to create that future (Mohr & Watkins, 2002).
When successful, AI generates spontaneous, unsupervised, individual, group and organizational action toward a better future. My research suggests that when AI is transformational it has both these qualities: it leads to new ideas, and it leads people to choose new actions (Bushe).
Those elements or experiences within the organization’s past and/or present that represent the organization’s strengths when it is operating at its very best. A life-giving force could be a single moment in time, such as a particular customer transaction, or it could be large in scope. It can be any aspect that contributes to the organization’s highest points and most valued experiences or characteristics.
Positive psychology revisits “the average person,” with an interest in finding out what works, what’s right, and what’s improving. It asks, “What is the nature of the effectively functioning human being, successfully applying evolved adaptations and learned skills? And, how do we explain the fact that, despite all the difficulties, the majority of people manage to live lives of dignity and purpose?” Kennon M. Sheldon, University of Missouri, and Laura King, Southern Methodist University, 2001.
Statements that bridge the best of “what is” with the organization’s vision of “what might be.” It becomes the written articulation of the organization’s desired future that is written in the present tense to guide the planning and operations in the future. Also known as possibility propositions, possibility statements, or vision statements, they create a positive image or images of the ideal organization.
A strengths-based approach to strategic planning that allows an organization to plan for and create its future through collaboration, shared understanding, and a commitment to action. SOAR stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results as an alternative to the traditional SWOT strategic planning.
Changes in the identity of a system and qualitative changes in the state of being of that system. According to the research of Gervase R. Bushe and Aniq Khamisa, examples of organizations that have been transformed through Appreciative Inquiry include: Avon of Mexico, Cleveland Clinic, GTE (now Verizon), Hunter Douglas, Loghorn Western, Southview West Agency, and United Religions. In all seven of these cases, the Destiny/Delivery phase focused on “improvisation” rather than “implementation” which resulted in new ideas and knowledge and a generative metaphor that transformed the accepted beliefs of system members.
Having the power or tendency to transform. To change a system in nature, disposition, heart, character, or the like; to convert. Appreciative Inquiry can transform an organization or group or community, especially when it supports self-organized improvisation, rather than standard implementation.
A thing or idea perceived vividly in the imagination; a clear mental picture of a result you want to create; a compelling image. It answers the question: what would it look like if our organization or group were ideal or always at our best? According to Margaret Wheatley, we need to embrace vision as the invisible field that can enable us to recreate our workplaces, and our worlds.