Eight Assumptions of Appreciative Inquiry

Eight Assumptions of Appreciative Inquiry:

“The major assumption of Appreciative Inquiry is that in every organization something works and change can be managed through the identification of what works, and the analysis of how to do more of what works.”  – Sue Annis Hammond in The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry

1. “In every society, organization, or group something works.”

So often people live in a problem. They identify problems, have meeting to focus on a problem and look for solutions to a problem. That is a lot of negativity. Appreciative Inquiry does not ignore the presence of a problem, but it does not dwell in the land of problems. Appreciative Inquiry lives among that which is right and the existing strengths and asks the question, “What is already working?” Even if that which is working is not maximizing its potential, the direction of focus is on what is right.

2. “What we focus on becomes our reality.”

When we dwell on problems, and even solutions to problems, our reality is a problem. We get out of a problem by discovering strengths It is amazing how looking for problems almost always blinds us from amplifying strengths.

3. “Reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple realities.”

The Great Master Oogway said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, which is why we call it the present.” The perceptual position of mindfulness has proven itself from a psychological perspective, organizational perspective and in organizational leadership. Appreciative Inquiry is focused on the context of the moment rather than looking for blame in the past or creating multiple anxieties over the future. It is the fastest path to calm in an organization filled with tension.

4. “The act of asking questions of an organization or group influences the group in some way.”

The question not only yields answers, but the very introduction of questions begins change. A question causes people and organization to look within themselves for answers, and helps everyone realize that they are the change they want. Questions include people who may have felt disenfranchised, they are an equalizing force marginalized communities and they are the catalyst for any real change.  A question asks someone for buy-in and it gives power to everyone in a community.

5. “People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (the unknown) when they carry forward parts of the past (the known).”

One great question is, “What have we done well in the past?” It is amazing to discover how new technology, mandates and personnel implement new ideas or requirements and let go by the wayside that which has been working. By evaluating historic strengths, bringing them to the present, moving into the future seems quite doable for most.

6. “If we carry parts of the past forward, they should be what is best about the past.”

Almost every organization has an opportunity to bring back the positive and almost every organization has the opportunity to continue doing what it does best.  What is best about your organization? We wouldn’t want to dismiss that just for the sake of change. The question is then, “How can we use our organizational strengths to continue that which has served our organization well?”

 7. “It is important to value differences.”

Appreciative Inquiry recognizes that diversity brings multiple strengths and resources on multiple levels. Diversity is a core value of Appreciative Inquiry, and this alone should give organizations contemplating brining this process to their schools or organizations great confidence. The goal of Appreciative Inquiry is inclusion and moving people from disengagement to a place of importance – no matter what background they come from.

8. “The language we use creates our reality.”

Nothing exists today that was not a thought first. The computer where you are reading this, the chair you are sitting in – any reality must be an idea first, and the spoken work created that reality. Language is how we give ideas life and Appreciative Inquiry uses rich questioning not only to bring forth impactful questions, but to seed the minds of those who answer with a creative palate.

Key points are by Sue Annis Hammond in her book The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry. Comments on these points are by Dr. Richard K. Nongard. You can contact Dr. Richard Nongard at (918) 236-6116.