Are You Up For A Little Appreciative Inquiry?

Have you heard of “Appreciative Inquiry”? It’s an organizational development method of collecting input and ideas. Generally, it’s used to focus on increasing what an organization does well rather than on eliminating what it does badly – highlighting the positive aspects and leveraging them to correct the negative. It’s the opposite of ‘problem-solving”  where the primary focus tends to be on what is broken or not working well.

Interestingly, when we pay attention to problems, we emphasize them. Instead, Appreciative Inquiry offers an alternative by looking at what is working and the desired future stateThis method, developed by David Cooperrider is often used for organizations facing rapid change or growth.

I began thinking about this approach and how it would be useful to apply to our individual lives after spending time with a dear friend who had been battling cancer for over two years. She needed someone to stay with her for the night during an unexpected visit to the hospital and I was privileged to help. Little did I know at the time, it would be her last Monday night on this earth.

When you are with a person up-close-and-personal who has lost much of her physical strength and abilities, as well as dealing with chemo-brain, it doesn’t take long to appreciate the blessing of a healthy body and mind. My friend, Angela, lived a robust and fulfilling life. She remained so optimistic throughout her cancer fight and had a gift of looking at the positive &/or humorous side of her situation. She didn’t spend her precious time looking back with regret or anger, but maintained a positive image of her future in her line of sight – truly inspirational.

So how can you use Appreciative Inquiry for a personal analysis? There are a variety of AI models that guide how Appreciative Inquiry is practiced but all of them have commonalities:

  1. Focus on the positive – look at the situation through the lens of positivity.
  2. Ask questions that call on you to think back to personal stories.
  3. Ask questions that get you thinking about your preferred future.
  4. Search for innovative ways to create that future.

Bottom line, Appreciative Inquiry questions focus on what has life, meaning and value.

Here’s a starter list of Appreciative Inquiry questions to ask yourself in your career and/or personal life:

  • What do you love most about your career/personal life?
  • What has most encouraged you to stay the course in your career/personal life?
  • What are the talents for which you are most grateful?
  • How have those talents contributed to your success in your career/personal life?
  • What has inspired you in your career/personal life?
  • What do you most hope to contribute through your career/personal life?
  • What can you begin doing today that will make those hopes become reality?

Do you fully appreciate what you have – your talents, circumstances and opportunities?  If not, it’s time to either make some changes to your situation or your attitude about your situation, actively count your blessings and be thankful for your opportunities!


Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect with her via email at