When any organization finds itself in a difficult situation, the general tendency is to focus on the problems and try to find ways of dealing with them. While this may often be a necessity, it is not the only way of dealing with difficulties and in the 1980s, David Cooperrider of the Case Western Reserve University along with Suresh Srivastva proposed a new way out:
Appreciative Inquiry or AI
Steps in Appreciative Inquiry
AI involves several different steps, also known as the four Ds: discovery, dream, design and deliver.
1. Discovery has to do with a study of previous as well as current positive experiences by getting the concerned staff to share their thoughts and experiences about what they think is valuable and find to be working well. Make a note of things people say, and analyze this to get a clear picture of the factors that were responsible for success in the past.
2. Dream is the phase where you construct a mental picture of how the positive points you discovered can be converted into your strengths. This may require brainstorming among the key members of the team to come up with creative ideas.
3. Design is the stage of actually creating a practical plan of action to implement your dream. This phase involves deciding and finalizing systems, devising processes and clarifying the methodology you will use to implement your dream.
4. Deliver refers to the actual execution that follows when the plan is adopted as designed. During this stage, it is important you do not get carried away in the nitty-gritty of implementation and lose focus on the dream.
For example, if you want to approach the issue of “lack of motivation among employees,” the AI method of tackling it would be to
- Ask employees to share stories of when they felt most motivated
- Identify the factors that they see as encouraging; say receiving timely appreciation from their supervisors
- Think of ways to convey appreciation to employees; say a personal thank you email from the department head, or an award handed over during a formal event.
- Devise the process to send out the email or plan a system for issuing the award, and allot the responsibility to a particular staff.
- Actually send out the email and hand over the award without fail, whatever the exigencies of the situation at that time.
The biggest advantage of using Appreciate Inquiry is that it forces us to focus on the positives of a situation and this change in our thought patterns automatically translates into greater positivity in action.