Appreciative group reflection nourishes a positive work environment and takes practice.  Since appreciative inquiry is not a standard (yet) in our social interactions, practicing appreciative inquiry encourages introspection into the social construction of a dispute, management plans, expectations and/or goals.
Appreciative Inquiry
We are sometime truly to see our life as positive, not negative, as made up of continuous willing, not constraints and prohibition.  
Appreciative Inquiry and
Natural Resource Management in Rocky Mountain National Park
This case explores stewardship of natural resources in one of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Parks, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).   Over three million persons visit this park a year for the thrill of reaching accessible yet well-preserved tundra landscapes. In this case we’ll explore how Appreciative Inquiry (AI) offered an innovative means to discovering social and ecological sustainability in a national park setting.  A premise in this project is that our cultural life is at the core of our ability to utilize resources in a sustainable manner. AI supported this process by revealing how lexicon and attitudes enhanced peoples’ sense of belonging to the park’s culture.
Positive Transformation of Government
May 2005, AI Practitioner
Principles of
Appreciative Inquiry
Wholeness Principle
(Whitney and Trosten-Bloom, 2003)
Stakeholder involvement in large group forums stimulates creativity and builds collective capacity.
Simultaneity Principle
(Cooperrider, 1998)
Inquiry and change are a simultaneous moment.  What is discovered becomes the material out of which the future is conceived.  Research profoundly changes what we see by the very nature of asking questions.  Alternations in linguistic practice hold profound implications for changes in social practice.  
Enactment Principle
(Whitney and Trosten-Bloom, 2003).
“Be the change you want to see” – Ghandhi
The process used to create the change is a living model of the ideal future.
Poetic Principle
(Cooperrider, 1998)
An organization’s story is constantly being coauthored. Pasts, presents or futures are endless sources of learning, inspiration or interpretation. Constructionism tells us that the topics of inquiry themselves are social artifacts or processes (cultural habits, typifying discourses, rhetoric, professional ways, power relations).  
Free Choice Principle
(Whitney and Trosten-Bloom, 2003)
People perform better and are more committed when they have freedom to choose how and what they contribute or as commonly stated, when they have “buy in.”
Anticipatory Principle
(Cooperrider, 1998)
“A vivid imagination compels the whole body to obey” --Aristotle
The image of the future guides the actions of today.  
Typifying Cases and Data:
Placebo effect in medicine
(Ornstein and Sobel, 1987)
Hawthorne effect in organizational lighting
Pygmalion effect in classroom
(Jussism, 1986)
Rise and fall of cultures
(Boulding, 1966; Polak, 1973, p111)
Optimism and health research
(Seligman, 1990)
Positive self-monitoring and ways for accelerated learning (Kirschenbaum, 1984)
Analysis of importance of imbalances, positive inner dialogue to personal and relational well-being (Schwartz, 1986)
Positive mood states and effective decision-making (Isen, 1983)
Conscious evolution (Hubbard, 1998)
Small wins can reverberate through a system and change the world (Weick, 1984)
Positive Principle
(Cooperrider, 1998)
Positive image will lead to positive action.
Building and sustaining movement for change requires considerable amounts of positive affect and social bonding.   It is essential to craft and seed the unconditionally positive question.
            Variety including cases in government and with
Hunter Douglas Window Fashions, and BP Amoco and GTE.
Positive Transformation of Government
May 2005, AI Practitioner
Foundational Concepts in Appreciative Inquiry
Adapted from Cooperrider & Whitney, 1998.
Social Constructivism
Everything we live is our own creation and construction.  When we engage others, we share the realities handed down to us and those of our own making.  Everything we experience with others resides in a mutual complicity with certain anchoring images for our actions.  We create these anchors that keep us from floating off in a sea of isolated consciousness and allow us to connect with each other physically, emotionally and spiritually.  These anchors allow us to manifest a more refined instrumentation for creativity in the world.  When our anchors impede connections, then we find ourselves neurotically pre-disposed to depressive states and must settle for a self-directed, isolated creativity. Unless, we constantly find refuge in our own clear understandings (by even sailing the uncharted and charted seas of consciousness) and overcome misunderstanding, we can not carry forth in building the anchors that work for our individual potentiality and for the potentiality of our whole as living beings on planet earth.
Heliotropic Hypothesis
Relating to the biological sciences, heliotropic activities in plants underlie the uptake of life giving forces by a plant.  I recently met a biologist who studies the movement of sap in leaves in order to better understand the factors at play in this wonderful metaphor for a healthy social setting.  The nutrients of the social system come in the form of ideas and dreams which nourish and bathe all the parts that make up the whole:  the individuals, the groups, the departments, the whole organization and its customers and peers in the same line of services or production.  Sundstrom, a group theorist, proposed an ecological model of groups revealing the interrelationships as dynamic components of a living entity. This perception is now found in systems thinking.
“We are engaged in a true dialogue whenever we are willing to have our thought interrupted by the other, to be changed by the other”
(Srivastva and Barrett, 1988)
Dialogue integrates multiple logics, words, meanings into a coherent forward movement.  Dialogue creates the opportunity for interrelating experience and understanding between actors in a social setting.  Dialogue in a social setting supports health and balance in that setting.  Without dialogue, the lack of merged meanings leaves many opportunities for creativity untapped.  Blockages cost the organization in terms of social dis-ease, tension, conflict, and even destruction.  Dialogic civility is the essence of constructing this coherent image of what is and what can be.
Paradoxical Dilemmas
The duality of life implies that we are always walking a tightrope strung between opposite poles.  We can learn to balance and even dance on this spectrum by jumping into a merged perspective that precedes the separation.  In an organizational setting, imperatives that are contradictory like customer service and highest quality production controvert least cost production, efficiency and timeliness.  The tension is resolved in a social construction of adequacy or excellence.  The stability and satisfaction of an outcome relies on the quality of the dialogue between the parties involved.
The approach draws from gratitude in lived experience.  AI builds not on what is lacking, but rather on the best of what exists.
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Images (top to bottom): Fotolia,, Marina Asbury, PDPhoto,, Fotolia
Thanks to Marleny Munoz for her excellent certification program in AI thru Calgary University.  
AI practitioners direct attention to memories of wonderful experiences.  The approach steers clear of “deficit thinking” in order for participants to start doing the real work of creating what they know is good.  By practicing positive thinking, those involved tune into sustained success.
Calathus LLC builds local capacity for AI in its consulting projects:

Strategic Learning – Strategic planning through co-learning with appreciative inquiry

Envirologue™ – the practice of appreciative inquiry in natural resource managementCStrategic%20Learning.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0
A facilitator can seamlessly integrate AI into strategic planning.  A natural flow exists in a participatory organizational learning cycle – Define, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver.  
Appreciative inquiry is a liberating tool for strategic planning and project management.  Liberating in that the process releases creativity and hope, key ingredients for sustainable success.
It may be when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work.
Excellent questions are at the core of appreciative inquiry (AI). Such questions cultivate a sense of well-being and encourage visions of the future beyond short-term horizons.  Provocative propositions allow participants to generate solutions based on what they have experienced as working well.  
Human systems construct their “worlds” in the direction in which they persistently ask questions
Appreciative inquiry is a vibrant lubricant for fluid decision-making.
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calathus Consulting can coach you in the use of appreciative inquiry to streamline organizational processes and energize effective communication patterns. We also offer strategic planning and change management workshops.  Myriem, our principal, will customize your workshop based on an appreciative assessment of your organization or project.  An introductory fifty minute session to appreciative inquiry can be done via conference call or in person.Consulting.htmlshapeimage_11_link_0