February 7, 2018: Introducing the Practice of Appreciative Inquiry

By Scott E. Friedman, Andrea H. Vossler, Eliza P. Friedman, and Mary Owen

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Without robust communication—and the right kind of communication—relationships can quickly deteriorate. Fortunately, there are a number of strategies informed by science that can help mitigate this issue, including:

  • Memorializing agreements in writing
  • Sensitizing individuals to the importance of non-verbal communication

For more on these strategies, we invite you to visit our previous posts.

Another interesting field in which science is helping to inform how people and organizations can improve the quality of their lives, their relationships and their organizations is based on a process known as Appreciative Inquiry (AI).

AI is premised on the notion that employees are more energized and engaged when asked questions about the positive aspects of their work.[1]

For example, instead of asking “what are we doing wrong?” a manager might ask, “What skill sets do we have in our team that can help with this task?”

A negative question like “What should we avoid this year?” can be phrased positively as, “What do we want to achieve this year?”

AI has been applied in many contexts, including within the field of conflict resolution.[2]

Let’s imagine a client who is unhappy with a deliverable, pointing to a specific element that is lacking in some sense. Instead of dwelling on the negative (e.g. “this work was done poorly”) a manager could turn the situation into a development opportunity (e.g. “what can we improve here to better serve our client?)

Families in business can also benefit from its use in designing constructive agendas and engaging in appreciative based conversations.

We’ll continue on the theme of constructive communication next week, and why positive comments should outweigh the negatives.

[1] See generally David L. Cooperrider & Diana Whitney, Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change (2005).

[2] See, e.g., Arthur Pearlstein, Pursuit of Happiness and Resolution of Conflict: An Agenda for the Future of ADR, 12 Pepp. Disp. Resol. L.J. 215 (2012).