What is the appreciative inquiry model for creating change?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 2 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When businesses are hoping to create change or improve their operations, they might use a change model to guide them in planning and implementing changes. There are various models that businesses can use for this and one of them is the appreciative inquiry model. This model differs from many other models for change, so understanding more about it can be useful and can help you apply this model in your own work. In this article, we discuss this change model in more detail, including how to use it.

What is the appreciative inquiry model?

The appreciative inquiry (AI) model is a model for change that encourages change and innovation whilst emphasising existing organisational strengths and skills. It promotes collaboration and dialogue between management and team members to create a shared vision and engage in the innovation process. It encourages participants to decide which direction to move into and how to enhance the organisation's strengths to encourage growth.

The model reflects the principle that it's possible to create change through collective involvement and learning and usually focuses on changing the operations of an organisation. The behaviour that AI encourages can strengthen teamwork, improve efficiency and help the business achieve its goals. Focusing on organisational strengths often creates desirable growth more effectively than trying to improve weaknesses without capitalising on strengths.

Why is AI important for businesses?

There are several reasons AI is important for businesses. Teams and individuals can also use this change model and experience the same benefits, but it's particularly helpful for organisations. Organisations can experience these benefits regardless of the type of change they enact using the model. These are some of the main reasons AI can be useful for businesses:

Identifies new opportunities

One benefit of using the AI model for businesses is that it can help them identify new opportunities. This might mean developing new strategies and processes or a new strategic vision for the company that creates new opportunities within the business. These opportunities reflect the organisation's individual strengths, which can improve the business' chances of success. The AI model helps businesses to identify opportunities that align with the strength and skills they already have.

Helps achieve goals more consistently

AI can help businesses to achieve their organisational goals. The model features four stages and following these stages methodically helps to develop goals and a vision and then build an actionable plan for creating change. Following a plan can be helpful for developing operations and achieving ambitious goals and helps different employees and teams to understand their role in reaching these goals. Basing goals on the organisation's existing skills and strengths can also increase the likelihood of successfully achieving these goals.

Reveals organisational strengths

The model can also help organisations to identify their strengths, including ones they might not have recognised previously. These can range from past successes to individual processes or members of staff that perform particularly well. Identifying strengths helps the business to use them more effectively and create a strategic vision that aligns with these strengths. Identifying the positive aspects of the business' operations can also boost morale and trust in the organisation. It can also encourage employees to participate in the AI process.

Encourages innovation

Innovation can help to make significant improvements to business operations, and this change model encourages innovation. The model encourages businesses to keep developing their strengths. This can encourage being innovative to identify ways of enhancing these attributes. Promoting innovation throughout the business can be a positive development for the organisational culture. Using the AI process to support innovation can make it possible to incorporate innovation throughout the company's operations.

Related: What is business innovation? (Definition, types and careers)

Uses for AI

Businesses use the appreciative inquiry change model for a variety of purposes. It can be useful for helping businesses to understand best practices, develop strategic plans, change the organisational culture or begin work on large projects or new initiatives. It can also be useful for team building, mentoring and developing leadership.

An individual professional can also use this change model to develop a personal strategic vision for themselves and their career. This can help them achieve their individual career goals. At a much broader level, the AI model can help to develop consensus around major issues, shape the direction and mission of non-profits, charities and NGOs and form multi-national initiatives that span across multiple industries or geographical locations.

Related: Types of organisational culture (with definitions)

How this change model differs from others

There are other change models that businesses can use, but this inquiry is different in some ways. A notable difference with the AI model is that it focuses on organisational strengths instead of areas for improvement or further development. Rather than identifying new skills for the organisation to develop, it identifies its existing skills and strengths and ways to use these effectively. This is a more positive approach compared to some other change models. This approach can increase morale and motivation. Organisations might be more likely to use their existing strengths and develop areas for improvement because of this.

Related: 10 change management models to use in the workplace

Why is it important to manage change at work systemically?

It's important to manage change at work systematically because it helps employees to adapt and can ensure that transitions happen more quickly and efficiently. Often, change is necessary for businesses to keep growing, but it can cause confusion and disruption, especially if it happens suddenly. Poor change management can create additional stress and place a strain on wellbeing, motivation and morale. Sometimes, this might increase staff turnover or cause employees to lose trust in the organisation.

Effective change modelling and management can make it more straightforward to implement change at all levels of an organisation. Effective management guides individual employees to cope with change effectively and to continue working efficiently. High-quality change management strategies can also make the organisation more resilient and adaptable. This can give it an advantage over its competitors and make the business more viable.

Related: 58 inspiring and motivational quotes on change management

How to use AI for organisational change

You can use the AI model to create organisational change by following its four stages. These steps are also called the components of the model. Using each component and working through them in a particular order helps businesses to develop a vision for the ideal organisation and actively work to achieve this. In an organisation, it's usually a team of people working at different levels who complete these steps together and collaborate throughout the process.

1. Discover

The first part of the process is the discovery component, and it involves identifying the organisation's existing strengths. This includes achievements, standards, best practices and high-performing teams or individual employees. The aim of this is to find a positive core of the organisation by prioritising appreciation over criticism. It's worthwhile to take a range of different approaches in the discovery stage. These can include speaking to managers and employees, encouraging storytelling and reviewing performance data for teams, individuals and the entire business.

2. Dream

The dream component involves developing a vision for how you want the organisation to be. Usually, this vision aligns with the organisation's current core values and mission. It encourages participants to imagine the organisation's potential based on its past successes and existing strengths. This stage can be more effective if you include specific goals within the vision. These might be things like sales or revenue targets or the level of profit you want the business to reach. Collectively envisioning the ideal organisation gives the business a goal to work towards.

3. Design

The design stage involves designing an actionable plan for the organisation to achieve the goals you envisioned during the dream stage. Innovation can be important during this stage because it involves creating strategies that take advantage of existing strengths and skills. Sometimes, this stage involves identifying specific teams and employees who have the skills to contribute to making change happen. The goal of the design stage is to implement strategies that create change at the end.

4. Deploy

The deploy stage is also sometimes called the destiny stage. During this stage, staff can implement the new strategies and plans. How a company implements these plans is likely to depend on what actions they're taking and the nature and scale of the organisation. Deployment might start with one department or a small group of departments. Alternatively, companies might implement changes throughout the whole organisation at once.

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