Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry: Complicated or Revolutionary?

According to David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney in their book, Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change, Appreciative Inquiry is:

...the cooperative, coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the world around them. It involves systematic discovery of what gives life to an organization or a community when it is most effective and most capable in economic, ecological, and human terms.

In AI, intervention gives way to inquiry, imagination, and innovation. Instead of negation, criticism, and spiraling diagnosis, there is discovery, dream, and design. AI involves the art and practice of asking unconditionally positive questions that strengthen a system's capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential. Through mass mobilized inquiry, hundreds and even thousands of people can be involved in cocreating their collective future.

AI assumes that every organization and community has many untapped and rich accounts of the positive—what people talk about as past, present, and future capacities, or the positive core. AI links the knowledge and energy of this core directly to an organization or a community's change agenda, and changes never thought possible are suddenly and democratically mobilized.

Appreciative Inquiry in this organizational development, change-management sense, has proven miraculous results in the corporate environment. Just think if every organization utilized AI to grow and achieve more. People would be eager to do their jobs. They would feel empowered, inspired and go above and beyond to serve. They would feel heard, know they make a difference and are part of a larger collective that is aligned and working toward creating a better organization. What would that do for our society? What would the landscape of work look like then?

AI and Compass Playbook

The Compass Playbook framework thrives on the constructs of Appreciative Inquiry. In the Plays, AI is typically used as a creative problem solving tool to help you shift focus away from the lack of what is wanted to what is valued and appreciated. This shifts negative self-talk and thoughts that keep you focused on the problem, which often perpetuates the same situation over and over.

The Secret Ingredient: Love

The way Compass deploys AI is that it infuses it with love. It allows you to select anything you want—whether a problem or something you enjoy—and observe it from a place of love. What this does is it allows you to appreciate it without negative judgment. To seek out the value of what it offers, how it has a positive impact, and that having it in your experience is something to acknowledge as a good thing and a desired thing, even if initially you see it as a problem.

The second layer to what Compass offers is about how you feel. Emotions are used as a measurement to determine if AI is being used properly. It's as simple as associating an emotional response with the thought you're thinking when you have the emotion. If the emotional response is one that is positive such as joy, excitement, appreciation, the thought that you're thinking is one that supports a belief that will get you the outcome you want.

As in traditional AI, imagining positive future outcomes as opposed to avoiding potential disasters due to current problems is a key component to how Compass Playbook uses AI. By focusing on what isn't working, you perpetuate the problem. When you design the solution from where you want to be as opposed to stamping out the problem, you end up being inspired into actions that lead you to a more positive outcome. These actions also are more rewarding to experience and can actually be fun instead of the drudgery of motivating yourself through a series of actions that revolve around stamping out the problem.


This Play will help you see the difference between focusing on the problem and appreciating the solution.

Traditional Problem-Oriented Approach:

  1. Pick a problem you are facing right now. It can be anything, big or small. Write it out in a statement, such as, "I don't have enough money."
  2. Write about why this is a problem for you, what having this problem is doing to you and how it's affecting your life, such as, "I don't have a job (or a good-paying job) and the economy sucks. I have too many bills and I can't find my way out. I have too much debt. I can't buy the things I want, do more for my family or get a better car/home/clothes, etc."
  3. When complete, check in and see how you feel. Write briefly how doing this exercise made you feel, such as, "I feel more frustrated and even angry that I can't solve this problem. I'm resigned that I'll always be in this place."
  4. Take a break and get your mind on something else before completing the next part.

Appreciative Inquiry Outcome-Oriented Approach:

  1. Same as in the first part, pick a problem you are facing right now. It can be anything, big or small. Write it out in a statement such as, "I don't have enough money." (Using the same topic as the first part will show you the contrast of each approach.)
  2. Answer the question, "What outcome do you want?" For example, instead of answering, "I want more money because x, y and z," which is still centered on the problem, think about the outcome you want and where you want to be. For the purpose of this practice, forget that you have the problem. Create a vision of where you want to be and what you want that to look like, such as, "I live a life of abundance. I want to have freedom and confidence to pay for anything I want whenever I want. I want to know that I have total control over the flow of abundance in my life."
  3. Check in with how you feel after you write your answer. You may feel disbelief, and that's normal. Remember that you are creating a vision for yourself of where you want to be.
  4. Write a story about how you imagine feeling when you are experiencing this outcome, such as, "I love knowing that I have the ability to spend my money on the things that are important to me. I love having the resources to create more freedom and fun experiences in my life. I love knowing that I can confidently rest assured that I am always able to pay and support myself in a balanced way, etc."
  5. The last part is to write a list of what you appreciate about your life right now. It can be on any subject, even something as mundane as riding your bicycle, such as, "I love riding my bike and going places out in my community where I can enjoy the movement of my body, exercise my legs, breathe deeply, and enjoy nature. I love riding around the lake and feeling the wind on my face as I speed down hills. I feel so free and alive, even like I did when I was a kid. I feel so much better after a bike ride. I love the reliability of my bike and how well it works for me, etc."
  6. Check in with how you feel now and write a statement that reflects that, such as: "I feel more at ease and less worried about money, and am humbled by all of the things I currently have in my life that I can pay for and enjoy now."

You can leverage AI at any time and on any subject. Pay attention to how you feel. The better you feel, the more quickly things you want will come to you. It's that simple.


Terry Pappy is CEO of Better3, creator of Compass Playbook and author of award-winning books on creativity. What she says about Compass: "It's a fun resource that helps people achieve their dreams using creativity—simply by telling a new story." Terry uses humor and straight-talk to inspire breakthroughs in creativity for audiences around the globe.