by David Cooperrider
The aim of Appreciative Inquiry is to help the organization in:
1. Envisioning a collectively desired future, and
2. Carrying forth that vision in ways that successfully translate intention into
reality, and beliefs into practices.
Appreciative Inquiry begins with the selection of some affirmatively stated topic - for example,
cooperation - and then proceeds with a study of the organization, guided by these three basic
1. What is cooperation, and when and where has cooperation been at its best in this
2. What makes cooperation (between individuals, groups, departments, etc.) possible?
3. What are the possibilities that enhance or maximize the potential for cooperation?
A provocative proposition is a statement that bridges the best of “what is” with your own speculation or
intuition of “what might be”. It is provocative to the extent to which it stretches the realm of the status
quo, challenges common assumptions or routines, and helps suggest real possibilities that represent
desired possibilities for the organization and its people.
In many ways, constructing provocative propositions is like architecture. Your task is to create a set of
propositions about the ideal organization: what would our organization look like if it were designed in
every way, to maximize and preserve the topics we’ve chosen to study. Organizational elements or
factors you may wish to include:
STRATEGY STRUCTURES SYSTEMS
STYLE SHARED VALUES SKILLS
STAKEHOLDER RELATIONS SOCIETAL PURPOSES STAFF
Company Y is poised for a positive future because:
1. Partners at all regions share a basic common vision in relation to the firms
core missions, intent, and direction. It is an exciting, challenging, and meaningful
direction which helps give all partners a feeling of significance, purpose, pride, and
unity. The firm uses whatever time and resources are needed to bring everyone on
board and thus continuously cultivates “the thrill of having a one firm feeling”, of being
a valued member of one outstanding national partnership.
2. Fairmount North American has created an organization where everyone
experiences themselves as owners of the business-- where everyone at all levels feels
the organization is theirs to improve, change, and help become what it can potentially
become. Fairmount recognizes there is a big difference between owners versus hired
hands. Ownership, at Fairmount, happens in three ways: (1) on an economic level
where everyone is a shareholder and shares in the profit, (2) on a psychological
level it happens because people are authentically involved, and (3) on a
business level when the “big picture” purpose is shared by all, and all take part at the
strategic level of business planning.
Sample Possibility Proposition:
Fairmount North America has become a learning organization that fosters the cross
fertilization of ideas, minimizes the building of empires, harnesses the synergy of group
cooperation, and cultivates the pride of being a valued member of one outstanding
corporation. Fairmount accelerates its learning through an annual strategic planning
conference that involves all five hundred people in the firm. As a setting for “strategic
learning” teams present their benchmarking studies of the best five other organizations,
deemed best in their class for the process we are seeking to learn about. Other teams
present an annual appreciative analysis of Fairmount, and together these databases of
success stories (internal and external) help set the stage for our strategic, future search
(Positive Images of the Ideal Organization)
CRITERIA FOR GOOD PROPOSITIONS:
⇒ Is it provocative ... does it stretch, challenge, or interrupt?
⇒ Is it grounded ... are there examples that illustrate the ideal as real possibility?
⇒ Is it desired ... if it could be fully actualized would the organization want it? Do you
want it as a preferred future?
⇒ Is it stated in affirmative and bold terms?
⇒ Does it follow a social architecture approach (e.g. 7 - S model, etc.)?
⇒ Does it expand the zone of “proximal development”?
• Use of 3rd party (outside appreciative eye)
• Complimented with Benchmarking Data
⇒ Is it a High Involvement Process?
⇒ Is it used to stimulate Intergenerational Organizational Learning?
⇒ Is there balanced management of: Continuity, Novelty, Transition?