The Role of Appreciative Inquiry
in Organizational Development
M. Melissa Genova
24 April 2009
Research Concepts and Skills
The main objective of this study is to measure
the effectiveness of Appreciative Inquiry (AI)
against the traditional, deficit-based approach
of organizational development (OD) with
regard to increasing employee morale.
What is Appreciative Inquiry
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a form of organizational
development (OD) that looks to make improvements
by focusing on strengths rather than deficits within
AI is the opposite of the traditional “problem –
solving” or “deficit – based” approaches.
AI was created in the late 1980’s by David
Cooperrider and his colleagues at Case Western
Reserve University (Davis, n.d., p.355).
The theory of Appreciative Inquiry is strongly
influenced by concepts from the fields of
Sociology, Psychology and Biology.
“What gives life?”
(the best of what is)
“What might be?”
empower, learn, and (What is the world calling for?)
TOPIC CHOICE Envisioning Results
“What should be – the
As adapted from Cooperrider and Whitney, 2005, p.30
Appreciative Inquiry vs.
The Traditional OD Process
Traditional OD Process
Search for solutions that
Define the problem
Fix what’s broken already exist.
Amplify what is working
Focus on decay
Focus on life giving
What problems are you
What is working well
Hall & Hammond, 1998
Appreciative Inquiry Builds
Bridges Between Cultures
AI was used to build an alliance between:
•Monsanto – A publicly held multinational corporation based in the US
•MAHYCO – A research-based family business based in India
The companies were paired up and two groups were formed:
•AI Group – Used AI strategies to build teams
•ME Group – Used more formal, traditional methods
•When surveyed, the AI group had a 72% rate of response vs. 50%
from the ME group.
•75% of AI participants had made progress on their project since the
intervention took place.
•92% of the AI group reported positive results from the intervention.
•93% recommended further use of this method as an alliance building
Miller, Fitzgerald, Murrell, Preston & Ambekar, 2005
Improves Output of
Groups of cross functional teams were studied on their ability to problem
solve using the following approaches:
•Creative Problem Solving (CPS) – Focus on problems
•Appreciative Inquiry (AI) – Focus on what works
•As predicted, the groups utilizing AI had far higher scores than their
counterparts who used CPS.
•While both groups reported increases in the levels of group potency,
the AI groups reported higher levels of post-task group potency as
well as a greater degree of group potency from task initiation to task
•The second hypothesis, that the AI groups would report higher group
identification than their counterparts, was also found to be true.
Peelle III, 2006
Does Appreciative Inquiry
Live Up To It’s Reputation?
•A meta-case analysis was conducted to substantiate the claim that AI is a
catalyst of positive, transformational change within organizations.
•Twenty cases in which AI was utilized were reviewed.
•Surprisingly only 35% of the cases yielded transformational outcomes.
•What the study identified further was, in the cases that were
transformational, had two specific themes in common:
•A focus on changing how people think instead of what people do.
•A focus on supporting self-organizing change processes that flow from
Bushe & Kassam, 2005
The studies discussed have used the following measures to study the
effects of Appreciative Inquiry:
•Questionnaires administered before and after the study.
•A series of tests:
•GP0 – Group potency instrument (pre-test)
•GI – The identification instrument (mid-point)
•GP1 – Post-task group potency instrument (end).
Participants selected for this study are employees at Bits and Bytes, Inc., an
IT solutions company in New York:
•Out of six departments, two were selected for this study based on initial
results obtained from a modified version of the Employee Morale Survey
•To obtain a similar baseline, the two departments with the closest scores
were chosen for the study.
•The departments were labeled Department A and Department B.
•Department A was chosen to receive the deficit-based intervention approach
where their top three problems were the focus.
•Department B was chosen to receive the AI intervention tool where
problems were not mentioned. Instead, strengths were the focus.
Employee Morale Survey
EMPLOYEE MORALE SURVEY
This is a survey for the employees of Bits and
Bytes, Inc. This survey is intended to give
management guidance as to improve the
workplace environment. This survey is to be
Please give your assessment of Bits and Bytes,
Inc. on the following matters, by circling one of the
numbers from one to ten (one being awful, and ten
1. Compensation to employees: 1 2 3 4 5
2. Opportunity for advancement: 1 2 3 4 5
3. Benefits: 1 2 3 4 5
4. Friendly work environment: 1 2 3 4 5
5. Training: 12345
6. Supervision: 1 2 3 4 5
7. Culture: 12 3 4 5
8. Job security: 1 2 3 4 5
9. Flexibility in performing job: 1 2 3 4 5
10. Overall satisfaction with job: 1 2 3 4 5
•Each intervention was applied over a three month time span.
•At the end of the three month period, the Employee Morale Survey was
administered again to gauge improvement in morale amongst each of the
•The ending results were compared to the initial results and any changes in
morale were recorded and analyzed.
Bushe, G. R., & Kassam, A. F. (2005, June). When Is Appreciative Inquiry Transformational? A
Meta-Case Analysis [Electronic version]. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 41 (2), pp.
Cooperrider, D. L., & Whitney, D. K. (2005). Appreciative inquiry: A positive revolution in change
[Electronic version]. Retrieved February 16, 2009 from
Davis, C. (n.d.). Appreciative Inquiry - A tool for transformational learning [Electronic version].
Faculty Guidebook, 355-358. Retrieved February 16, 2009 from
Hall, J., & Hammond, S. (1998). What is appreciative inquiry [Electronic version]. Inner Edge
Newsletter, 1-10. Retrieved February 16, 2009 from
Miller, M. G., Fitzgerald, S. P., Murrell, K. L., Preston, J., & Ambekar, R. (2005). Appreciative inquiry in
building a transcultural strategic alliance. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 41(1), 91-110.
Peelle III, H. E. (2006). Appreciative inquiry and creative problem solving in cross-functional teams.
Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 42(4), 447-467. doi:10.1177/0021886306292479
Thapar, M. (2005, December 3). Use this Form to Evaluate Your Employees or Yourself. Retrieved
April 7, 2009, from http://ezinearticles.com/?Use-this-Form-to-Evaluate-Your-Employees-or-
Thank you for your time and attention.