Appreciative Enquiry for Change Management: Using AI to Facilitate Organisational Development

Human Resource Management International Digest

ISSN: 0967-0734

Article publication date: 1 May 2009



Lewis, S. (2009), "Appreciative Enquiry for Change Management: Using AI to Facilitate Organisational Development", Human Resource Management International Digest, Vol. 17 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Appreciative Enquiry for Change Management: Using AI to Facilitate Organisational Development

Article Type: Suggested reading From: Human Resource Management International Digest, Volume 17, Issue 3

Sarah Lewis, Jonathan Passmore and Stefan CantoreKogan Page, London and Philadelphia, PA, 2008, 247 pp., UK £29.99, US $60 (hardback), ISBN 9780749450717

Appreciative Enquiry is becoming increasingly recognised as a process which uses positive conversational engagement between people as part of change management and organizational development interventions. The concept originally developed as part of David Cooperrider’s doctoral program work with Cleveland Clinic’s Board of Governors in 1980 and resulted in a PhD on Appreciative Enquiry.

There are two main elements in Appreciative Enquiry. The first element is that of appreciation i.e. acknowledging in a positive way things which are happening or which might happen in the organization. The authors link AI to the positive psychology advocated by Martin Seligman and others. The underlying principle is that although fear and anger, negative emotions, can generate change they tend to focus attention too narrowly and reduce the potential to consider wider and perhaps more relevant solutions. Instead, they advocate that positive emotions widen thinking processes and therefore potential opportunities. For example, instead of asking, “Why do we keep getting poor customer service feedback?”, the question should be, “How do we help our customers to have a fantastic experience?”

The second element in AI is enquiry. This involves asking questions in a positive and constructive way and there is a detailed table describing categories of questions and how to construct conversations.

Traditionally, there are four stages to AI: Discovery, Dream, Design, and Destiny. Often a fifth stage, Define, is used at the beginning to provide a focus for the enquiry. Discovery involves finding and appreciating the key strengths of the organization. The Dream stage encourages individuals to draw out their dreams for themselves and for the future of the organization. Design involves agreeing a common future dream and the actions which are necessary to achieve this. Finally, Destiny requires people to plan and form action groups to start the movement towards change.

The book is divided into three parts. The first consists of four chapters and considers the mechanistic understanding of organizations and contrasts this with organizations as living human systems. It then proceeds with a discussion of the development of conversational approaches to change and the final chapter in the section provides an overview of appreciative enquiry.

Part 2 considers advanced ideas and practice of appreciative enquiry looking in particular at questions, conversation and stories. It also describes a number of practices including The World Café, Open Space, Future Search and The Circle. There is then a chapter on becoming an appreciative conversational practitioner.

The final section consists of five chapters which describe a range of conversational practices which can be used in the organization and which are applied organizationally, e.g. in BP and Nokia. The book complements David Cooperrider et al.’s (2004) Appreciative Inquiry Handbook; Harrison Owen’s (1997) Open Space Technology; and, Juanita Brown et al.’s (2005) guide to the World Café.

This book is written by knowledgeable practitioners who helpfully list where and when these specific techniques can be more or less successfully applied. The book is a practical resource for organizational development and change specialists as well as training specialists who wish to add to their portfolio of tools.

Reviewed by John P. Wilson

This review was originally published in Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 40 No. 6, 2008.


Cooperrider, D.L., Whitney, D. and Stavros, J.M. (2004), Appreciative Inquiry Handbook: The First in a Series of AI Workbooks for Leaders of Change, Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, CA

Owen, H. (1997), Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide, 2nd ed., Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, CA

World Café Community, Brown, J., Isaacs, D., Wheatley, M.J. and Senge, P. (2005), The World Café: Shaping our Futures through Conversations that Matter, Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, CA