Constructive Discourse and Human Organization: Volume 1

Cover of Constructive Discourse and Human Organization

Table of contents

(18 chapters)

Appreciative Inquiry is a constructive inquiry process that searches for everything that “gives life” to organizations, communities, and larger human systems when they are most alive, effective, creative and healthy in their interconnected ecology of relationships. To appreciate, quite simply, means to value and to recognize that which has value – it is a way of knowing and valuing the best in life. In the language of Positive Organizational Scholarship it means a research focus – a positive bias – seeking fresh understanding of dynamics described by words like excellence, thriving, abundance, resilience, or exceptional and life-giving (Cameron, Dutton & Quinn, 2003). In this context the word appreciate means to value those things of value – it is a mode of knowing often connected to the idea of esthetic appreciation in the arts. To appreciate also means to be grateful or thankful for – it is a way of being and maintaining a positive stance along the path of life’s journey. And not incidentally, to appreciate is to increase in value too. Combining the three – appreciation as a way of knowing, as a way of being and as an increase in value- suggests that Appreciative Inquiry is simultaneously a life-centric form of study and a constructive mode of practice. As a form of study, Appreciative Inquiry focuses on searching systematically for those capacities and processes that give life and strength and possibility to a living system; and as a constructive mode of practice, it aims at designing and crafting human organizations through a process in which valuing and creating are viewed as one, and where inquiry and change are powerfully related and understood as a seamless and integral whole. But the key to really understanding Appreciative Inquiry is to put the emphasis on the second word in the inseparable pair. While many are intrigued with the Appreciative Inquiry positive bias – toward the good, the better, the exceptional, and the possible – it is the power of inquiry we must learn more about and underscore. Inquiry is all about openness, curiosity, creative questioning; its spirit involves what Whitehead once called “the adventure of ideas.”

In this chapter we are exploring Appreciative Inquiry within organizations through the dialogic process in its relational aspect. The present discussion is composed of four parts: An exploration of the myriad meanings of dialogue and a description of a useful orienting platform, dialogue as “discursive coordination.” We then turn to the pivotal function of dialogue in the organizing process and the development of a vocabulary of discursive action with practical consequences for effective organizing. We next turn to the problematic potentials of dialogue. A contrast between generative and degenerative dialogue enables us to explore how certain forms of coordination ultimately lead to organizational growth or demise. Among our conclusions we propose that dialogue originates in public, is a form of joint-action, is embodied and contextually embedded, as well as historically and culturally situated. Dialogue may serve both positive and negative ends. Described are four aspects of dialogue – an emphasis on affirmation, productive difference, coherence, and temporal integration. Appreciative inquiry adds an enormously important element to the transformative potentials of dialogue. Other transformative practices and potentials are also described.

This chapter is about the relationship between Networked Organizations and Appreciative Inquiry. To set a context, Theory about networks is related to the expressed needs of Appreciative Inquiry. Stories follow, from both appreciative and network perspectives. Ideas are put to work through practice as expressed by method – consisting of principles, practices, and processes. Further, method is embedded in technology to support functioning networks. In research, we look at learning about human systems and suggest that online digital places form natural laboratories to collect, analyze, and synthesize data. Concluding with Search, we revisit the question of consciousness in human systems.

The underpinnings of knowledge management theories is that finding, keeping and leveraging an organization’s information assets are critical to productivity, efficiency of operation and successful competition. Following a brief introduction of the knowledge management systems, this essay examines the corollary relationship between knowledge management and appreciative inquiry, and subsequently points to critical areas in which knowledge management practices can benefit from adopting the appreciative inquiry perspective. More particularly, we submit that appreciative inquiry can motivate organizational-wide adoption and it can provide language-based mechanisms that facilitate effective knowledge exchange. The development of an appreciative inquiry based mode of knowledge management as an alternative to the prevailing approaches opens new horizons and uncovers previously overlooked possibilities, which eventually can contribute to the overall organizational well-being.

Though paradoxes constitute a basic ontological condition of organizational processes, the modernist approach has always been to find ways to resolve them. In this chapter, an alternative approach called hermeneutic appreciation is proposed. By accepting and affirming paradoxes through the process of hermeneutic appreciation, the generative potential inherent in them can be recognized and unfolded. This chapter presents a case study of an organization that demonstrated such a sophisticated understanding of hermeneutic appreciation. By not dismissing the paradoxes but by affirming and reframing them, members of this organization were able to reverse a visible organizational decline and instead infuse it with new energy and vitality leading to an eventual organizational renewal. Lessons learned from this appreciative inquiry project suggest that a hermeneutic appreciation of paradoxes may act as a change intervention and is likely to enable innovation and organizational transformation.

Appreciative inquiry is built upon recognition of the profound power of questions in shaping our worlds; a power invoked by the phrase, “questions are fateful.” We wonder, “What kinds of questions can optimize our inquiry and contribute to catalyzing transformational change?” The goal of this chapter is to provide conceptual and practical answers to this question. We seek to enrich and contribute to the field of appreciative inquiry through expanded ways of thinking about inquiry and the generation of questions. We begin by considering how questions influence how we think, behave, and relate. How do questions affect outcomes? We examine the nature of thinking as intrinsically a question and answer process and highlight the vital role of “QuestionThinking™” for creating new possibilities. We present the Learner-Judger Mindset Model, which provides distinctions for strengthening the spirit of inquiry in constructing questions. Then we examine how appreciative inquiry practitioners can take advantage of the distinctions and practices of QuestionThinking using the Mindset Model. Finally, we provide practical question-centered practices that can lead to positive new futures for ourselves and the individuals and organizations we serve.

This chapter creates a logic that links the transformation of organizational consciousness with the creation of a more life affirming global consciousness. In it the author examines the relationship between the practice of Appreciative Inquiry, the concept of organizational consciousness and the need for global transformation. She suggests that Appreciative Inquiry, with its life giving focus, is uniquely suited to simultaneously bring about change in organizations and society through the elevation and evolution of organizational consciousness. Recognizing the need for transformation on a global scale, she challenges the field of organization development to move beyond the metaphor of organization culture toward the metaphor of organizational consciousness. Cultures are defined and bounded by national and corporate borders. Consciousness is all pervasive. It knows not boundaries of organizations, countries nor continents. Appreciative Inquiry practices, that involve the whole system in valuing the best of what is, envisioning generative possibilities and creating life-sustaining organizations, hold great potential for the evolution of organizational consciousness.

This chapter explores the potential of appreciative inquiry for doing empirical work on leadership. We use a framework that matches a constructionist theoretical lens, an appreciative and participative stance, a focus on the work of leadership (as opposed to leaders), and multiple methods of inquiry (narrative, ethnographic and cooperative). We elaborate on our experiences with narrative inquiry, while highlighting the value of doing narrative inquiry in an appreciative manner. Finally, we suggest that this particular framework is helping us see how social change leadership work reframes the value that the larger society attributes to members of vulnerable communities.

The time is ripe for a pedagogy of appreciation. This chapter is a cross pollination of the positive philosophies and visions of educators such as Dewey, Freire, Kolb, and Handy with the vibrant and emerging organizational change ideas and processes of Appreciative Inquiry. This pedagogical stance is values driven and embraces the relevance of personal experience. There is a distinct bias towards success and positive change through supportive relationships and dialogue in the creation of knowledge. This chapter details step-by-step classroom applications that follow the 4-D model (Discover, Dream, Design, Destiny) and extend the experiential learning cycle. For the student, these applications have led to more energized and sustained interactions, an increase in positive attitudes towards other students and the professor, more relevant and personally meaningful concepts, and a fuller and more hopeful view of the future. For the professor, a deeper engagement with the students and their stories leads to a stronger connection with the values, concepts and models of the course. The chapter concludes by identifying some challenges in applying and extending an appreciative approach to educational systems as a whole.

Conducting effective program evaluations such that all stakeholders benefit can be challenging. Appreciative inquiry provides a framework for seeking out the “goodness” of a program. By identifying what is being done “right,” programs can be strengthened by keeping what is currently valued, discarding what is not valued, and creating what does not currently exist but is envisioned and desired by all stakeholders. This chapter explores the benefits of using an appreciative approach to program evaluation. It describes the process used to appraise the Technology for Education and Training graduate programs.

This chapter reviews literature in support of a model that predicts the effects of Appreciative Inquiry on physical health in the workplace. Studies that demonstrate the physiological correlates associated with the experience of appreciation are examined. A model of emotion is proposed that shows how the heart, in concert with the brain, nervous, and hormonal systems, are fundamental components of a dynamic network from which emotional experience emerges. The authors demonstrate how favorable affective experiences and appreciative processes go hand in hand – and suggest the need for further empirical investigations in the field of positive organizational change practices.

This paper presents a framework to study organizational change using the metaphor of ritual. Concepts of myth and ritual facilitate understanding of change interventions. A qualitative study of Appreciative Inquiry helped answer the question: what mechanisms or processes explain the effect of the Appreciative Inquiry Summit? Four mechanisms, based on qualitative interviews and anthropological and sociological theory, explain why the AI Summit produces organizational change: (1) internal dialogue: recognizing a positive dimension and new vocabulary at the individual, interpersonal, and organizational levels of analysis; (2) communitas: the mechanism whereby new relationships form due to relational anti-structure; (3) commitment: how organization members cognitively and cathectically commit to the organization; and (4) longitudinal repetition: how sustained and continuous change involves repetition of ritual practices and the recognition.

This chapter proposes a synergy and integration between OD’s long tradition of “survey guided development” and the rapidly emerging new directions offered by Appreciative Inquiry. Both Appreciative Inquiry and the survey-guided development approaches have a common shared commitment to the Lewinian call to Action Research. The chapter traces the movement from Action Research to “survey guided development,” and then to the emergence of Appreciative inquiry. Several illustrations of Appreciative Inquiry combined with Survey Guided Organization Development are presented for U.S. and international applications. Findings illustrated in the chapter present the possibility of a third new and powerful perspective on the driving forces and dynamics of change. In addition, the international illustrations raise the question of and strengthen the argument for a common universal human experience.

While Cooperrider (2001, p. 32) suggests that appreciative inquiry is about “the artful creation of positive imagery,” most of the literature that describes the process of artful creation explains it as one in which the organizational members simply talk about these new images, vs. actually engaging in the creation of artistic representations of the desired future. This chapter moves the appreciative inquiry literature beyond the metaphorical understanding of the “art of” appreciative inquiry in order to reveal and explain how practitioners are actually engaging organizations in the artful creation of positive anticipatory imagery. In this chapter, the literature that labels and describes the process of artful creation in organizations is reviewed, described, and synthesized into five propositions – ultimately creating a framework for understanding artful creation as a unique organizational discourse: an aesthetic discourse. These five propositions reveal the common characteristics of artful creation: (1) presentational knowledge/language; (2) mediated dialogue; (3) symbolic constructions that act as metaphorical representation; (4) collaborative inquiry/co-creation; and (5) window to the unconscious. The chapter concludes by addressing the implications, seeking to answer the question “What is the value of an organization engaging with the process of artful creation?” Finally, the chapter suggests that the five propositions may guide future research in two areas: (a) the practice of the artful creation of positive anticipatory imagery in appreciative inquiry; and (b) the further development of a theoretical framework for understanding the “art of” appreciative inquiry as aesthetic discourse.

This chapter explores the power of appreciative inquiry in moving beyond a one-time intervention technique to sustaining positive change by creating on-going “conversational convergence” around continuously evolving futures and directions for an organization. A conversational map was created from nine years of change data revealing the centrality of language in creating and sustaining change. Awareness of the corporate conversational streams and the intentional influencing of these streams helped sustain the positive change process over this extended period. This influence was applied at the individual level by developing a commitment for appreciative leadership principles and at the corporate level by incorporating appreciative design elements into the organization’s social architecture.

The use of dialogues within and across organizations is on the rise. This increase is a tacit acknowledgement of the relational foundations from which new meaning is created and social innovations emerge. However, coming together for a dialogue doesn’t assure constructive conversation or transformative engagement. Dialogue participants, even when they are asked to “suspend assumptions,” are generally still embedded in the mental models and familiar frameworks that distance them from one another and prevent real generativity and novelty.

This paper proposes Appreciative Inquiry as an approach particularly conducive to creating public dialogues that are generative and transformative. It suggests that a community is best served by inquiry into strengths, assets and past successes. It further proposes that this mode of inquiry tends to produce positive emotional states, which expand the resources and pro-social inclinations of those in the dialogue. It offers five conditions that support generative and transformative public dialogue and explains how Appreciative Inquiry creates these conditions.

Cover of Constructive Discourse and Human Organization
Publication date
Book series
Advances in Appreciative Inquiry
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN