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Appreciative Inquiry: A Conversation with David Cooperrider

Watch this video from the Father of the Appreciative Inquiry model.  We use much of what he teaches in our Strengths Based Development – one of the Three Pillars that Catalytics Performance Consulting is built upon.


What are the benefits of AI?

  • Appreciative Inquiry (AI) shifts the orientation from problem-focused to possibility-focused, from weakness to strength.  This impacts how things are remembered and prevents people from getting bogged down in negative patterns.
  • By building on things you already excel at, space opens up for rapid, accelerated, and sustainable change.
  • Interactive discussions focused on positive change creates personal commitment to action and encourages relationship building.
  • By focusing on uniqueness, AI reduces the need to compare and obsessing on what’s lacking.  It challenges your business to stop trying to be like the “Jones’s” and instead use the assets at YOUR companies disposal to fully become “who” your organization should be.
  • Improved morale, engagement, curiosity, and communication improves employee retention, opens dialogue, and presents new solutions.
  • AI encourages creativity, generating more ideas than traditional change models leave room for.
  • Inclusion of stakeholders fosters buy-in, accountability, ownership, and personal commitment.
  • Clarified or enhanced sense of identity.
  • Increased curiosity and sense of vitality.
  • Improved working relations and enhanced conflict resolution.
  • Grounding the experiences in the organization’s past successes and values inspires hope, increases energy, and enhances motivation!

The Appreciative Inquiry Change Model

Appreciative Inquiry (or AI for short) has been used successfully with business, government, non-profit, schools, and more.  Any type of organization can benefit from AI, however some more well known examples include:  Green Mountain Coffee, US Navy, the EPA, the Catholic Church, John Deere, British Airways, Verizon, NASA, and many, many others.  However, don’t think AI is the quick fix for turnarounds.  Properly done, an AI engagement can take many months to bear fruit!

The Appreciative Inquiry 4-step Process

AI involves a four-step process around the four D’s.  Discover, Dream, Design, and Deliver (or Destiny)  with the end goal: develop a concrete action plan and carry it forward.

Discover – This first phase consists of a series of interviews with employees of all levels, and even customers, vendors, and other stakeholders.  Here is where you want to find out what’s already working well in the organization.  This discovery phase is exceptionally thorough, honest, and deep as it is broad.

Discovery is key!   What organizations think they’re great at – and what they’re actually great at – can often differ.  (For example:  are you an insurance company who is exceptional at customer service?  Or an exceptional customer service company who happens to sell insurance?  How can you leverage that strength to move forward?)

Dream – The second piece is having the entire organization participate in open-ended brainstorming.  This step typically includes ALL stakeholders, from the Boardroom to the janitorial staff – and everyone in-between.   Using all of the positive (or successful) pieces of the pie that were identified in step one, and using a skilled facilitator to engage participants fully, this brainstorm helps to envision a more perfect organization.

Using data from discovery that reflects an organizations strengths, we ask questions:  If perfect, who would your company be?  How would you look to others in the community? In your industry?  How would you operate?  What would you do for your customers?  Employees?  Where would you operate physically?  Virtually?  Globally?  Questions like these and and much more would be addressed in this session.

Design – In the third phase, the team defines and prioritizes next steps to make that ideal vision a reality.  Rather than this incorporating the whole organization, this step would involve representatives of each sector of the company in the strategic plan and planning process.  In this way, each and every employee will feel they have a voice.

For many employees, “being heard” will fully engage them not only in the process of  the AI initiative, but in the strategic plan and the future of their job and their company.

Deliver (or Destiny) – By the final phase, participants are working exclusively on the necessary tasks to execute the plan.  This is where the rubber meets the road.

Remember when employees became engaged at both the Dream and Design stages?  Now, with “ownership” of each persons piece of the pie, the employee engagement will naturally drive productivity, creativity, communications and more.

Built upon “what is right” with the organization, and with performance markers being set in the design stage, the AI process can be successfully measured (and scientifically validated).  This, and more, is what makes AI one of the top (and one of our favorite) Organizational Change models.