Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thoughts on Using Appreciative Inquiry Guides

What is an Appreciative Inquiry Guide?
Appreciative Inquiry is an approach to change -- that assists individuals and organizations identify what they are doing successfully so that they can do more of it. People build on their strengths to design a compelling future to move towards. There are four phases of Appreciative Inquiry (AI), discover, dream, design, and destiny. The guides are used during the discovery phase to find out more about experiences that people in the group have had around a specific topic. There are a lot of great books about AI and many with sample interview questions. For more information about AI go to: Appreciative Inquiry Commons at

We developed this specific guide on lasting change because of our work in helping others think differently about sustainability. We use this guide to help people shift their focus on what they have done -- that has been successful in creating lasting change.

Using this AI Guide
Using this guide is as simple as asking someone to interview you and in turn be interviewed. Using this guide with a group is as simple as passing the guides out, asking people to pick a partner, and setting a timer for the first interview. When it goes off ask people to switch turns. The person interviewing will ask their partner the questions on the first page of the guide. After they have asked all the questions on the first page, they will use the back to record what surprised and surprised them about what they heard.

Want more information? Keep reading.

This is a great activity to do with a group at the beginning of a meeting or training. Why? Because it helps sets the energy of the group as a group. Feeling connected to one person in a group is often all it takes for people to feel connected to the entire group. If you have time, you can do it before introductions, and then have people introduce themselves by sharing what they learned from their partner. This focuses attention on what they learned, what surprised them, and what inspired them. If you have more time, you can have people discuss the themes in small groups. If you have even more time, you can flow through the other phases of AI.

More about the questions.
Appreciative Interview guides start by asking people to share a story about a peak experience, then ask about the person’s contribution to this experience, and they tend to end with a question about the person’s wishes. The purpose of the questions about their wishes is to connect what they discovered, when sharing a peak experience, with their hopes for a group, organization, partnership or a community they are part of.

Introducing this to a group.
You can introduce the activity by talking about Appreciative Inquiry, or you can introduce it as ice breaker. If you want to provide more of an introduction to a group you can go over the purpose – which is to shine a spotlight on the peak experiences of the individuals in the group. You can also go over the questions before people pair up and offer alternative wordings. Once in awhile someone has difficulty thinking of a “peak” experience. Responding to this is as easy as encouraging them to pick any experience that they felt alive and excited. The same thing for the wishes, sometimes people can’t identify wishes for a specific group. It is fine to think about wishes in a more global way, maybe wishes for the world. If you want to do this activity spontaneously you can write the questions on a flip chart or white board. One thing that we have found is that the more we use this, the more we want to. Shifting the focus to peak experiences always creates a positive energy that changes the trajectory of a meeting or event. We have found that once you bring out these guides, magic happens.

There are books that have sample guides on a variety of topics which are listed on our Resource List blog post. Also, we've posted one from the meeting on November 18 about Strenghts based Evaluation and Consulting.

Cassandra - email me at

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