Organizational Planning/Development

Appreciative Inquiry

Introduction | Philosophy | Resources

Appreciative Inquiry

There are a wide variety of orientations to organizational planning that could be presented. For now, we are only including one on this website—Appreciative Inquiry (AI). This one has the same philosophical base as our orientation to evaluative inquiry.


"Appreciative Inquiry is a collaborative and highly participative, system-wide approach to seeking, identifying, and enhancing the 'life-giving forces' that are present when a system is performing optimally in human, economic, and organizational terms." It is a journey during which profound knowledge of a human system at its moments of wonder is uncovered and used to co-construct the best and highest future of that system." (Watkins and Mohr, 2001).

"Appreciative" comes from the concept that when something increases in value it "appreciates." "Inquiry" is the process of seeking to understand through asking questions. AI chooses the positive as the focus for inquiry.

David Cooperrider is viewed as the founder of Appreciative Inquiry.

There are two general models that are used in AI circles: the D-model and the I-model. We will use the D-model as defined by Watkins and Mohr (2001). The five D’s are:

  1. Definition Phase: During this phase the goals are identified, the questions and inquiry protocol are framed, the strategy for participation is determined and the project management structure is developed.
  2. Discovery Phase: The members of the system develop an in-depth understanding of (a) the energizing properties that are present in those special moments when the organization is performing optimally from a human, economic, and organizational perspective; and (b) the structures, dynamics, and other conditions that allow those energizing properties to flourish.
  3. Dream Phase: At this point the system members create shared images of how their organization would function, look, feel, and be if those exceptional moments and energizing properties were the norm.
  4. Design Phase: During this phase the system members agree on the principles they want to have guide changes in their organization’s social and technical structure and work out the details of any needed changes based on those principles.
  5. Destiny Phase: This is the time during which the organization evolves into the preferred future image created during the Dream phase and worked on in the Design phase.

In case you are wondering, the I-model uses the terms Initiate, Inquire, Imagine, and Innovate. Woven through both models are five generic processes:

The process is not necessarily linear and phases may overlap. For example, organizational changes doesn’t wait for the Destiny phase; the organization starts to change when it starts to ask questions of itself in the Definition phase.


AI combines the philosophy of social constructivism with the research on the power of image to create our own realities and futures. It also builds from an asset rather than a deficit perspective.



  1. Watkins, J. & Mohr, B. (2001). Appreciative inquiry: Change at the speed of Imagination. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


  1. Company of is an international network of people with outstanding expertise in Consulting, Facilitating, Keynoting, and Training. The network primarily exists to serve the professional and organizational development needs of colleges, community colleges, schools and universities. The network also serves the needs of other sectors--businesses and corporations, governmental organizations and nonprofit organizations.
  2. This Web site introduces a new theory and methodology of human development called appreciative inquiry (AI). Although AI originated in the field of organization development, it soon became clear that AI represented a new way of seeing the world—a new way of thinking, acting, and being.

Future Events

  1. In late September or early October we plan to have a 1.5 hour session at Bakersfield College for CLIP members to learn more about the process. It will be open to other BC employees as well.