0:35 – One thing that’s unique about Appreciative Inquiry vs other strengths-based approaches
1:12 – Actually, in practice there’s another big difference between Appreciative Inquiry and other approaches!
2:13 – The difference between ‘inquiry’ and ‘advocacy’ – learning vs persuading
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Here’s a (slightly edited) transcript:
I’m Andy Smith. I’m an Appreciative Inquiry facilitator and trainer, and have been for about the last 12 years now.
There are commonalities between strengths based approaches like (Marcus) Buckingham’s doing with positive psychology, generally looking at what’s working in I think ‘human flourishing’, they call it, rather than focusing on disorders.
There’s a lot of commonality with solution focus, for example, as well. And I’d say one thing that’s unique about Appreciative Inquiry (AI), even compared to solution focus, really is that before you start thinking about what you want in the future, It gets you looking at what’s already working now.
I guess it has that commonality with strengths based approaches, but the difference between AI and Buckingham’s kind of approach, which I think was originally based on surveys and like a personality type questionnaire – StrengthsFinder, or whatever it’s called, which is great – is that Appreciative Inquiry is looking at what happens between people.
So the basic unit of appreciative inquiry isn’t the individual, it’s the team or the group or the organisation or the community. So they’re all related approaches, they all work well together. They’re all kind of moving along in the same direction.
There are differences in emphasis. I’d say, the big difference for me with solution focus, or maybe even positive psychology is it’s looking at what’s already working as a foundation before you even think about the future. And it’s just a way of priming a group of people to perform better when they think about what their future vision is.
“Inquiry” carries a weight of seriousness about it. So you know, we’re not just taking a cursory look at what’s working in an appreciative way. We’re conducting a serious inquiry into what’s working, how it’s working, what are the causes of success.
The other thing we could look at is the difference between inquiry, which is like genuine curiosity about what’s going on, and advocacy, which is trying to persuade other people to your point of view.
I can’t remember the origin of this distinction, but you’re having conversations with a view to actually learning something new, rather than having a conversation with somebody with a view of “Okay, I know what’s right. I know what’s best. I’m going to have this conversation with you to persuade you.”
If you want to get started using Appreciative Inquiry confidently with teams and small groups, join the next Practical Appreciative Inquiry online facilitator training
(Thanks to Joe Dager of Business 901 for hosting the original video interview – I’ve tweaked the video slightly since then)