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Problem Solving with Appreciative Enquiry

by Randall Craig on November 25, 2016

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Management

Tagged as: , ,

In the olden days, external advisors would be called in whenever there is a problem to be solved.  Proposals would be reviewed, contracts negotiated, references checked, and the engagement would begin. The consulting team would show up, diagnose the source of the problem, and help the management team focus exclusively on getting rid of the bad.  Then the real problems would begin.

The problem with this traditional problem-solving model is that the focus on the bad means that the everyday good is ignored. And while the “bad” problem may be solved, inevitably new issues come up because less “good” is being done.

Enter Appreciative enquiry, an alternative facilitation process.  This approach focuses on what’s good – what’s right – and seeks to do more of it. In this way, the bad is “pushed” out. As someone who has facilitated groups using both traditional and appreciate enquiry processes, there is a huge difference in the minds of the participants.

  • When the focus is on dissecting the problem – when the focus is on the bad… everyone feels bad. The problem looms large.
  • When the focus is on the good… everyone feels good. They feel that they can take on the world.  And they do.

While this description is necessarily simplified, the concept is a powerful one – and illustrates how a simple change in methodology can have a dramatic influence on the outcome.

This week’s action plan:  If you were managing a team, which would you prefer – a group that felt beaten up, or a group that felt they could accomplish anything? This week, before jumping to the solution to your next problem, consider how an appreciative enquiry process might be used.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register. 

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at

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