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BLOGProblem Solving with Appreciative Inquiry

by Randall CraigFiled in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, ManagementTagged 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, more often than not, 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 Inquiry, 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. People become defensive, and may even sabotage any proposed solution. 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.


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 inquiry process might be used.

Does this topic resonate? Reach out to Randall: he can present it to your group.  (More presentation topics)
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