Appreciative Inquiry

A popular model for organizational change is appreciative inquiry. It has been criticized by academics as lacking rigor in its assessment approaches.

Creswell (2014), stated that inquiry procedures come in three flavors: quantitative, qualitative, mix.  Mostly under the inquiry procedures of quantitative methodologies, action research is a style of participatory research (Creswell, 2014).  It is the action research methodology that Appreciative Inquiry began (Holmber & Reed, 2010).  Appreciative Inquiry, usually asks what went well, or what was done well rather than what went wrong (Hammond, 2006).  Appreciative Inquiring works on a psychological concept of “Framing”.  Especially, since words not only have definitions but can also have an emotional connotation (Hammond, 2006).  Words with these emotional connotations can influence people.  Therefore, people’s perceptions and preferences change based on how a question or statement is framed (Prentice, 2007). According to appreciative inquiry, it is easier to sell an idea where the focus is on the positive aspect of that idea.  It is usually better to say that a bag of dried plantain chips is 95% fat-free, rather than 5% fat (Hammond, 2006; Prentice, 2007). How statements or questions are worded, can change how people view/frame the issue.  But, the goal of appreciative inquiry is not just a matter of framing, but also finding out what has been done that works well and doing more of that (Hammond, 2006).

Even though Appreciative Inquiry is a popular model for organizational change, its lack of rigor in its assessment approaches can upset those that are more quantitative in nature.  Especially since quantitative methodologist use the quantitative measure to deductively reach a conclusion (Cresswell, 2014).  However, Appreciative Inquiry gives researchers a different perspective than what they are accustom to and more researchers are becoming inspired by this model (Holmber & Reed, 2006).  For instance, if questions in an assessment instrument were to remove words with negative connotations such as “dysfunction”, “co-dependent”, “stress”, “addition”, “depress”, etc., to words that are more neutral or positive connotations, it can reframe the issue (Brooksher & Brylow, 2014). Using words with negative connotations can trigger a person’s need for loss aversion.  Loss aversion suggests that people perceive pain at least two times more than pleasure, and always aim to mitigate the pain (Prentice, 2007).  Thus, wording assessment instruments and the results they generate should be heavily considered (Brookshear & Brylow, 2014).  This is especially the case when the goal of quantitative research is to remain impersonal and objective in their studies (Creswell, 2014).

Another idea from Appreciative Inquiry that quantitative methodologist could use is the fact that it tries to examine an idea from a different angle.  For instance, sometimes conducting a Fermi decomposition of an idea, which is when a researcher is trying to solve a big idea by breaking it up into smaller more tangible and quantitatively measurable set of solutions, is one way of viewing the idea from a different angle (Hubbard, 2010).   Also, asking “Why?” iteratively five times, as suggested in lean six sigma DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, implement, and control) process is another way to understand an idea better (iSixSigma, n.d.).  Thus, looking at ideas from different angles can help find the cause of an idea or an opportunity for improvement.


  • Brookshear, G. & Brylow, D. (2014). Computer Science: An Overview (12th ed.). Pearson Learning Solution. VitalBook file.
  • Creswell, J. W. (2014) Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed method approaches (4th ed.). California, SAGE Publications, Inc. VitalBook file.
  • Hammond, S. (2006). The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry. Thin Book Publishing.
  • Holmber, L. & Reed, J. (2010). AI research ntoes. AI Practitioners, 12(4), 55-57. Retrieved from
  • Hubbard, D. W. (2010). How to measure anything: Finding the values of “intangibles” in business. (2nd e.d.) New Jersey, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • iSixSigma (n.d.).  Determine the root cause: 5 whys. Retrieved from
  • Prentice, R. A. (2007). Ethical decision making: More needed than good intentions. Financial Analysis Journal, 63(6), 17–30.