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5 Principles of Appreciative Inquiry Cheat Sheet (DRAFT) by [deleted]

This is a draft cheat sheet. It is a work in progress and is not finished yet.


The five core principles should be seen as the building blocks of AI, with the constr­uct­ionist principle as its foundation stone and the poetic, positive, simult­aneity and antici­patory principles as rising pillars. There are many theories and discip­lines that have influenced the principles of AI, or are aligned with them. As the shift away from Newtonian thinking continues, and we embrace new thinking on our world and its systems, there’s a plethora of related reading – Ken Gergen’s writing on social constr­uct­ionist theory (in which AI is very much rooted), amongst others; positive psychology (Martin Seligman and Barbara Fredri­ckson) and new sciences like chaos theory, complexity theory and quantum physics.

1. The Constr­uct­ionist Principle

Proposes that what we believe to be true determines what we do, and thought and action emerge from relati­ons­hips. Through the language and discourse of day to day intera­ctions, people co-con­struct the organi­zations they inhabit. The purpose of inquiry is to stimulate new ideas, stories and images that generate new possib­ilities for action.
Words create worlds

2. The Simult­aneity Principle

Proposes that as we inquire into human systems we change them and the seeds of change, the things people think and talk about, what they discover and learn, are implicit in the very first questions asked. Questions are never neutral, they are fateful, and social systems move in the direction of the questions they most persis­tently and passio­nately discuss.
Inquiry creates change - the first question is fateful...

3. The Poetic Principle

Proposes that organi­zat­ional life is expressed in the stories people tell each other every day, and the story of the organi­zation is constantly being co-aut­hored. The words and topics chosen for inquiry have an impact far beyond just the words themse­lves. They invoke sentim­ents, unders­tan­dings, and worlds of meaning. In all phases of the inquiry effort is put into using words that point to, enliven and inspire the best in people.
We can choose what we study

4. The Antici­patory Principle

Posits that what we do today is guided by our image of the future. Human systems are forever projecting ahead of themselves a horizon of expect­ation that brings the future powerfully into the present as a mobilizing agent. The more positive and hopeful the image of the future, the more positive the presen­t-day action.
Image inspires action

5. The Positive Principle

Proposes that momentum and sustai­nable change requires positive affect and social bonding. Sentiments like hope, excite­ment, inspir­ation, camara­derie and joy increase creati­vity, openness to new ideas and people, and cognitive flexib­ility. They also promote the strong connec­tions and relati­onships between people, partic­ularly between groups in conflict, required for collective inquiry and change.
Positive questions lead to positive change


Added Emergency Principles

As AI practi­tioners have refined their learning and experience (in keeping with AI philos­ophy), some ‘emergent princi­ples’ have been added. These sit alongside the core princi­ples, although some practi­tioners prefer to see them as 'inten­tions’ for their work, rather than princi­ples.

The Wholeness Principle

Wholeness brings out the best in people and organi­zat­ions. Bringing all stakeh­olders together in large group forums stimulates creativity and builds collective capacity.
Wholeness Brings Out the Best

The Enactment Principle

To really make a change, we must “be the change we want to see.” Positive change occurs when the process used to create the change is a living model of the ideal future.
Acting ‘As If” is Self-F­ulf­illing

The Free Choice Principle

People perform better and are more committed when they have the freedom to choose how and what they contri­bute. Free choice stimulates organi­zat­ional excellence and positive change.2
Free Choice Liberates Power

The Narrative Principle

We construct stories about our lives (personal and profes­sional) and live into them.
Stories are Transf­orm­ative.

The Awareness Principle

Unders­tanding and being aware of our underlying assump­tions are important to developing and cultiv­ating good relati­ons­hips. Practicing cycles of action and reflection can build one’s self-a­war­eness.
Be Conscious of Underlying Assump­tions.