Are we experiencing an Appreciative Inquiry second wave?

Thoughts for the World Appreciative Inquiry Conference in Nice, March 2019

Attending the WAIC in Nice gives us an amazing opportunity to meet and share conversations and reconnections with friends; make new ones and learn more about what is happening with Appreciative Inquiry across the globe. It reminds me of our adventures of previous WAIC events – including Nepal, Ghent and South Africa. How each event has fuelled and inspired my journey as an AI practitioner.

In preparing a workshop, looking at the key note speakers, planning which workshops I’ll attend and organising the delivery of our Appreciating People resources for the conference bookshop, I’ve had time to reflect on the current state of Appreciative Inquiry in the world.

Whilst the AI approach has continued to deliver successful AI summits, and this work will always have a central place in AI delivery, I sense there’s a sea change going on and we are witnessing a new wave. This new wave is more about being focused on the AI principles, the appreciative conversations and generative questions, embedding AI into daily working and living practices, using AI in the most challenging of circumstances and making it practically accessible in all ages. Core to this is creating an appreciative mindset and, in the words of Jackie Kelm, training your ‘appreciative muscle’.

So what are the influences and pioneers of this approach. For me, it starts with Appreciative Living and Jackie Kelm and her foundational work on encouraging people, both professionally and personally, to develop their appreciative muscle. Tony Silbert’s Healing Conversations NOW has added to the thinking.

More recently, it’s been the thinking and practical guidance in publications such as Cherri Torres and Jackie Stavros’ work on Conversations that Matter and the Jeanie Cockell and Joan McArthur-Blair publication Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry – a leadership journey through hope, despair and forgiveness.

In the David Cooperider forward to Joan and Jeannie’s book, he highlights the challenge and importance of identifying how AI can help people and organisations in the darkest of times. This is another contribution to AI thinking and its further development

For Appreciating People this new wave consists of very rarely delivering an AI summit – and if we do, it’s broken down into stages over a number of weeks. Instead, we’re concentrating on delivering AI training within organisations, fostering self-sufficient AI communities of practice. We’re working with organisations on generating transformation by encouraging small interventions, embedding AI practices into day-to-day work and using appreciative journaling to encourage the appreciative mindset. This work has been epitomised in the Appreciating Church work, NHS Learning from Excellence and recent work in a UK prison.

Another contribution to this second wave is the impact of external influences. As well as positive psychology, the strengths movement, positive deviance, there’s the work of Kim Cameron on leadership, Reinventing Organisations by Frederick Laloux and David Marquet’s work on intent-based leadership in Turn the Ship Around.

I look forward to hearing from the AI practitioners highlighted in this blog – they are delivering keynote addresses. We’re looking forward to the conversations that will take place and the opportunity to consider and explore this new wave at WAIC Nice.

~ Tim Slack

Nice seafront photo by John Jason on Unsplash