Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is both a methodology for producing positive change as well as a mindset, a way of perceiving and understanding the world around us so as to always encourage positive change. Its goal is to bring life to human systems, and all that it does is based on a basic principle: find the best of what exists, then do more of it. This points to the two meanings of the word appreciative — to recognize and value something, as when we appreciate a person or a work of art, and to grow in value, as when an investment appreciates.
It is a simple idea, but few are more powerful, and it is surprisingly foreign to typical ways of thinking. We often find ourselves caught up in problem-solving, identifying what is wrong and trying to fix it. But doing so never guarantees that we will get what we really want, only that we might have a reprieve from something we don’t want. Indeed, systems disciplines tell us that such a focus is generally likely to address only symptoms rather than root causes, causing any break from our problems to usually be a brief one.
Shifting into appreciative mode, we get in touch with what we most want. The questions we now ask help us study what works, the seeds of success, so that we can increase the capacities that help satisfy our needs. This is often our best opportunity to find leverage points for systemic, positive change. By doing this cyclically, we can generate sustainable change in desired directions. Indeed, the process can be seen as an example of evolution itself, selecting the fittest from a pool of variation, carrying it forward, building on it to generate novelties which are then subject to further selection.
Originating as an organizational development framework, Appreciative Inquiry has helped countless businesses and groups achieve breakthroughs in positive change. No wonder, though, tapping as it does into our universe’s key creative processes, that AI can be used effectively to generate positive solutions in any situation requiring creative thinking.
Through Emergent Associates, LLC — the coaching, consulting and training company Mark S. Meritt co-founded with Howard Ditkoff — Mark and Howard discovered many novel ways to apply Appreciative Inquiry. Forms ranged from full AIs down to 10-minute versions, with almost all levels in between, and they incorporated knowledge and practices from psychology, communication and beyond. Subjects included personal growth, project development and artistic creation. Building off of that work, Potluck Creative Arts now specializes in the adaptation and application of Appreciative Inquiry for artistic creation, to which AI lends itself beautifully.
Potluck Creative Arts’ Custom Works and Creativity Coaching are accomplished using AI-based processes. Given its organizational origins, AI is also especially effective as the basis for all the production-oriented collaborative creativity workshops which Potluck has innovated. Founder Mark S. Meritt now uses AI as standard practice for his own artistic works as well. Even this website was created using AI.
If you are interested in learning more about Appreciative Inquiry, Potluck Creative Arts will be developing seminars to supplement its Songwriting Workshops, in which the workshop experience itself becomes the lens through which to learn about AI — to explore what it entails, why it works, and how you can apply it to generate positive change in any area of life or work. You can also find out more about AI in the Resources section.