The Appreciative Inquiry is founded by David Cooperrider as an organizational development method . The way to understand the method is first of all to consider the two words that the name consists of:
To understand the method we will start by looking at the meaning of the two words and afterwards look at the method when working with organizational development and leadership. This will be the basic knowledge to further discus the differences between Kotter and the Appreciative Inquiry’s way of looking and understanding change.
The word Ap-pre’ci-ate means; v., to value; recognize the best in people or the world around us; affirm past and present strengths, successes, and potentials; to perceive those things that give life (health, vitality, excellence) to living systems. 2. To increase in value, e.g., the economy has appreciated in value. Synonyms: value, prize esteem, and honor .
It also means that that when a person acts it should always be understood in the context people act in. If we do not understand the act it is only because we do not know the context that will explain the reasons for the persons act.
This makes a huge difference in interpreting other peoples acts. If you fully can take the appreciative approach you are not any more concerned with placing guilt. The appreciative approach makes you what to see, listen and understand the person you are communicating with. It also means that there is an immediate respect for the person you are communicating with in the sense that you see the other person as competent, thinking, sentient and enthusiastic as yourself . You place your self on the same level with the person you are interacting with no matter how you are levelled towards the other in the organisations hierarchy.
Inquiry is the most important part of the theoretical approach of Appreciative Inquiry according to David Cooperrider. If you would have to choose between the two words it would be inquiry because is the act of exploration and discovery. The word In-quire means :
In-quire, v., 1. To explore and discover. 2. To ask questions; to be open, seeing new potentials and possibilities. Synonyms: discover, search, systematically explore, and study.
To ask questions is to be open and see new potentials and possibilities. If you just have appreciation without openness and curiosity it will just lead to praise. It makes us feel good, but it does not lead to further wish for development . The exploration is about playing with multiple hypothesis and possibilities to make room for complexity and to deal with variability instead of concluding and controlling . The ways to explore is different than the scientific method while we are not looking for a simple cause and effect relationship but allow multiple realities to exist depending on who is experiencing it. To persons who are experiencing the same event might explain or feel different about the event. This is often very different from how we behave in the west were we normally explore and analyse everything around us and come up with explanation for why things are as they are and most often leave it with one reason or explanation. It is also a way of making things more easy for our self in our daily life’s and thereby keep it simple. Unfortunately the simplicity often leads us to be judgemental when you allow yourself to have just one explanation.
The method to change management is very useful when people see the meaning of making changes but might be afraid of the result of the change process.