Positive Inquiry is based on Appreciative Inquiry. The method was developed in the 1980s by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva, both Weatherhead School of Management professors at Case Western Reserve University. It emerged as a response to the prevailing problem-solving approaches in organizational development and management consulting.
Traditionally, problem-solving approaches focused on identifying and fixing problems within organizations. Cooperrider and Srivastva sought to develop a more positive and strengths-based approach to organizational change. They believed organizations could benefit from shifting their focus from problem-centric to solution-centric thinking.
Several considerations influenced the development of Appreciative Inquiry:
- Social Constructionism – Cooperrider and Srivastva drew upon the principles of social constructionism, emphasizing that our social interactions and language shape our reality. They believed that organizations could be transformed by shifting the conversations and narratives within them.
- Positive Psychology – Positive psychology, which emerged in the late 1990s, also influenced the development of Appreciative Inquiry. It emphasized the study of human strengths, well-being, and positive experiences. And it incorporated the positive psychology perspective ─ by focusing on the positive aspects of organizations and individuals rather than solely on problems and deficiencies.
- Appreciative Process – Cooperrider and Srivastva recognized that organizations often had valuable experiences, strengths, and successes that were overlooked or undervalued. They developed Appreciative Inquiry as a process to “appreciate” these positive elements and leverage them for organizational transformation.
- Organizational Change – The organizational development and change management field was shifting. Traditional approaches focused on top-down, expert-driven change. Appreciative Inquiry sought to involve all stakeholders in the change process and tap into their collective wisdom.
The combination of these considerations led to the creation of Appreciative Inquiry as a strengths-based approach to organizational change. It aimed to create a positive and generative environment where organizations could envision and co-create their desired future based on their strengths and successes.