Tag Archives: introduction to appreciative inquiry

Is “Why” an Appreciative Question?

A few days ago I shared a fascinating HBR article on LinkedIn titled, Become a Company That Questions Everything. The article talks about how companies should encourage curiosity in the workforce by inviting employees and other stakeholders to ask questions. The article itself has a large graphic of the word “why”. As I shared the article on our various social media outlets, one person asked me if “why” is an appreciative question. I stopped what I was doing just so that I could let that question sink in. I mean, I believed it could be, depending on the context in which it is used but I was curious as to what others thought.

After pondering the question for a day or so, I posted the question on various LinkedIn groups I am connected to. The question spread like wildfire. I was honored that so many people took the time to share their thoughts and experiences. The discussions that emerged were engaging and insightful.

Most of the responses I read agreed that while “why” might not be the first choice in questions we ask our clients, it could, however, be appreciative depending on the context, tone, intention, and the level of trust between the inquirer and the client. In my work with Appreciative Inquiry, I have learned that crafting questions, so that they are both appreciative and meaningful to the client, is more of an art form than methodology. Our success as practitioners lies in our ability to recognize which type of question will work best for the situation. Many of you provided great examples of appreciative “why” questions. Some examples of appreciative “why” questions included, but were not limited to:

  • “Why do you think this works so well?”
  • “Why do we feel great when we accomplish something as a team?”
  • “Why do you think you are at your best when you do something that you enjoy?”
  • “Why was ________ a success?”
  • “Why do you feel you learned so much from this challenge?”
  • “Why it is important for you to accomplish this?”
  • “Why am I seeing so many great traits in my partner now?”
  • “Why am I feeling so much more confident now?”
  • “Why is this pursuit becoming alive for you?”

One person wrote, “When using ‘why’ to draw out the best potential in something it helps to invigorate imaginations”; another wrote, “Asking ‘Why’ can produce deeply reflective insight into the drivers for the envisioned future. It can also help define the ‘alchemy’ of what works really well.” According to the Constructionist Principle of Appreciative Inquiry, we live in a world created through our social discourse; that “our story is our perspective, and there are an infinite number of perspectives.” I believe “why” when used appropriately, can help us to peel back the subconscious layers of our mind to reveal our core values and beliefs. In my pursuit to become more mindful and appreciative, I keep a daily gratitude journal. While I ask myself the common “who, what where, when and how” questions, I am often called to reflect on the ‘why’. I find myself reflecting on questions like, “Why do I feel so good about myself now?” or “Why is it important to reflect on the positive in this situation?” The answers to questions such as these result in a change in my perspective or a positive shift in my reality. As new information becomes available, I think it may be important to draw out such answers that may only surface as a result of the use of “why” questions.

As practitioners we must remain mindful that the questions we ask are fateful. The moment we ask a question, we begin to create change. What questions are you asking? What change are you creating? Words create worlds. As one person shared, “Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language” – Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Inquiry Based Leadership

Developed with Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS)

Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS) has embraced the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) process as a planning tool for moving our organization forward.  Appreciative Inquiry is the study and exploration of what gives life to human systems when they function at their best.  Within KCTCS , individuals from each college and the System Office (SO) have been trained to facilitate activities using the appreciative process; AI has been successfully used with the 2010-16 KCTCS Strategic Planning Process; KCTCS leadership, including the President’s Leadership Team and the KCTCS Board of Regents, have been trained in the Appreciative Inquiry 5-D (Define, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver) Process.  Collectively, hundreds of KCTCS employees have participated in Appreciative Inquiry activities.

In an effort to immerse Appreciative Inquiry as a planning tool across KCTCS, an opportunity is being created for SO managers and supervisors.  As a group that is critical to the overall success of KCTCS becoming AI, employees are invited to enhance their core interpersonal skills, learn additional techniques to manage change and innovation, increase the positive impact they have on KCTCS, and investigate new methods to manage performance.

Two Programs:

Creating our Future Together with Inquiry-Based Management

Creating our Future Together with Appreciative Inquiry

Programs Includes:

Two days of on-site introduction to Appreciative Inquiry and 6 months of coaching. Coaching will be provided to teams in the form of 30 minute live webinar sessions that are scheduled bi-weekly. These coaching session will enable teams to increase the practice of Appreciative Inquiry in their daily work.

Program Facilitator: Cheri Torres
Cheri-Torres1What might be possible if community and organization members were fully engaged and using their strengths to collectively achieve shared visions?

This is the question that motivates Cheri Torres and has her focused on collaboration. Given current global challenges, Cheri uses strengths-based organizational design practices to help clients respond effectively to increasing levels of complexity in their environments and growing demand for innovation and change. Her strategy is to expand collaborative capacity in communities and organizations using Appreciative Inquiry, Sociotechnical Systems Design, and Experiential Learning.  She does this by partnering with her clients to intentionally design workplace environments, multi-stakeholder conversations, organizational systems and individual and team training to maximize value for all stakeholders.

Her experience has taught her that systems and events that are intentionally designed for collaboration elicit our inherent collaborative capacity, regardless of our differences in background, views, or values. Expanding that capacity through lessons and intentional practice leads to increasing competence in thinking and working together with joy and creativity, resulting in sustainable innovation and ever-evolving excellence.

View Cheri Torres’ Full Profile >

Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry

Build Organizational StrengthsOverview:

How does your organization become a creative and innovative leader for the new world order? Corporations, NGO’s,  Education, and the miliary are using Appreciative Inquiry to create postive change within their organizations.  This short introduction to Appreciative Inquiry will show you why so many organizations are looking to this whole human systems approach to change their organizational culture, to creatively engage stakeholders and magnify their results.

Designed For:

Professionals involved in the following areas: business, education, government, health-care, human services, non-profit organizations, and management and organizational development consultants.

Learning Outcomes:


  • Understand the theory and practice of Appreciative Inquiry
  • Find out what makes AI so different?  Understand the D’s
  • Understand strength-based vs. deficit-based assessment of individuals and organizations
  • Learn how organizations are planning for their future by eliciting vision and hope, building on strengths, and inspiring constructive engagement and action

Material / Technical Requirements:

  • Computer with Internet access
  • Computer with the ability to read and print Microsoft Office Documents/Applications (i.e. PowerPoint, Word, PDF, etc.)

Faciliator Bio:

Kathy Becker worked in the California community college system for 27 years and served in staff and leadership positions in the library, disabled students and human resources, leaving the system as the first human resources officer for a new, rural college. As a student of the two-year system and as an employee both in the rural and urban college, Kathy was “bitten” early and has a passion for the collaborative learning environment.  Kathy has been certified by Company of Experts.net as an Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator.

Kathy served as the Chief Human Resources Officer, Staff Development Coordinator, Equal Employment Opportunity Officer, and had direct responsibility for contract negotiations, sexual harassment training, discrimination investigation, mediation and conflict resolution, discipline and grievance, management training, and leadership development. More>