International Journal of Appreciative Inquiry


My Appreciation of Appreciative Inquiry – Suzanne Quinney

The more I work from an AI perspective, the more apparent it becomes that the inner self and the outer self are both supported by the learning. We need to be appreciative and kind to our own self before we can do the same at work. My own journey is testament to this, having worked through major illness, learning how to be less tough on myself in the process. Asking myself “would I rather be right or happy?” was the kind of appreciation of my situation at the time that continued to reassure my confidence in AI. It provides for a broader perspective, a more helpful attitude, and the tools to move forward.  This was one of  the reasons we developed two appreciative journals (*), and why participants get a copy of one of our journals on all our training courses, with a request to use it to develop their appreciative muscle. We also refer to the power of journalling when we talk about both the enactment principle and the awareness principle.

It became clear to me that AI builds emotional intelligence, effective communication, relationships and understanding. As I emphasised in an article (**) I co-authored that focussed on my observations of the effectiveness of this process within homeless hostels, it was apparent that AI offered a unique advantage of being:

  • an Organisational Development (OD) and team-building tool;
  • a process that residents could use to rebuild their lives; and
  • a way in which staff could communicate better with each other and residents.

I’m fortunate to work with a good team from a perspective that provides AI approaches for groups and organizations, as it allows me to see how talented and imaginative people truly are. AI brings out the best in individuals, teams and organisations. Over the last two years we have trained 140 people in an international charity so that they could use AI to develop and support “positive engagement” conversations.  I found it particularly satisfying that many of them saw how they could then move forward and apply AI to many sections of their work – whether it was OD, youth education or working with refugees.  Most recently, I worked with a group using AI to build personal resilience to help staff deal with redundancy. One participant in particular highlighted how it had helped her rebuild her sense of connection with others; be aware of her tendency to frame things in terms of deficits or problems; reinvigorate her capacity and appetite for taking the actions she needed to take in the next phase of her life; and remind her of tools, approaches and resources that can help her.

A “stand-out” feature I most enjoy about training people in AI is introducing them to the principles, particularly social constructionism. It is a way to encourage participants to explore the concept that our thoughts are not fixed – that things we thought were facts were actually more like habitual ways of seeing the world. It is possible to change the “unhelpful, habitual” way we sometimes think and, by paying attention to good things in our lives and connections with others, be more deeply appreciative – even, at times, actively delighted – as we go through our day. Regular journalling helps build this “appreciative muscle”.

AI is, indeed, that inner and outer journey that gently challenges us to appreciate the inherent power of that journey in taking us to where we need to be!

*) Food for Thought and How to Be More Awesome. You can find a bit more detail about the benefits of appreciative journalling at

**) Organisational development, Appreciative inquiry and the development of Psychologically Informed Environments (PIEs) Part I: A positive psychology approach

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