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  • Writer's pictureKohei Yoshino

Advantages and Disadvantages of Appreciative Inquiry

Updated: Jul 13, 2022


As mentioned in the previous blog post, appreciative inquiry is an action research-based approach that places a strong emphasis on positive aspects to transform organizations and individuals as opposed to other traditional action research approaches that focus on deficiency and challenges (Coghlan & Jacobs, 2005). Coghlan and Jacobs (2005) state that appreciative inquiry builds on narrative OD approaches such as storytelling to generate new ideas as well as images of the future for change used as a vision.

It is rooted in the assumption that questions and dialogue about strengths, values, and dreams are transformational and that change is a relational process of inquiry grounded in appreciation (Torsten-Bloom et al., 2014).

4-D Cycle

The appreciative inquiry approach can be implemented at both individual and organizational levels by using the 4-D cycle in which people are enabled to shift their attention from problems to possibilities by focusing on the existing positive qualities (Torsten-Bloom et al., 2014). The 4-D cycle is a cyclical process that begins with the discovery phase followed by the dream, design, and destiny phase (Asumen & Osae-Larbe, 2015). What’s outlined below is the summary of the 4 phases:

  1. Discovery - At this phase, an inquiry is made into the subject of change/focus, using participants’ reflections and discussions on the “best of what is” in relation to the subject;

  2. Dream - This phase facilitates participants to visualize themselves or the organization in an ideal state in relation to the subject of change;

  3. Design - The third stage involves participants developing concrete proposals for the new individual and organizational state. This implies that they are asked to develop plans, ideas, and strategies to bridge the gap between the current state and the ideal state they envisioned in the dream phase;

  4. Destiny - In this final stage, participants actually take actions in accordance with the plan they’ve developed in the design phase, assess the results of their actions, and pivot as required to move themselves or the organization toward the vision and future state they’ve developed in earlier phases. As apparent from its name, it is a cyclical and iterative process in which participants regularly review their current state, plans, and activities to make changes as required (Asumen & Osae-Larbe, 2015).


A primary advantage of appreciative inquiry is, as outlined above, its functionality that enables people to pay attention to the existing positive dynamics in improving organizational effectiveness. Since people have a tendency to act in ways that make their expectations occur, appreciative inquiry and the 4-D cycle allow individuals and organizations to create positive anticipation that drives them to make behavioral changes required to achieve better results based on their strengths (Cummings & Worley, 2015). Furthermore, based on social constructivism, it can be used to promote broad stakeholder engagement and involvement in creating a shared organizational vision that everyone can strive towards.


One of the criticisms and disadvantages of appreciative inquiry, on the other hand, is the possibility in which the bias towards positivity blinds participants to the deficits and issues that are in fact part of the reality (Griesten et al., 2018). In other words, by focusing solely on appreciation, it ends up removing room for a true sense of inquiry and hinders organizations and individuals from growth which could have resulted from facing deficits and challenges. As Asumen and Osae-Larbe (2015) mention, successful organizational development requires focusing on the best of what is as well as the solutions to the problems and challenges facing organizations.


If you are interested in how appreciative inquiry can be used to improve relationships, book a complimentary intro call (30min) with me:

Through this session, you can determine if I’m the right coach to help you learn the relationship and communication skills you need to develop meaningful relationships at work and in your personal life


Asumeng, M.A., & Osae-Larbe, J.A. (2015). Organization Development Models: A Critical Review and Implications for Creating Learning Organizations. European Journal of Training and Development Studies. 2(3), 29-43.

Coghlan, D., & Jacobs, C. (2005). Kurt Lewin on reeducation: Foundations for action research

The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 41(4), 444-457.

Cummings, T., & Worley, G. (2015). Organization Development & Change. Cengage.

Grieten, S., Lambrechts, F., Bouwen, R., Huybrechts, J., Fry, R., & Cooperrider, D. (2018). Inquiring into appreciative inquiry: a conversation with Cavid Cooperrider and Ronald Fry. Journal of Management Inquiry, 27(1), 101-114.

Trosten-Bloom, A., Deines, T., & Carsten, T. (2014). Positive performance management: Bold experiments, provocative possibilities. Performance Improvement, 53(5) 26-37.


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